Today’s Budget statement delivered by the Minister of Finance is beyond disappointing even when judged against this PNM Government’s abysmal track record of 8 previous sub-par, unimpressive budget statements.
Despite being titled ‘ “Building capacity for diversification and growth” Budget 2024 provides no strategies for achieving diversification or growth, and no specific timeframes for doing so. A better title would be “ Same ole talk; three hours of hot air. “
Depressingly, Budget 2024 is devoid of both vision and hope, and sadly exposes the PNM government of being bereft of innovative ideas to fix our ailing economy or even the desire to enhance the quality of life of our citizens. Budget 2024 lacks both clear, short- and long-term goals to regain fiscal balance, stabilize and reduce public debt, stop the bleeding of international reserves and bring our economy onto a growth trajectory. Nor does it provide a blueprint for improving the economic prosperity of T&T and thus the well-being of our citizens .
Indeed, after listening to Budget 2024 many citizens may now be scratching their heads wondering in which country Minister Imbert and the PNM are living, where he describes a place of low unemployment, thriving business, inflowing investment and economic stability, because it certainly cannot be Trinidad and Tobago in its present parlous state.
Current serious issues including the foreign exchange crisis, the impact of record and rising crime on the operating costs of business, the failure by the state to pay VAT refunds and the hostile environment of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago were all either ignored or glossed over in this tepid Budget statement .
Instead, Minister Imbert patted himself on the back for further increasing the tax burden on citizens via the collection of the property tax and plans to increase the retirement age from 60 to 65 years which raises serious alarm bells about the financial sustainability of the National Insurance Board and the future of pension payments.
During the ensuing budget debate, I will delve deeper into what I consider the serious shortcomings of Budget 2024 and the ways I would like to remedy them. The economy of Trinidad and Tobago is the people of Trinidad and Tobago and I urge everyone to get involved in reviewing Budget 2024 and to make their views heard.