Although the preparation of the 2017/2018 budget has already been completed, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says the Government will still be open to making changes following today’s planned consultation on the budget to be held at the Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.
Rowley will host the forum, “Spotlight on Trinidad and Tobago’s Financial Circumstances: The Road Ahead” from 9 am to 3 pm, according to a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister.
The statement said the entire forum will be transmitted live on State television, CNMG.
Speaking with journalists in Cumuto yesterday following the sod-turning ceremony for the extension of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway to Manzanilla, Rowley said it was intended to be a presentation rather than a consultation, “because, you see, the Government has been managing this situation for two years and the Government has certain perspectives.”
In an address to the gathering, Rowley earlier said despite the difficult situation facing the country, the Government must maintain a development programme. “Without a development programme, and at this time given the structure of our economy, I dare say a development programme funded by the State, our chances of shortening our period of austerity would not be very good, but we need to shorten that period of austerity by ensuring that we do have a pot of money to fund a development programme.”
He said such a programme would create employment and to build the economic infrastructure “by which diversification and sustainable growth and development will come.”
He added that this was the reason the Government was going ahead with the extension of the highway, “one of the most significant pieces of infrastructure construction in Trinidad and Tobago,” in spite of the country’s economic difficulties.
“So we are not eating everything that we produce, we are saving some for a development programme and that development programme is in fact the foundation of our future,” he said. According to Rowley, some of the responsibilities that the State has been carrying for citizens will be handed back to the people so that they will have to prioritise their life and spending.
He said this was necessary because the “carrying capacity” of the Government was not what it used to be.
He said he has every confidence that if the country gets its priorities right, it will get past the current difficulties that it faces. He said there was a time when TT used to export grapefruits, oranges and bananas but he doubted whether many of the people in the audience could find an orange, grapefruit or banana, adding that the country now imports all of those things “with foreign exchange that we now do not have with the same ease that we had before.”
He said that it is pointless to wish for a return to the days of the past and the country must face reality and look to the future, observing TT and the world is looking at a possibility that in the oil and gas market that the country has become accustomed to will not be available.
Rowley said he is a trained geologist, but when he was trained there was no idea that you could get oil from shale rocks but because of the advances in technology it was now possible to do so and the extraction of shale oil was a big industry and spreading across the world.
He said that gas and oil prices have fallen to the extent that even in Saudi Arabia the government is cutting public service salaries and taking away subsidies.