The country must brace for price hikes across the board, from transportation to food, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar warned yesterday, as she focused on the increase in the price of super gas and diesel announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the 2018 Budget.
Persad-Bissessar described the 2018 fiscal package as a “Bankrupt Budget” devoid of any idea or plan to stimulate the economy and was merely a rehash of old ideas from past budgets. “It is more suffering to come. The price of everything will go up. The price of diesel is up by 48 percent and super by 11 percent and this will have a multiplier effect because everything depends on transport. That will impact prices and it won’t take very long,” she warned.
Persad-Bissessar dubbed Imbert’s speech as, “a regurgitation of 99 percent broken promises”, and, “a cut and paste of the last Budget.” She said that after 125 minutes of talking, Imbert made no revelation on how to tackle runaway crime and create fresh revenue streams to lift TT out of its current economic hole.
“I would call it a bankrupt budget. It is bankrupt of any ideas, any plan to take the country out of the recession we are in and it is one that is literally bankrupting the country.” She hit government’s crocodile tears on having no money but at the same time not giving any measure to create new revenue streams.
She said Government had failed in its role as the people’s protector, provider and investor. She said the Budget failed to address out-of-control crime; failed to provide basic goods, services and infrastructure and failed to invest or promote ICT to engage TT in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
She scoffed at Imbert’s promise of hefty agricultural grants to farmers, saying, “After flooding you can’t even pay them a little $1,500 now.” Persad-Bissessar lamented that Imbert had not said how much revenue each of his measures was expected to raise. Asked about Imbert’s goal to review taxes paid by oil/gas firms, she said he promised this in the last two budgets and mid year review, but so far, nothing has been done.
Of the 30 percent corporation tax, she saw that as a disincentive to entrepreneurs and dismissed the Sandals Hotel as, “yet another promise we’ll never see materialise.” Persad-Bissessar said 90 percent of the Government’s plans for the creative sector never materialised due to their poor record of implementation.
While awaiting details of the allocation for education, she said the Opposition has never seen the report on the Government Assistance with Tuition Expenses (GATE) subsidy, which is now being tightened. Persad-Bissessar will kick of debate on the Budget, when she gives her response on Friday.