Economist Ronald Ramkissoon yesterday agreed with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s defence of Finance Minister Colm Imbert against criticisms from some quarters about the $50.5 2017/2018 budget.
The budget debate resumes in the House today from 10 am, with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar giving her response. Imbert presented the budget in the House on Monday.
Addressing a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain at the Hotel Normandie in St Ann’s, Ramkissoon said, “You have difficult situations. I don’t envy the Minister of Finance.” While noting there have been several complaints about the budget, Ramkissoon said, “It’s a difficult job but the balance is necessary.”
He opined that all governments in TT view the country in five year political cycles and this, “has not worked for us.”
Ramkissoon said political parties are afraid of becoming unpopular and losing elections. He said it was time for governments to take a longer view of what is needed to set the country’s economy right.
Ramkissoon said if a political party assumes office and is determined to do the right thing, losing the next election would not matter. “There’s always the one after that and the one after that,” he stated. The audience laughed when Ramkissoon said he did not see their discussion as sterile or academic. They also laughed when Ramkissoon opined, “some elections are very good to lose.”
Observing that taxation is one of the measures Government is using to address the fall in revenue, Ramkissoon said, “One presumably positive effect of price increases is that they control consumption and encourage substitution.”
He added, “Taxes are important because they affect the ultimate price that consumers pay.”
Ramkissoon said Government was pursuing the correct policy prescription by encouraging consumers to switch from imports to domestic goods and services. However he observed, “While there are no substitutes for some goods, there are for others.” Ramkissoon also said a well-regulated, staffed and legislated revenue authority could assist in curbing the leakage of tax revenue which Imbert spoke about.