Commercial banks are making “super profits” in a recession while people are “scrunting”, and so the banks too have to share in the burden of adjustment, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said on Friday night.
He was speaking at the People’s National Movement (PNM) post-budget public meeting at Piggott’s Corner, Belmont. “Everybody must share in the burden of adjustment. Everyone. We are not in the pockets of any group. We have taken a hard look at this economy. And that is why we look at the commercial banks and we see that they are making super profits. You have a recession going on, people scrunting and one of the banks making a billion dollars in profits? They have to share in the adjustment.”
PNM PRO and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said this year’s budget balances and spreads the way Government deals with the deficit.
“I want you the population to look on and listen very carefully to the noise that would come from the quarters who have a lot.”
He said Government added a five per cent tax on the profit of banks (in the 2017/2018 national budget) and the vast majority did not complain because they understand their responsibility. He said banks were making $1 billion in after tax profits and it was okay for them to share in some of the burden. “So let us get on with it and let us not have the complaints.”
The Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) in a statement this week described the decision to raise banks’ corporate tax rate from 30 to 35 percent as “contradictory and short-sighted.” BATT said they strongly opposed the decision and announced their intention to discuss the matter further with the Finance Minister.
On Friday, Young also spoke about 12.5 per cent royalty tax on value of natural gas after Government discovered no money was being paid to the Treasury for the gas. He said unlike the past Government did not seek to tax the “small man” and the middle class which are already carrying their part of the burden. He said the majority of oil and gas companies were not complaining and there are some who are saying they will be exempt.
“Simply not true. Because this PNM Government is adamant that the patronage of Trinidad and Tobago and every citizen must be protected.” He said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar described the budget as “bankrupt” but she is familiar with this because that is the state she left the country.