Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West said Government would not have had to raise the borrowing limit at the Central Bank, had its People’s Partnership (PP) predecessor managed the economy better over the last five years.
West made this point before the Senate passed the Finance Bill 2017 on Tuesday night.
All six Opposition senators abstained when called to vote on the bill. All 15 Government senators and eight Independent senators voted for it.
In concluding the debate, West rejected earlier arguments from Opposition Senator Wade Mark about why Government proposed to increase the borrowing limit at the Central Bank. “It is not something we want to do,” West told senators.
However, she said Government had no choice because of certain decisions taken by the PP. West said Government did not have the $11 billion which was lent interest-free to CL Financial, nor the “$16 billion taken from the NGC (National Gas Company) during their (PP) tenure.”
West said the PP “alienated the Green Fund by using it as collateral for loans that they took,” adding that because of the PP’s actions, the Green Fund is now “lost for an indefinite period” to the people of TT.
She said had the PP not taken any of these and other actions over the last five years, “We might not have had to increase the borrowing limit.”
West said while the PP did nothing when allegations of corruption were raised at the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) under its watch, the People’s National Movement “immediately took action” when it found out what was happening.
She cited as examples $2 million from NLCB being spent as prize money for the Soca Monarch competition and the award of a contract for the drawing of Play Whe and Lotto to people aligned to the PP.
Government senators thumped their desks as West declared, “Our approach is completely different.”
Reminding senators of TT’s economic challenges, West said her ministry was leading by example.
“The Ministry of Finance is not having a Christmas party,” she said.
West also said the energy tax which Finance Minister Colm Imbert mentioned in the 2017/2018 budget will be introduced next year.
She dismissed claims from Opposition Senator Tarharqa Obika that the proposed bank tax could cause commercial banks to leave TT.
West reiterated there is a 20 per cent tax on new imported tyres. She said the tyre tax mentioned in the budget deals with used tyres, but tyres for agricultural vehicles are exempt from this tax.