WITH the Government’s mid-year budget review coming up and on the heels of its two-and-half years in office, Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds has given his Government a passing grade.
Declaring his obvious bias, Hinds believes the Dr Keith Rowley-led Government has done well since assuming office.
At the Peace and Prosperity Harvest project held at the Chinapoo Village Community Center, Morvant yesterday, Hinds said – when asked about his Government’s performance – that when the Government was voted into office in 2015, the country was “in a very bad way with every institution under attack.”
“The people resoundingly elected the People’s National Movement to bring some stability and order.”
The Government of the day, Hinds added, set about cutting out waste and corruption.
“We cut the budget from $64 billion to $50 billion. We borrow, because there is no other money, and use sensibly for productive and developmental purposes. We have kept 80,000 public officers, contract workers and daily-paid workers across the Government platform.”
Hinds said the annual wage bill is $10 billion and the Rowley-led Government has paid about $5.5 billion in backpay since it came to office. The Government’s introduction of the property tax, he said, was to bring in about $1.1 billion “which we need.”
He said the Government had to deal with a number of short-term loans which keeps popping up.
“We met those and had to extend them over 30 years in order to make the burden on the taxpayer easier. We have kept the health system going. You are not seeing people dropping down like flies in Trinidad and Tobago. We have kept the food card system and the social support going. We have not had massive laying off of employment.”
Hinds said although government has stabilised the economy, many people are not yet noticing the effect of it because it is not improving their immediate well-being. “But by saving money and cutting out the bleeding, wild waste and spending, we have made Trinidad and Tobago more stable and better.”
However, when questioned on issues such as the seabridge and crime, Hinds said the government addressed those through things like the Prof Ramesh Deosaran manpower audit of the TT Police Service.
As for the seabridge, the former minister of Works and Transport said, the collapse of the seabridge did not start now, but rather “decades ago” with TT’s lack of a “proper maintenance programme of plant and equipment that it owns.”
Government, he said, addressed this through the purchase of the Galleons Passage as well as the dry docking and repairs of the TT Spirit and Express passenger ferries.
“We are looking around for perhaps a faster and bigger cargo vessel. Once we have a cargo vessel and three passenger vessels, we foresee the situation would be inherently improved.”
He said government is also addressing the maintenance issue.
“We do have problems, but TT is in some ways a success story. I think we could have done a whole lot more as a nation but more specifically, we have stabilised the economy. The World Bank has told us, we can expect a two per cent growth. This government has done particularly well in terms of bringing this country to some kind of order.”