PEOPLE should not have high expectations for this year’s Budget because it is coming “at a difficult time.” This was the message delivered by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal at a United National Congress (UNC) pre-Budget consultation in Penal on Tuesday night.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert is expected to present the 2018/2019 Budget in the House of Representatives next month. The Budget must be approved by the House and Senate before October 31.
Moonilal explained the budget will be presented against the background of high unemployment in the country. He said he has been receiving messages from many people who are begging him for a job.
He said the recent decision to close Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, like the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd, will worsen unemployment in TT. Moonilal said the impact in South and Central Trinidad will be similar to “two atomic bombs.”
He said many communities in these areas have not recovered from the closure of Caroni Limited years earlier. “Several communities are like ghost towns,” Moonilal said.
Predicting that Petrotrin will be a major focus of the budget and the budget debate to follow, Moonilal said the fallout will affect wider communities and not the 1,700 people who work in the refinery alone.
He said many Petrotrin workers applauded the removal of nine managers and five vice-presidents from the company. Moonilal added some of these people will be removed too as Petrotrin restructures. Similar to Caroni, Moonilal said the Petrotrin situation shows that “nobody is insulated.”
Moonilal said in the middle of unemployment in TT “you have crime.” While recent actions by law enforcement may give the impression that crime is falling, Moonilal said many people continue to feel unsafe.
He claimed a banker recently told him that $100 million in business cannot be concluded because of the fear of crime. Moonilal also alleged that many business people in TT do not feel safe unless they are in “a plane on the runway, ready to take off.”
Agreeing with Moonilal’s statements, Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allan Sammy said this consultation and others like across the country must be completed by September 23. He said UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar wanted the views from these consultations to guide the Opposition’s preparations for the budget debate in Parliament.