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Saturday 17 August 2019
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Budget passed in Senate

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West.

MINISTER in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West says TT is moving towards a balanced budget and the way to eliminate the deficit is to collect outstanding taxes.

She was winding up debate on the budget in Parliament yesterday.

She said the bottom-line takeaway from debate in the House and comments outside was that people see this year’s budget as a "decent budget." She commended the Ministry of Finance and her team at the ministry, and Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and her team for getting to a place where the budget, except for the super gasoline change, was heading in the right direction in terms of supporting the most vulnerable. She said from the gains from the reduction in the super gasoline subsidy, some was given back to the most vulnerable.

Yesterday the Opposition bench walked out in protest against the government's response to the weekend's flooding.

West said: "One of the reasons that triggered the walkout was, the Opposition did not have a lot of negative things to say."

She said the budget has been in deficit since 2008, but it was down. She noted Independent Senator Taurel Shrikissoon had said the objective should be to get to a balanced budget, and Government was working towards that.

But, she insisted, "We cannot do that at the expense of supporting the vulnerable."

She said to reduce the deficit further, the government needed to collect taxes that are out there and she promoted the introduction of the Revenue Authority.

West said the budget indicated spending was being controlled and promised the Government would not "go crazy" going forward and go on a spending spree when more money came in from oil companies. but would continue to exercise prudence in its approach to spending and focus on getting more with less and value for money, including pushing back against contractors.

"Not because you have billions of dollars mean you will throw away billions."

She said Government kept the tax regime stable and has not "gone crazy" with taxes. She noted it was seeking to reintroduce the property tax and had only imposed taxes on people who could bear a little more to contribute to the good of all.

Senate President Christine Kangaloo asked the Senators to continue to hold in their thoughts and prayers all citizens suffering losses as a result of floods and those assisting them.

The budget was passed and the Senate adjourned to a date to be fixed.

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