FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said Government had no plans to make any budgetary cuts this year.
He made this comment during a television interview yesterday. After Government took the economy from severe depression to stabilisation to growth, Imbert said, “I don’t want to stop the momentum in the economy.” He said if he or the Government made any cuts, “The economy may stall again.”
Imbert said Government would look at the deficit “because we had projected a fairly low deficit for 2019.” In terms of Government’s projections, Imbert said loss of revenue could be approximately $1 billion. He added, “We are already revising our 2019 programme to suit.”
Two options are withdrawal from the Heritage and Stabilisation (HSF) or increased borrowing this year.
“We will come up with the most suitable solution,” he said. Contrary to claims made by “talking heads” Imbert said TT was viewed favourably by external agencies.
Imbert said these people were “playing smart with foolishness” when they claim the economic data the Prime Minister used in his presentation was wrong.
Income taxes received from oil companies in 2014 was approximately $17 billion, and in 2016, those taxes were $1.036 billion, he said.
Last month’s restructuring did not factor into the figures used by Dr Rowley. Had Petrotrin not been restructured, Imbert said TT would have suffered a cumulative loss of $20 billion over the next decade. TT will get a “positive economic boost,” he continued, from the restructuring because Petrotrin can now “start to get revenue.”
He said the Central Statistical Office (CSO) is the only lawful entity that could produce figures on the national accounts, and communicated with thousands of businesses in TT to determine economic growth or decline. The Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund make their assessments based on information from the Finance Ministry, he said.
Observing that oil prices are extremely volatile, he said Government is revising the 2018/2019 budget oil price from US$65 to US$55 per barrel. But Imbert observed that natural gas prices hit US$4.00 per mmbtu last month, adding that this figure is now US$3.00 per mmbtu. The budget was set at a gas price of US$2.75 per mmbtu.
In addressing a challenge for debate to the Prime Minister made by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Imbert called the proposition “a joke.”
“Is this the same opposition leader who refused to debate with Dr Rowley in 2015?”