SAYING government may have no choice but to increase the budget deficit, Couva Point Lisas chamber president Ramchand Rajbal Maraj said, however. the PNM administration had to “project some kind of life” in the diversification of the economy.
Speaking to reporters yesterday after the launch of the 2nd annual Carli Bay Fish Fest at the chamber’s Camden Road auditorium, Couva, Maraj said some aspects of Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s mid-year budget review were “encouraging,” while there was little mention of other sectors of the economy.
“There may be no other avenues but to have a deficit at this point in time, but I think with six months to go before the 2020 budget, they really have to cushion where this economic development going to strike.
“We are looking at the start-up of infrastructural development – take for example...there is no definite word on the operational status of the Couva hospital. What is soon? How soon is soon? We hearing that two years now and we are wondering if it is political gimmick taking place with the Couva hospital.”
Maraj said the three-month tax amnesty, which starts in mid-June, was a good initiative. “Some of it, like the tax amnesty, is a good initiative to get some additional taxes in. But the bigger picture is, how will these measures redound to the man in the street? How are you going to create employment when some so many people have lost their jobs?”
He said the unemployment situation was being made even more difficult with the influx of Venezuelan migrants who have shown willingness to work in labour-intensive sectors such as construction.“Are they going to deprive the unemployed here of taking up jobs, because the Venezuelans will go for any type of labour-intensive work, and where does that leave our local unskilled labourers?”He said another area of concern is the shortage of natural gas to LNG’s Train 1, saying this had far-reaching effects on the country’s ability to generate revenue.