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Tuesday 21 January 2020
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‘Election budget’ would have been $60 billion

Imbert defends gas price projection

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert smiles during his presentation of the National Budget,yesterday,in Parliament.
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert smiles during his presentation of the National Budget,yesterday,in Parliament.

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said if the 2019/2020 budget was an "election budget" then it would have been $60 billion.

He was speaking on Tuesday at the TT Chamber’s annual post-budget analysis breakfast meeting at the Hyatt Regency.

Chamber president Reyaz Ahamad, in his opening remarks, said: "It is safe to say, given the many initiatives in the budget, we have clearly entered election mode." Opposition members have also described the budget as an election budget.

Imbert, in his address, said this year there was an attempt to balance the budget and an attempt was made to deal with every sector in the country.

"And I heard someone mention an 'election budget.' If it were, it would have been $60 billion (instead of the $53 billion)."

Imbert said this year was about dealing with some problems and some issues.

"Trying to help people out in the lower end and trying to help people out in the upper end."

He pointed to the increase in the minimum wage from $15 to $17.50 per hour, and the announced VAT-refund bond.

"And we still have next year. Even though the way the Parliament schedule is, there may not be a full budget next year, but there would be a review to make some adjustments and do more things that would boost the business sector."

Imbert also responded to comments by former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine and UNC shadow energy minister David Lee that the $3 per unit gas price, which the budget is predicated upon, was unrealistic and an over estimation.

He replied: "I hear these comments from these commentators and they have no idea what they talking about."

Imbert said in his budget presentation he said the average price received for gas in 2019 was $3.

"So what's wrong with $3 going forward? So people say things and it is not based on facts."

National Gas Company (NGC) president Mark Loquan said, in terms of gas prices, it depended on what publication you look at, and there are a lot of dynamics. He said NGC predicted for gas prices a fairly flat curve slightly going up. On the $3 price, he said it is within the range.

Imbert added that the price is quoted based on what happens with TT gas. He said at one time TT was the largest exporter of LNG to the US, and from 2006-2007 gas was $13 per unit. Imbert said the price started to drop and has reached as low as $3.

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