THE University of the West Indies (UWI) is “going to the dogs,” claimed Finance Minister Colm Imbert in his budget debate wind-up on Tuesday night, in an angry outburst aimed at former UWI principal Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.
Pulling his face into a grimace to mimic Tewarie, Imbert scoffed, “Listen to what the Member for Caroni Central had to say: 'The GDP going down, the debt going up, so how could our debt-to-GDP ratio decrease?'
“Madam Speaker, I am ashamed. I want to give back my degree to the University of the West Indies. I am ashamed.”
He angrily claimed Tewarie did not understand basic economics.
“Anybody worth his salt, anybody who has any iota of understanding of fiscal and monetary policy, would be aware that our debt-to-GDP ratio is based on our nominal GDP and not on our constant GDP. So you can’t look at the constant GDP figure and divide it by the debt to get the debt-to-GDP ratio. You have to take our nominal GDP.”
He said the latter is now over $165 billion, up by $10 billion in the last three years.
“Any first-year student of economics will know that this is how you measure your debt-to-GDP ratio.
“That why I’m ashamed. I want to give back my degree. That institution (UWI) has gone to the dogs.”
Imbert said despite budget deficits, the Government had kept the debt-to-GDP ratio constant over the past two years, at 61-62 per cent.
Overall he said the Opposition has failed to reply to his budget, but had merely brought scandalous allegations, in reference to Dr Roodal Moonilal’s claim of an underhand deal to buy the former Petrotrin refinery.
Hitting Opposition calls to devalue the TT dollar and to raise interest rates, he said such steps would hurt poor people, adding, “Who wrote that foolishness?”
He said he was proud to be finance minister in the Rowley Government, bringing a budget to which the Opposition had no reply.
Vowing to move forward, onward and upward, Imbert then launched into the old war-cry of former prime minister the late Patrick Manning. “We will beat them in the east, west, south and north, and in Tobago, and in central Trinidad.”
His colleagues applauded loudly.