OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark has described Finance Minister Colm Imbert's prediction of economic growth as "PNM fantasy economics."
"After some five years of negative economic growth the TT economy is in extreme and grave trouble under this outgoing Rowley-led administration."
He was contributing to debate on The Finance (Supplementary Appropriation) (Financial Year 2020) Bill in the Senate Monday.
Mark said that the lives and livelihood of people and the economy was at a crossroads and the country is heading for a virtual meltdown under this "inept and incompetent administration." He added that no amount of deception of reality, manipulation of numbers and figures, or misinformation will absolve the outgoing regime. He added that there has been five years of total mismanagement, waste, misappropriation, misallocation and corruption.
He described Imbert's mid-year budget review Friday as a "false and confusing narrative" that did not square with the disturbing reality facing the country. He questioned whether under-budgeting was to hide the real deficit, the mounting debt explosion, overdrawing of the Exchequer Account.
He also commented on the "fake news narrative" of covid19 management and said Government has been boasting about the praise for their covid19 response from Oxford University and The Economist publications. He said, however, that a recent country ranking from Forbes debunked that narrative, ranking TT as 168 out of 200 countries; Newsday could not confirm that information up to news time.
Mark said the Finance Minister was projecting a decline of a mere 2.4 per cent and growth is expected to be increased by 4.7 per cent sometime in 2021.
"This is what is called PNM fantasy economics".
He said this administration has not gotten it right in any of its growth forecasts including in 2016 when Government predicted growth rate of close to two per cent but the reality was minus 6.3 per cent.
Mark cited the Auditor General's report for April 29, 2020 and said the picture painted was "very shocking" and this information was not being provided by the Finance Minister. He reported that Central Government debt (domestic, external and BOLT projects) stood at $75.2 billion and contingency liabilities were another $124 billion, which when added together was close to $200 billion in debt.
"Somebody is not squaring off with the population of this country."
He also pointed out that in the bill there is a "mysterious loan" of $500 million at a fixed rate of 4.5 per cent under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). On this loan $11.2 million in interest payments were made.
"I don't know what it is for. Why is this loan under the OPM in the first instance and not the Ministry of Finance?"
He also questioned why there were interest payments on loans in supplementary appropriation, including for Udecott and the Arima Hospital, when this should have been in the budget.
"How come the meticulous and astute Minister of Finance is now realising the servicing of these loans is now due?"
He questioned whether it was incompetence, mismanagement or was designed to make the original budget deficit smaller. He said the country was sitting on a "debt bomb" which could "explode" in the future and bring major destruction.
He said a lesson from the covid19 pandemic was for people to practice "political social distancing" from the PNM as the country gets closer to the general election.