PM’s warning if TT goes back into lockdown: No more billion$

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -

Imploring people to behave responsibly in their daily lives, the Prime Minister said TT simply cannot afford the financial cost of a second lockdown against the covid19 pandemic.

At a briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Wednesday, Dr Rowley warned that people liming in bars were a major source of viral spread whom the police now need to curb.

“We don’t want to go back to a situation where the numbers are such that the response to a health crisis is another lockdown.”

The country’s first lockdown lasted about three months.

“The last lockdown cost us billions of dollars," said the PM.

“I could tell you now, if we have to go back to another lockdown such billions are not available. So let’s understand that.

“And the jobs we have saved surviving that lockdown may not be salvageable in the next round.”

Rowley said in the US, because of the pandemic, some 25 per cent of restaurants may never re-open – a sector worth US$13 trillion.

“You could imagine the effect that may have on the jobs of people who work in, what is in effect, the largest employment area in the country of America outside of the United States Government.

“These are not joke things. These are serious things.

"All you are required to do is to be responsible. If you are going out for a drink, be alert as to who is close to you and in what crowd you stand. Because if you are in a crowd of more than ten, you may have to talk to the police because you are breaking the law and loitering.”

Economist Gregory Maguire told Newsday the Government had previously announced the budget deficit being pushed to almost $16 billion owing to the lockdown. Asked if any economic modelling has been done on the likely fallout of any second lockdown, he said he has not done this, but reckoned someone had – probably in the Ministry of Finance.

However, Maguire said even more fundamentally, the Government would likely have a pretty keen sense that the public purse was now empty. Reflecting on the cost of the first lockdown, Maguire said, “No country could sustain that for any length of time.” He said any second lockdown would be a difficult proposition, just as for the first.

In April, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told the House of Representatives that the lockdown had tripled the budget deficit from an initial pre-covid $5.3 billion up to $15.5 billion.

Imbert blamed the $10.2 billion in extra deficit on $9.2 billion in lost state revenues owing to less economic activity during the lockdown, plus $1 billion in extraordinary costs chiefly comprised of social support and business support.

He said the revenue loss included $3.8 billion in lost tax on income and profits, $2.5 billion in lost royalties and production sharing with oil/gas companies, $1.2 billion lost in state enterprise profits, $750 million lost in business levy and $600 million lost in taxes on goods and services and trade.

Imbert had listed social and business support provided during the lockdown as including $25 million for food cards, $200 million in income support for people in the informal sector, $400 million in income support for workers registered for tax and national insurance, $30 million to religious bodies and $100 million to credit unions.

He had said US$300 million was being borrowed from international agencies such as the World Bank, Inter American Development Bank (IADB) and Development Bank of Latin America (CAF.) Another US$500 million was being sought from external sources, while $500 million had been raised locally for the health sector


"PM’s warning if TT goes back into lockdown: No more billion$"

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