A MAJOR PART of Government’s priority over the next few years will be ensuring the country services its national debt, the Prime Minister said Monday. Other primary focuses will be national security, education and investment in youth, health and social services.
Delivering opening remarks at the Spotlight on the Economy forum at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, which was also broadcast live, Dr Rowley said these decisions and priorities will “give all of us a chance to survive and prosper.”
“The government is at the centre of the interests of the people and the priorities that we will choose as government is against the background that we do not want to unduly affect any individual or sector (and) leave no one behind,” he said. Not meeting debt obligations, he added, would create a new calamity to whatever the country is facing now.
“If we do not pay our national debt or put ourselves in a situation where our national debt cannot be served by our own actions, there are consequences. (The obvious consequence) is we will have to ask for help. And you know where that help comes from. It comes from a place which brings with it more suffering in a shorter space of time than we could ever prescribe for ourselves. So, we have to manage that (as) a priority,” Rowley said.
He added that the country must ensure those least able to look after themselves get some measure of assistance to live with dignity.
“Whatever we take from the national Treasury…we do not only take for ourselves but we ensure that some is left for the least of those,” he said.
These people who receive government cheques are also consumers and part of a prospering economy, he added, and in our economy, when consumption takes place, economic fuel is added and the wheels return. The country must also have a development plan to create opportunities for employment, he said. “I ask you to bear in mind that we are making the best decision that is available.”
Rowley said there was no gainsaying the fact that in TT, the state is the major contributor to the national economy. “Government's injection into the economy, to the national budget every 12 months is the fuel that drives the engine of our economy. Government is also the largest employer in the country. And in many cases, the largest investor in national infrastructure development and economic infrastructure as well,” he noted, and over time, the State has assumed more and more personal responsibilities, funded from the National Treasury.
In his presentation, Finance Minister Colm Imbert hinted that revenue estimates for fiscal 2021 would not likely be more than $40 billion, some $10 billion less than the revenue estimates for 2020.
The new budget deficit projected for 2020 is $17.3 billion, $12 billion more than the $5.3 billion estimated initially. Public debt also raised to 77 per cent, just over 12 per cent more than 2019.