Imbert: Trinidad and Tobago not approaching the IMF

Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

EVEN amid a worsening budget deficit, Finance Minister Colm Imbert pledged to not implement measures to make people's lives harder, or to approach the Internatonal Monetary Fund (IMF),

Speaking during the mid-year budget review in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Imbert promised, "We are certainly not going to make structural adjustments such as retrenchment, removal of subsidies and devaluation, at this time."

He rebutted calls for Trinidad and Tobago to borrow from the IMF, saying TT has US$7 billion in reserves and US$5.7 billion in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.

Otherwise, he said it was ludicrous for anyone to suggest TT stop borrowing which was now the means of funding salaries, health, education and the water and electricity supplies.

Scoffing at unnamed michief-makers, he said a US$200 million loan from Chinese government had no conditionalities.

Imbert said the House was approving an extra $3 billion to fund spending arising out of the covid19 pandemic.

Some $267 million more went to the Ministry of Health, which was also helped by the Government guaranteeing loans sourced by Nipdec to buy pharmaceuticals.

The sum will include $86 million to the regional health authorities (RHAs), including $34 million for the North Central RHA.

Imbert said $107 million had been allocated to buy vaccines, with the aim of vaccinating 1.2 million people or 85 per cent of the population.

He said $57 million was allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture for its food basket programme to supply 100,000 boxes over five months up until the end of September for $11 million per month.

Imbert said $250 million was a block allocation for covid19 relief including income support by the Ministry of Social Development, and salary relief grant from the Ministry of Finance, plus additional food cards.

Some 30,000 people were in the process of applying for the salary relief grant, he said, revealing 119,620 people had visited his ministry's website portal.

Imbert lamented that many small and medium businesses could not provide basic details such as proper accounts to be able to apply for zero interest bank loans. He promised an outreach programme by his ministry and the Central Bank to help such entities.

In the 2021 budget, expenditure was originally planned at $49 billion and revenue at $41 billion.

He said the $3 billion supplementation took the country's deficit from $5 billion to $8 billion.

Imbert lamented a $1 billion shortfall in TT's energy revenues.

While the country's oil production of 57,000 barrels per day was only slightly below the initially budgeted volume, and while a US$52.76 recent oil price had exceeded the US$45 predicated, oil contributed only one-third of the country's energy revenues.

Two-thirds came from natural gas which had suffered a low recent production of 2.6-3.0 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day below the projected 3.2 bcf, even as the gas netback price fetched was US$2.34-US$3.00 per Metric Million British thermal unit (MMBtu), below the US$3 predicated.

Revenues from company taxation were $3.0 billion, just below a projected $3.1 billion, while personal income tax revenues amounted to $3.48 billion compared to a projected $3.5 billion, he added.


"Imbert: Trinidad and Tobago not approaching the IMF"

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