OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark described the 2021 Mid-Year Review presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert as "a national disappointment and even an insult to the people of Trinidad and Tobago."
He made these comments during his contribution to debate on the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2021 in the Senate on Friday.
After he described Imbert's earlier contribution as "weak, unimpressive and unconvincing," Mark accused Imbert of misleading the public about the national deficit. He claimed the deficit was $16.4 billion and not the $5 billion figure that Imbert mentioned during debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
"We have done the research. This is a wide gap."
Mark said Government must come clean about what the deficit was, and claimed, "Government has to borrow in order to finance this deficit."
He asked whether Government would source the necessary funds using the overdraft at the Central Bank, borrowing on the local or external markets, or making further withdrawals from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.
He accused the Government of taking a calculated decision to suppress actual expenditure figures "to make their deficit look good."
Mark wondered if Government was attacking the collective bargaining process and denying workers money rightly owed to them.
While the Opposition supports the Government on taking measures to save lives during the covid19 pandemic, Mark said the owners and workers at non-essential businesses are suffering under the public health and state of emergency (SoE) regulations.
"When will we open up non-essential businesses?"
Mark also claimed that TT's debt-to-Gross-Domestic-Product (GDP) ratio was approximately 80 to 90 per cent and will soon hit the 100 per cent mark.
"That is a crisis for TT, because we are mortgaging the future of our children.'
He also said the two new fast ferries on the domestic seabridge, the APT James and APT Buccoo Reef, cost $160 million in total. He asked whether through the acquisition of these vessels, the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) had replaced the Port Authority as the government's shipping agent.
Mark claimed both ferries are being run by foreign nationals, undermining the authority and the Seamen Waterfront Workers Trade Union (SWWTU).
He added that Government was trying to privatise the Port of Spain port.
"Sunshine is the best form of transparency. Corruption flourishes in darkness. Let's tell the nation the truth about where we are."