PRESIDENT general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget has said the 2021/2022 budget is nothing but a “con job,” as it contains austerity measures which are hidden but will be revealed in the course of the year.
Roget said no matter how the measures have been cushioned, he anticipates an increase in the cost of basic utilities, fuel and the imposition of the dreaded property tax which will negatively affect the population.
He was speaking at a virtual People’s Sector Post Budget Policy Forum on Tuesday on the $52.4 billion package.
He also knocked Government for what he said was its failure to provide initiatives for job creation.
He anticipated, “They will make all of these statements and promises, and then when it falls short and revenue falls short, they will come with a mid-year review and ask for more money and then continue on their merry way.”
He said the measures people are feeling good about are projected to occur outside the budget year and will do absolutely nothing to affect the strain sure to come amid the anticipated increases in this fiscal period.
“Matters not how it is coined to con you into believing they will cushion the effects. Whatever they say, however they present it, the population is going to pay more for electricity, water, fuel, which carries an immediate knock-on effect on the price of goods and services in the country.”
Roget repeated the union’s call to defer the implementation of the property tax until the economy begins to show signs of recovery, saying people are reeling under the pressure and strain of the pandemic.
Even then, he said it should be introduced on a phased basis, starting with industrial and commercial properties, and then residential.
“Never mind how they try to whitewash it, to make you believe property tax is only for rich people, this is going to affect you across the board.”
He also called for the removal of the request for property owners to fill out a complex form, subject to a penalty for failure to do so, saying that is a function of the Valuation Division, which ought to be properly staffed to carry out this function.
Focusing on the energy sector, Roget said he was vindicated by Imbert’s acknowledgement of the fall in oil and gas production, which the OWTU had warned about for years.
He asked, “What is the contribution of Heritage, their flagship company after they would have shut down Petrotrin?
“What is Heritage doing, as a state-owned entity, to increase the indigenous crude oil production?
“What we are facing here in Trinidad and Tobago is what we always face. The budget is presented, every sector has had their say – some like it, but with this government most people don’t like it because of how it will impact one way or the other.
“However, at the end of the day, a vote is taken in Parliament and the ayes will have it. So this system of government we are under allows them to impose on us their will, in whichever way they choose.”