THE Prime Minister said the country must seize the moment to make its best possible use of extra energy revenues now being earned at a time of high global oil and natural gas prices, in contrast to the Government having spent $35 billion on the fuel subsidy over a number of years.
He was replying to questions at the Spotlight on the economy 2022 on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, minutes after Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the Government was contemplating shifting the current $2 billion annual fuel subsidy to a cap of $1 billion saying, "The consequences to that will be inevitable."
Dr Rowley said, "Heavily subsidised fuel consumption is not the best response to the changed circumstances." Some Caribbean territories enjoy no fuel subsidy, he said.
"So to encourage people to believe that it doesn't matter what is happening anywhere in the world or anywhere in the business local or foreign, that subsidised fuel with no attempt to respond – by reducing the consumption, being more efficient, being concerned about the price of fuel – is not a serious encouragement.
"What we are trying to do is make the most of the resources we have available and, as I said earlier on, if one looks back historically, and you'll see we have spent $30 billion odd on the fuel subsidy, you can only ask yourself a question: Had that policy not been so, what could we have better done developing this country with some of that $35 billion?"
Rowley asked aloud whether a mentality of an entitlement to cheap fuel ought to be encouraged, but opined that the population must carry some of this burden.
He said he did not think the fuel price would stay high.
The PM later reiterated that TT needed to make the best use of its finite resources and took after its people.
"Make the best use now of what is coming to us now."
Asked about procurement legislation, he said Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness had recently told him that those laws in that country have worked well at an upper level, but at the lower level were linked to delays and increased costs.
"This piece of legislation holds out some promise but it is not a panacea."
He urged the populace to go forward with confidence and "boundless faith in our destiny."
In his opening remarks he said the Government "has had to do more with less."
He assured the TT economy was not collapsing, in contrast to past "experts" who had predicted its demise.
Rowley reckoned the Government would have to provide some funding to help pupils who had fallen in schools during pandemic lockdowns, noting a 3-13 per cent decline among US children.