THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris says he agrees with the fare increases on both the air and sea bridges.
On Monday, Finance Minister Finance Colm Imbert presented the 2023 budget at the Red House in Port of Spain, and announced pensioners would no longer enjoy free ferry travel but have to pay $25 for a one-way trip between Trinidad and Tobago. He also increased the one-way fare from $50 to $75, and premium from $100 to $150.
A one-way airline ticket moves from $150 to $200.
Morris, speaking on the Minority Report on Tobago Updates on Tuesday, said Tobagonians cannot expect efficiency without paying more for it.
“We all have agreed that we must pay something extra. When you look comparatively, we are really blessed to have – imagine you’re paying $50 to travel inter-island. That is less than US$10 . Comparatively, I think we are still blessed.
“And what I would expect and would hope, because we’ve been clamouring for efficiency as well – so we can’t want efficiency in terms of the airline and the seabridge but don’t want to pay a little thing extra – understanding that it is already heavily subsidised. We’re already losing on it.
“It is an essential service – perhaps we have to give a little, share the burden to get the kind of efficiency that we want out of the service.”
He commended Imbert for presenting, what he described as, a reasonable and fair budget package.
“I want to commend them for being able to steady the ship, even in rough waters, and we tend to forget that we are still in difficult times. When I look at the measures that would have been put in place, I think that the budget is one that is quite reasonable, quite fair.”
He noted that Imbert said there were provisions for vulnerable citizens.
“There are considerations for every interest grouping, and there is even a greater consideration for those who are most vulnerable. If you look at the social safety net, you would have seen an increase to ensure that those who depend on the State most, that they are able to get that kind of buffer to ensure that they can function just like the rest of us who are able to take care of our own responsibilities.”
Commenting on the increase in the price of fuel, he said TT remains the lowest, in that regard, globally.
Imbert, on Monday, reiterated that the Government's $1.9 billion annual fuel subsidy was unsustainable.
He announced an increase of $1 to three types of fuel, and 50 cents to diesel per litre. The new prices will be premium gasoline $7.75, super gasoline $6.97, diesel $4.41 and kerosene $4.50.
Imbert said a US$95 oil price will need a government subsidy of $1.45 billion, and a US$90 oil price a $1.2 billion subsidy.
“We know that would cause some kind of discomfort,” Morris said.
“I understand persons would be concerned. But if we look globally, what is happening – it is the global trend where fuel prices are going up all over the world. So TT is not immune. In fact, we still reman one of the lowest countries when it comes to fuel cost.”
Councilor Petal Daniel-Benoit congratulated the finance minister on his presentation.
“There was an attempt – yes there may have been burdens on the taxpayer with the attempt to decrease the deficit, however an attempt was made to offset those burdens.”
She was referring to Imbert’s announcement of expected earnings of $56.175 billion and spending of $57.685 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.
On a predicated global oil price of US$90.50 and gas price of US$6.00 MMBtu, he anticipated $25 billion in energy revenues, $30 billion in non-energy and $1 billion in capital revenue.
He said TT's finances were improving – with US$4 billion balance of payments, US$6.8 billion in reserves and debt-to-GDP at 70 per cent.