THE EDITOR: Seemingly mindful of his government's growing unpopularity, Finance Minister Colm Imbert delivered a surprisingly measured 2023/2024 budget. However, another deficit budget means the government will have to borrow about $5.197 billion.
The PNM ruled for 42 years before the minimum wage was first introduced. This was done not by the PNM but by the UNC government under Basdeo Panday, in April 1998.
It was initially set at $7 per hour. It was good to see that Mr Imbert has increased it from $17.50 to $20.50 per hour, effective January 1.
Property taxes for individuals will commence in 2024 and he took the opportunity to once again explain how the taxes would be calculated. Much of what he posited, sounded like a pre, pre-election budget.
Citizens were spared, for now, from another gasoline price increase.
However, the Regulated Industries Commission still has to pronounce on the rate increases for T&TEC and WASA.
Mr Imbert alluded to this when he mentioned how low TT's utility rates are compared to other countries. These increases may very well happen in 2024.
Shockingly, he also gave government projections for the inflation rate of 5.1 per cent in 2024 and 3.1 per cent in 2025.
It is the first time, to my recollection, that a finance minister has ever given a projection for the inflation rate in TT.
He seemed surprised that 72 per cent of businesses do not have a business bank account. Does Mr Imbert know what horrors a small-business owner has to go through to open a business bank account today? The hoops, turns and contortions could make anyone ill.
Some 88 per cent of businesses do not accept digital payments. Why should they, when they do not have a bank account?
Efforts were made to lighten the burden on parents with a supposedly standardised booklist coming in 2024 and a school supply grant of $1,000 for roughly 65,000 needy pupils.
Backpay is coming by Christmas, for those civil servants who accepted Government's four per cent salary increase offer.
Now that this year's budget is done and dusted, I cannot wait to see the "mamaguy budget" which will take us into the next general election in 2025.
LINUS F DIDIER