UNC MPs question $2.3b budget supplementation

David Lee, Opposition MP for Pointe-a-Pierre. - File photo by Roger Jacob
David Lee, Opposition MP for Pointe-a-Pierre. - File photo by Roger Jacob

UNC MPs David Lee and Barry Padarath are questioning the rationale behind the Government's seeking a $2.3 billion supplementation to the 2023/2023 budget.

They claimed the Government was trying to use this additional money to fool the population into believing it is managing the economy well and bolster its chances to win next year's general election.

Lee and Padarath made their allegations at a news conference at the UNC's headquarters in Chaguanas on May 29.

The Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives will meet at the Red House, Port of Spain on June 3 from 1.30 pm to approve the $2.3 billion supplementation.

Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis announced the date of this meeting when the House adjourned on May 24.

Among the major supplementations the committee will consider are $570,900,000; $155,677,500; $527, 800,000; $495, 286, 000 and $144,200,000 for the ministries of Energy, Works and Transport, Public Utilities, Health and Education respectively.

The committee will also consider a $50 million increase in funding for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

The $2.3 billion supplementation will be approved by the House when it sits on June 7 for Finance Minister Colm Imbert's presentation of the mid-year review of the budget.

Lee claimed once the committee approves this supplementation, budget expenditure could increase from $59.2 to $62 billion.

He recalled Imbert and other PNM MPs often criticising the former UNC-led People's Partnership (PP) coalition government for operating with $62 billion budgets during its tenure from May 2010-September 2015.

Lee said the PNM often claimed they "would do no such thing."

Referring to the $570,900,000 supplementation for the Energy Ministry, Lee claimed most of this money would be used to deal with a shortfall in the subsidy for petroleum products between 2022 and 2023.

He said this shortfall involved paying money owed to Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd, National Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (NP) and Unipet for the supply of petroleum products to the domestic market.

"Are they jeopardising the security of the country's fuel supply?" Lee asked.

He called on Energy Minister Stuart Young to come clean on what arrears are owed to Paria, NP and Unipet for the supply of fuel.

He reiterated the UNC's claims that the Government continues to underperform when it comes to the energy sector

Lee said the results of the shallow-water competitive bid round on May 28 continued that trend.

There were six bids on four out of 13 blocks available for bidding by oil and gas companies for exploration from October 3. EOG, Shell and bp Exploration were the companies that made bids.

All three companies bid on Block U (c), in the waters off the eastern shore of Trinidad, with Shell bidding through BG International Ltd. Bp Exploration also bid on NCMA 2, in the waters west of Tobago.

EOG also bid on the NCMA 4 (a) block in Tobago waters and Lower Reverse L, southeast of Trinidad.

Young and bpTT president David Campbell expressed their satisfaction at the results of the bid round.

Young said, "From our perspective as the government of TT, this augurs well.

“When you look at the blocks that have been bid on – and hopefully they will be successful in the next four months – they were all near to existing infrastructure and blocks that are currently under production. And I am certain that when you do further analysis that there is a synergy that continues.”

Campbell said, "It is good to see this level of interest in what is a relatively mature area. We remain as a company very committed to TT."

Padarath claimed the $2.3 billion supplementation to the budget and measures which Imbert could announce in the mid-year review will bring further hardship to the population.

On the latter, Padarath alleged that Government planned to increase value added tax (VAT) from 12.5 to 15 per cent on certain food items and increase taxes on commercial banks' profits by 30 per cent.

He reiterated the UNC's claims that Government plans to impose an inheritance tax on citizens.


"UNC MPs question $2.3b budget supplementation"

More in this section