Mid-year review roadmap to 2025

Finance Minister Colm Imbert - Angelo Marcelle
Finance Minister Colm Imbert - Angelo Marcelle

THE UPCOMING mid-year review might easily go down as one of the most important in this country’s history.

And it could well prove Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s most ambitious yet.

The review of the annual fiscal programme is generally held between April and June.

With Parliament due to observe its fixed recess starting in July, expectations are high that this key presentation will take place in June.

When the House of Representatives last sat on May 24, private business was being debated.

However, the intention of the Government is to use the next sitting on June 7 for the mid-year review, in which a $2.3 billion budget supplementation is expected to be sought.

Though it relates to the annual budgetary cycle, the exact timing of the review is ultimately within the Cabinet’s discretion.

Parliament even has the capability of sitting during the recess to deal with exigencies – though such a move would likely be politically contentious.

Also within the prerogative of the Prime Minister is the timing of the next general election, a matter that has been subject to much speculation.

Whether an election is coming sooner rather than later, the Minister of Finance’s review could give us an economic roadmap to 2025.

It could also yield important insights into how the incumbent PNM administration plans to campaign in the next poll.

The recent controversy surrounding the Office of the Auditor General, Mr Imbert and the Cabinet, meanwhile, places a tremendous duty on the State to give the country a strong message of stability and continuity and to repair any damage to confidence that impasse may have triggered.

Strictly speaking, auditing accounts and preparating budget matters are not connected directly. However, there are practical, symbolic and political implications that force both matters to overlap.

The mid-year review, therefore, would be an opportunity for the Government in more ways than one.

It may opt to send a clear message of strength, building on recent, glowing reports coming from agencies like the IMF, while also reassuring investors and onlookers that the ship of state remains in good hands.

There is a long history of budgets, especially those before general-election cycles, being geared towards winning over the population, whether through the announcement of “goodies” or otherwise favourable measures that might engender a sense of buoyancy and optimism.

The supplementation of the annual appropriation may not be an occasion for radical measures, but there are enough longstanding issues which the minister could address meaningfully.

To wit, the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce this month called for more action to be taken over the payment of VAT refunds.

It would also like to see some hint that the State will take a strong stance in relation to reports of the extortion of business people, as well as updates in relation to the energy sector and key deals.

When the Minister of Finance rises to speak on June 7, his plate will be full.


"Mid-year review roadmap to 2025"

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