Kamla says Trinidad and Tobago economy is dead

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Kamla Persad-Bissessar

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) The econ­o­my has gone from be­ing on life sup­port to to­tal­ly dead un­der the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment.

This was how Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar summed up Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert’s pre­sen­ta­tion on the Mid-Year Bud­get Re­view yes­ter­day in Par­lia­ment, adding he did not put for­ward any pol­i­cy or plans in place for the coun­try’s re­al de­vel­op­ment.

“They were all re­gur­gi­tat­ed. They were the same ole…same ole,” Per­sad-Bisses­sar said in re­sponse to Im­bert’s 44- minute pre­sen­ta­tion, which she said was based on fig­ures but lacked sub­stance.

“We ex­pect­ed a plan but all we got was de­flec­tion and dis­trac­tion.”

The Siparia MP scoffed at some of the sta­tis­tics Im­bert used to demon­strate growth in the econ­o­my. She said the pop­u­la­tion could not car­ry (num­bers) to the su­per­mar­kets.

“You can­not eat sta­tis­tics and you can­not car­ry it to the gro­cery. The UNC is about peo­ple-cen­tred de­vel­op­ment,” she said.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the six-game chang­ers – which in­clud­ed the To­ba­go San­dals project and the Drag­on Gas deal with Venezuela – which Im­bert had put for­ward in his 2019 bud­get last Oc­to­ber to stim­u­late the econ­o­my had col­lapsed, while cit­i­zens have been suf­fer­ing to make ends meet, peo­ple felt un­safe in their own homes due to ris­ing crime and poor health care was the or­der of the day.

She teased the Gov­ern­ment, telling them their game chang­ers plan had turned to “games” for the pop­u­la­tion and come 2020 the Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress will as­sume of­fice again.

“Our econ­o­my has col­lapsed un­der this in­com­pe­tent Gov­ern­ment. So what we see here to­day, mov­ing clos­er to the elec­tions, they have been ig­nor­ing the needs of cit­i­zens while re­ward­ing friends, fam­i­lies and fi­nanciers.”

Per­sad-Bisses­sar first trained her guns on Im­bert, say­ing he failed to men­tion any­thing about BPTT’s in­abil­i­ty to meet the nat­ur­al gas needs of Train One in 2020 and 2021, which the com­pa­ny an­nounced last Fri­day.

If Train One is moth­balled, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said this would re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant short­falls in gas pro­duc­tion and rev­enues for the coun­try.

“The Gov­ern­ment owes some kind of ex­pla­na­tion to the coun­try as to what could hap­pen or what should hap­pen with re­spect to Train One. This has se­ri­ous and pro­found con­se­quences and ma­jor im­pli­ca­tion for every sin­gle sec­tor of our na­tion.”

She said the Gov­ern­ment had no con­tin­gency plans in place to deal with this is­sue, as it had treat­ed the en­er­gy sec­tor with con­tempt.

“As a re­sult, the en­er­gy sec­tor is now on life sup­port fac­ing a very un­cer­tain fu­ture. I know that we own shares in At­lantic LNG Train One and there­fore should this be moth­balled it is go­ing to af­fect the div­i­dends we could have got from these,” she said.

“Does the Gov­ern­ment have a plan to keep Train One go­ing? We ex­pect­ed the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance to lay out a clear plan or speak to the re­quired ad­just­ments for this new de­vel­op­ment, which on­ly came to light on Fri­day. No men­tion what­so­ev­er of this (Train One), which is a ma­jor is­sue now in our en­er­gy and gas sec­tors.”

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said she won­dered if Im­bert had heed­ed the warn­ing of econ­o­mists for Gov­ern­ment to re­duce its re­liance on the en­er­gy in­dus­try.

“Will we need to bor­row more next year if Train One is not pro­duc­ing rev­enue? Will that fi­nanc­ing be more ex­pen­sive due to Gov­ern­ment’s re­duced rev­enues? Will the Gov­ern­ment raise tax­es again to make up for loss rev­enue? Is the Gov­ern­ment plan­ning to dip fur­ther in the Her­itage and Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Fund to make up for the po­ten­tial short­fall?”

The re­al­i­ty, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said, is that the is in a deep cri­sis, peo­ple have been hurt­ing and busi­ness­es bor­row­ing to keep afloat, as life un­der the Dr Kei­th Row­ley ad­min­is­tra­tion has been ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult.

“Take a look at who is get­ting the mega con­tracts from this Gov­ern­ment?”

Per­sad-Bisses­sar ad­mit­ted that since demit­ting of­fice in 2015, the UNC had learned from its mis­takes, adding they have a trans­for­ma­tion mas­ter plan which they would roll out as lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions draw clos­er.

This plan, she said, hinges on di­ver­si­fy­ing the econ­o­my, cre­at­ing 50,000 jobs, ma­jor projects and boost­ing the agri­cul­ture sec­tor among oth­ers.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the shut­ting down of Petrotrin’s re­fin­ery al­so re­quires a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as this con­sti­tutes a crim­i­nal act against work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties.

“Last year, I told you that the econ­o­my was sick and on life sup­port. To­day, the econ­o­my is dead be­cause of the ac­tions or in­ac­tions of this Gov­ern­ment. To­day, the Gov­ern­ment is in­volved in a fu­tile ex­er­cise to try to re­sus­ci­tate the dead econ­o­my with all the mas­sive bor­row­ings, debts to GDP ra­tio. This sup­ple­men­ta­tion is like an in­stal­la­tion of a pace­mak­er af­ter the heart has stopped beat­ing,” she said.

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