(T&T GUARDIAN) – The country is a long way from hard times being over, but there will not be any mass retrenchment in the public service and we will not have to go knocking on the doors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has said.
Rowley made the statements during the fourth instalment of the Conversations with the Prime Minister held at the Mt Hope/Mt Lambert Community Centre on Friday night.
The theme of the event was “Working together toward prosperity”.
“We are a long way from hard times being over because last year and even this year we have had a big gap between our revenues and our expenditure commitments, so therefore we were borrowing to close that gap. Even as the Finance Minister says that our revenues have grown a bit there is still a gap between revenue and expenditure, so that is a long way from hard times being over, we still have to borrow to maintain some stability and potential for growth,” Rowley said.
Despite the situation though, Rowley said “not a single gazetted public servant was retrenched in Trinidad and Tobago” and there are no plans for any to be retrenched in the future.
“This Government with the collapse of the country’s revenue took the position to maintain the job levels in the public service, even contracted workers some of whom contracts would have come to an end, we’ve had instances of contracts not being renewed depending on the usage but we have not engaged in mass retrenchments in the public service,” Rowley said.
“As long as we keep going in the direction we are going now, retrenchment in the public service is not in the near future and does not form part of the government plan.”
Rowley was asked whether the country would consider following Barbados in approaching the IMF.
Rowley said the IMF is the “lender of last resort” and under this Government, approaching the IMF seems unlikely.
“Because as leader of this Government upon taking responsibility of this country’s administration and knowing the nature of our resource base and what resources that are available to us and what we can do as a people I give this country the assurance that we will not be considering the IMF as a part of the solution to our problems,” he said.
Rowley said that promise came with the “caveat” however that we as a country do what is necessary to avoid being put in that situation, even if the actions are unpopular.
He said in this dry season the Government expected to build a road from Cumuto to Manzanilla but unfortunately minority views have tied that up in the court.
Minister in the Finance Ministry Allyson West gave an update on the property tax saying additional assessors have been engaged and valuations have begun.
Rowley said early in the next Parliamentary term, legislation to bring local government reform is expected to be enacted.