"I unreservedly apologise to all."That apology came yesterday from Finance Minister Colm Imbert following his recent controversial statements on "wage restraint" and "no riots yet" he made at last week's conference with visiting International Money Fund (IMF) officials.
Imbert's apology was made in Parliament as he piloted a motion to confirm tax orders in the 2017 budget. It also follows a demand for an apology from the trade union leaders and a public dress-down from Prime Minister Keith Rowley at last week's post-Cabinet press conference.
He publicly scolded Imbert, making it clear he was not happy with the man who acts as Prime Minister when he is out of the country.He likened the manner in which the Finance Minister made the disclosures to a doctor with no bedside manners.
The Finance Minister broke off from speaking on the motion to address the issue of his remarks which had dogged him since it occurred last week.
Imbert has been centre-stage of protests from unions and other sectors following his remarks at the IMF meeting where he alluded to "wage restraint" and a "0-0-0" position by Government concerning public sector negotiations.
He also drew fire for quipping he had increased fuel prices twice and since no one had "rioted yet" he might raise it again next April. He denied he had said "wage freeze" and clarified that the "0-0-0" was the start-up basis for negotiations, not the end.
Rowley also attempted to deflect public anger, saying Imbert's statement was speculative, lacked substance and was made in a "vacuum." He signalled no final decision was made on wages and even if "less" was available, there would be "something to be had."
Joint Trade Union Movement president Ancel Roget subsequently demanded that Imbert apologise to the National Tripartite Advisory Council for his "disrespectful and dangerous comments."
Yesterday Imbert informed the Parliament: "There was a conference in T&T last week designed to deal with challenges facing T&T and the economies of the Caribbean and during that conference I made certain statements and on reflection and having reviewed and looked at the tapes of the comments I made, and the manner in which I made them, I realise this would have upset a lot of people and therefore I take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise to all of them."
His apology was interrupted twice by loud laughter from the Opposition bench.
Rowley was absent for Imbert's apology. Around that same time Rowley was meeting with members of Oilfields Workers' Trade Union at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's.
NEW FISCAL MEASURES
On the tax order motion, Imbert said the tax on people and companies earning $1 million was similar to measures by the US Obama administration.
He said the tax on high income earners would yield $80 million and that showed how many high income earners TT had. The projected yield from "million dollar" earning companies is $560 million
He said $750 million was also raised from the recent tax amnesty which showed "quite a few don't pay taxes."
Imbert said $1 million was collected in the first ten days of the seven per cent online tax. This applies to goods bought for personal use via the Internet and brought to T&T via air freight. It's projected to yield $70 million.
Imbert said he was examining complaints from Carib Brewery about unfair competition and importers of foreign beer "dumping" products in T&T.
Cabinet would also decide on representation by the T&T Chamber and hospitality industry for waiver of proposed alcohol tax on litre-boxed wine until after New Year's since stocks had been enroute when the tax was announced on September 30, he said.