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Browne: Premium gas hike stupid
Former finance minister Mariano Browne says the recent 44 per cent increase a litre in the price of premium gasoline was stupid. He said so in an address to yesterday’s Rotary Club luncheon at Goodwill Industries, Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook.
Finance Minister Larry Howai announced the price hike during his October 1 budget speech in the House of Representatives. He said the People’s Partnership Government was engaging in populace economics. He said populace economics that was “exemplified by what we will consider to be, not merely a flawed (measure) but a stupid fiscal decision, the issue of raising prices on premium.”
Browne said the reality was that “anybody who can adjust will adjust.” He said the measure would not be a revenue-saving initiative, adding: “So what we have done is have a perverse incentive.” He said that did not make any sense.
Browne said the introduction of initiatives for more motorists to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) was not new. He said the economics have not changed with respect to CNG. He added: “For CNG to be realistically used as an alternative, the alternative price of fuel must be $5. That means that diesel has to be $5, premium has to be $5, everything has to go to that particular level for CNG to make it.”
He said Howai failed in his budget to effectively “deal with the real issues that face Trinidad and Tobago.” Browne said the incentives to boost the construction sector and the creative industries were not new. He said there was no need for the Financial Support Facility in the fiscal package. He described that measure as “silliness.”
Browne said: “It should not be there. It ought not to be there, that is a private sector initiative and they don’t need any tax incentives to do that.” He said that measure won’t “help our financial services on the other side.” The former trade minister also said the National Insurance Board (NIB) should not be included in that measure.
He added: “The NIB changes are not as a result of any tax change. It was as a result of an actuarial assessment... in which case NIB should be making those pronouncements and treating with the public.” He said the budget failed to address the real issues affecting the nation and consequently the country would not advance.
He said the University of the West Indies should play a more meaningful role in analysing the budget. He added: “So for us to achieve the rationality that we are looking for, it is these professional third party groups that need to be more professional in their approach.
“I think the public is crying out for good faith third party that could resolve a propaganda statement here and a propaganda statement there.” On the provision for imports of equipment to be duty free, Browne said that already existed. “That is an incentive in the budget? You need to say that... because right now it duty-free anyhow,” he added.
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