Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Howai on 2013 budget: We intend to settle outstanding bills
Minister of Finance Larry Howai said yesterday that the numbers for the upcoming September 9 budget were still being finalised, but he expected higher expenditure in the current 2013 fiscal year than originally budgeted. “We expect it to increase, because we have some expenses to settle.” Last year’s budget, presented on October 1, allocated expenditure of $58.4 billion.
When asked to give an estimated margin of increase, Howai said he could not. “I’ll say it in the budget. We’re still finalising some of the numbers right now…It will be larger because there are a number of outstanding bills to be settled so our intention is to make sure those are settled.” When asked to elaborate on which ministries had outstanding settlements, Howai said it was “across the board.”
Speaking to reporters yesterday afternoon at the opening of the Operations and Shared Services Company Limited in Chaguanas, Howai said there were “VAT payments and other costs incurred that haven’t been settled” which he said he would try to “bring up to date” as far as he could. “The way in which we do it will be to make sure we clear up a lot of the back log.” He said he was still waiting on the exact numbers from the Board of Inland Revenue.
When asked about outstanding money to contractors, Howai said he would make it available, provided ministries could justify the payments. He said sometimes complaints about overdue payments to contractors were valid, but other times, there were lingering questions for some requested payments. “There are quite a number where sometimes change orders are made and variations are made, but its word of mouth. And it becomes difficult for the Ministry to verify whether it was properly authorised and so on.”
“We wouldn’t want to release any funding until we know that these things are properly verified and that the work was done, and done to the standard we want it to.” He added things had to be properly documented before payments were made, and various ministries would have to verify the payment requests before funds are made available. “We’re not just going to say ‘Here are the funds.’” Howai said the focus of the upcoming budget will be to grow and expand the economy.
“We’ve had growth over the last four quarters and we’re expecting similarly this quarter that we have growth.” He said the energy sector was challenging this past year due to maintenance work, but the non-energy sector had done very well. “It has expanded at a pretty rapid clip, well over two percent. I expect that momentum will continue during the course of the coming year.” He said because of the growth in the non-energy sector, tax earnings were more than originally budgeted.
“As of the end of June, the non-energy sector had paid over more than $1 billion more than we had originally anticipated, so the growth is there, and this budget, the intention is to continue to solidify that growth, to see it continue to accelerate, and then take some judicious measures to diversify.” Asked to address rumours that diesel fuel would see an increase in cost, Howai laughed and said “you have to wait and see.”
“Everything is under review, but no decisions have been made as yet.”
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