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Enill on austerity measures for budget: Cutbacks should not affect citizens
Former minister in the Ministry of Finance Conrad Enill says the austerity measures expected in the upcoming budget must not affect large sections of the population. He was responding to Finance Minister Larry Howai’s statement last week that the fiscal package will include austerity measures.
Enill said Howai was faced with the challenge of finding a way to reduce expenditure without hurting large sections of the national community. He said there are ways Howai can do that “without creating problems, whether he can do it or not or whether he is prepared to do it are other issues.” Enill said the Government can make Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) available to the public at a lower price than diesel fuel.
“If he carries that out, then he would be able to reduce his expenditure without creating hardships for the population. I think it is those kinds of things the Minister of Finance need to be doing,” Enill added. He said the PP Government should also look to “get more for what we have, rather than talking about cutting to meet revenue (and) expenditure.”
“Once you start talking about austerity and you translate that into a cut in expenditure, you are creating circumstances which cause a lot of fear and difficulty among the population, and I don’t think that is what we want to do.” Asked if the austerity measures to be implemented could be similar to those in Greece, Enill said T&T still had “a significant portion of revenue.” He said Howai would have to look at the Government expenditure and maintain those that benefit the majority of the population.
“The others (expenditure) he will have to find a way to distribute differently.” Enill said the Government would have benefitted tremendously in the existing circumstances if the aluminium smelter plant had been built in La Brea. “We would have had an additional source of revenue and the expenditure the country has to pay for gas we contracted would no longer be there. There would have been less demand for expenditure and you would have had more revenue within the system.”
Enill said the country still had a robust revenue stream which will allow Howai to “make judicious analysis on what is required for the citizens on fixed incomes and vulnerable in T&T.” The former minister said he did not think the population voted the PP into power to implement austerity measures. “That is an issue the population is going to have to deliberate on,” he said.
He said when the PP assumed power in 2010 it said the treasury was empty but it was still able to increase the national budget to more than $52 billion. The last budget by the former PNM Government was $44 billion, he added. Enill said Howai may have to reverse some measures implemented by the PP which are no longer sustainable.
Workers have said they would protest any move to implement austerity measures in the budget. President of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget told a rally last Friday there would be protests across the country, including at the Prime Minister’s private residence in south Trinidad.
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