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Howai: No new taxes
Minister of Finance and the economy Larry Howai is seeking to end the long-standing CL Financial debacle before year’s end and has promised no new taxes as part of his maiden budget presentation on October 1. “I really intend to bring the Clico matter to a conclusion before the end of the year,” he told the CNC3 Early Morning Show yesterday. He noted that the $20 billion spent on settling the contentious issue increased T&T’s debt to GDP ratio from 30-45 per cent.
He said: “Certainly the Clico investment trust... we are expecting to be able to put some measures in place to start that process by around the middle of October, roughly. I’m hopeful a number of other aspects, once we focus on it that we can get it done late this year or early into next year.” The greatest challenge Mr Howai says he faces is “striking a balance” between cutbacks and stimulating growth.
But with an announcement of “austerity measures” in the public domain, Minister Howai assured: “We don’t expect to be introducing any new taxes in this budget. “The budget is expected to stimulate economic activity so we are not expecting there will be any significant taxes in the budget as far as that is concerned.” Pensioners also can breathe a sigh of relief as their benefits will not be subject to the proposed cutbacks.
The GATE programme also will not be touched. While he says there has been some abuse of its benefits to tertiary students, he said: “We will streamline things differently by 2015 and we think the investment in GATE is going to be 50 per cent higher than it is today.” Minister Howai says though a lot of focus will be on “incentivising, particularly the energy and construction sectors to get things moving again.” He says that’s where the focus of the fiscal measures will be.
He noted, however, that the proposed cutbacks in the budget was not inimical to economic growth. He added: “The fact that we are cutting back in one area does not mean that we expect the economy will slow down. What we are expecting is that those funds will be better utilised in other areas where we think the investments will give us a better payback. He said it would take another three to five years before T&T could see a balanced budget as Government moved to reduce the record $7 billion budget deficit.
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