Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
COP has betrayed their mandate—Rowley
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on Friday responded to Finance Minister Larry Howai $61.3 budget which was presented on Monday. We continue the reproduction of his speech which was released by the Office of the Opposition Leader and will continue over the next few days. I just want the population to know that the value that will be put on your property has nothing to do with who you vote for or which Government is in office.
I also want to remind you that the property tax that faced the axe had called for a rate of 3.5 per cent on residential property whereas the bill that was laid in Parliament by this coalition, under the cover of Carnival 2011, by the axeman and his partners, had called for valuations and a rate of 7.5 per cent on residential property. It was only stopped and allowed to lapse when the PNM raised the alarm on the betrayal.
The COP’s actions today patently confirm to all that they have, once again, betrayed, in a most truculent way, the mandate they were given. They falsely advertised in what is the second greatest “bait and switch” political fraud ever perpetrated on Trinidad and Tobago. Second only to Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s so-called People’s Partnership, the ultimate sinking ship itself.
This Government squandered its mandate and the trust of the people with the Section 34 misconduct. With the Prime Minister repeating over and over in July and September 2010, that her Government will not introduce property tax. The tomfoolery presented here by the Minister of Finance deserves no less than total condemnation and like all governments who betray the people’s trust, in the name of God, go.
Mr Speaker, if there ever was a towering monument to the irrelevance of the COP in the coalition, this is it, and the absence of political integrity of the leaders of the COP, this is it. It is shameful and it is a great enough fraud promulgated on the voters that you should vacate your seats here and go tell the same people on the same public platforms, on the same pavements, wearing new T-shirts saying, “here comes the tax, we deserve the axe. We have been recalled.”
The population must try and calculate the hundreds of millions of dollars being left uncollected, for the benefit of commercial property owners, many of whom earn millions of dollars per year from the said Government who is playing politics to save itself at the expense of the taxpayers. Under the rubric of tax administration the Hon Minister of Finance said “we have started work on the technical infrastructure for the phased introduction of a growth oriented tax system over the period 2014-2016.”
He went on to say: “This revised tax system will be regionally and internationally competitive.” What will be its local characteristics other than meshing with the return of the property tax as outlined for the same period? We don’t know, and given your disgusting behaviour with the property tax we have little basis to trust you. We want the policy details now and the Government’s clear intentions in writing. Like the property tax, which is straddling the general election of 2015, what is the Government threatening us with here?
After condemning and stopping the PNM’s attempt to establish a much needed Revenue Authority, after wasting time, almost four years later, we now hear from the Minister of Finance, “The leakage from the tax system is unacceptable”.
He also mentioned, “Strengthening the capabilities of the Board of Inland Revenue, in particular in the area of enforcement and compliance in business and individual taxpayers’ assessments”. This is precisely what the Revenue Authority, which you shot down, was meant to address. It took you three and a half years to admit this and to now embark on some piecemeal rectification. However, they would all still be foolishly saying “it is not the same thing. That was the PNM thing and this is we own”.
Let us examine your thing, your stewardship
The presentation by the Minister of Finance on Monday, which he referred to as a “Budget”, once again demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt, the bankruptcy of this UNC government. Clearly, Mr Speaker, they have reached the bottom of the barrel. They have stopped scraping and they have started to dig. There seems to be no level of lowness to which this UNC cabal will not sink in order to hoodwink the people of this country and pretend that they are a government.
I assure you Mr Speaker that by the time I am finished here today, Mr Speaker, both you and the country will understand that they are nothing but a very profitable NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) for themselves. They are no good for this country and they pose a clear and present danger to our current and future economic prosperity.
Once again I repeat, we are facing here today a record budget, $61.3 billion, their fourth record budget in four years. The minister then calmly praises himself by proclaiming that it is “not an election budget”. What utter nonsense.
These record budgets are coming from the same people who claimed that “the treasury was empty”, that we were in a state of financial ruin, that the PNM mismanaged the economy, that the sky was about to fall down when they came into office. The last minister of finance sang this song until he talked the country into a recession based on total loss of confidence.
This is borne out by the fact that after the global challenges of 2010, Trinidad and Tobago, on its strong foundations returned to small growth in 2010, the year of their arrival. However, with all the stupid talk about empty treasury and all the negatives that they exuded we went into full blown recession in 2011 and 2012, even as they tried to mislead us about the real situation. They just would not tell us the truth. It took the Governor of the Central Bank then to contradict the Government so that we could be properly informed.
Mr Speaker, if anything that they were saying about empty treasury were true then where are they getting all this money from? What has allowed them to spend so much money over the past three to four years? Their dishonesty is boundless. As Bob Marley once sang, “hypocrites and parasites will come out and take a bite”. And they have taken a big bite, for themselves and or their families and their greedy cronies.
Some are even choking on the way to the Integrity Commission or to their criminal lawyers’ office.
The fact is that the PNM left the economy on such a strong footing that it gave them the fiscal space to do their borrowing and spending and boy have they spent!!
They have increased spending on almost everything they condemned the PNM for, and on which they were calling squandermania! Gate, Cepep, URP, endless abused social programmes, you name it! Once it could generate opportunities for friends and family, they spend on it! Sound economic management, UNC-style.
Now some on the other side will point out that even though they presented such large budget estimates they actually spent less so the projected deficits came in lower than was planned! In fact, they thump their desks whenever their Finance Minister announces such trite nonsense!
Again, Mr Speaker, this is grasping at straws! Hollow self-praise without any substance! The fact that you cannot spend your allocated budget—the money you say you needed to spend to stimulate the economy, the money that Parliament approved to service the country—is nothing to be proud of!
It is a sign of your lack of ability to implement your projects!! It is a manifestation of your inability to choose between the useful and the wasteful. Who’s fooling whom? Mr Speaker, one only has to look at the Development Programme which this Parliament approved in two major ministries in the last budget to prove my point: Ministry of Works and Infrastructure
a) Extension of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway from Cumuto to Sangre Grande—zilch!
b) Construction of road from Cocorite to Chaguaramas to improve passenger and cargo handling—nothing.
c) Dualling of the Rivulet Road to improve access to Pt Lisas—absolutely nothing
Under the Ministry of Local Government this Parliament approved the construction of four administrative buildings for the Regional Corporations of Diego Martin, Arima, Princes Town and Penal/Debe. Where are they? However, the minister responsible is all over the country shouting about how many box drains he built and declared 2013, this year, the “golden year of box drains.”
They certainly got boxed into the drain in Tobago and Chaguanas and we will close the lid on them on October 21 in preparation for their burial soon after.
Mr Speaker, their insistence on a disastrous policy of hiring friends and family across all state enterprises has continued to damage this country! Who said “loyalty was more important than competence”? They just don’t care, even when their actions trigger major industrial unrest.
Small wonder that they have struggled to generate any meaningful economic growth of the economy! Mr Speaker let me remind the public once again of the proud legacy of PNM economic management of this country. I do this so they will have no doubt as to who built this country and is responsible for the high standard of living that many of us enjoy today.
We took the country from:
Nominal GDP $56.3 billion $175 billion
Per capita income $7,103 $21,410
Reserves US$1.9 billion US$9.38 billion
On Monday, the minister boasted about our reserves of US$9.4 billion as though the UNC could take credit for this achievement.
Balanced budget/ one per cent GDP Reduction
The Minister of Finance, tired of hearing the population asking for the way out of the permanent deficits which his Government seems so comfortable with, just out of the blue, announced that “the Government is successfully containing the fiscal deficit in accordance with its policy objectives and is on course to bring the fiscal accounts into balance by 2016.” This is at variance with the numbers and trends of the recent budgets and defies all logic.
The deficits on GDP for the last five years are 2009 5.51 per cent; 2010 2.16 per cent; 2011 2.65 per cent; 2012 2.29 per cent; 2013 (est) 3.92 per cent; 2014 projected 3.55 per cent but this minister of magic will bring it to 0.0 per cent in 2016 without telling us what will materialise to contribute to this miraculous recovery.
This wish of the minister is simply a statement meant for the ears of World Bank staffers to enable them to repeat it in their reports back to Washington but knowingly bears no relation to any real prospects of achievement. The Minister of Finance knows the truth but prefers to tell the population Anancy stories instead, based on mythical growth figures accompanied by uncurbed expenditure.
As a matter of fact, our calculations at one per cent of nominal GDP show progressive growth in the deficit ranging from 1.5 billion dollars in 2012 to 1.65 billion in 2013 projected to 1.93 billion in 2015 and two billion in 2016. Unless something dramatically unpredictable happens these are best case projections.
Given these projections, the only way the Government can be able to reduce the deficit to zero by 2016 is by achieving a higher nominal growth rate. However, given the projections for real GDP growth of 2.5 per cent going forward, the only way this can be done is by introducing higher inflation into the economy. This might very well be the plan after they have secured their looted money out of the country.
To be continued in tomorrow’s Guardian.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.