“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
The 2014-2015 budget will be delivered from 1.30 pm on Monday, September 8. The date was announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the conclusion of the debate on Government’s Constitution (Amendment) Bill early yesterday morning.
Persad-Bissessar was explaining why the debate had taken place at this time. She said Government had promised the reform and wanted to clear its agenda to deal with other matters, among them the budget. The PP administration delivered its first budget in 2010, also on September 8.
The upcoming package will be the last budget delivery for the PP in its five-year term, now about a year away from completion. Persad-Bissessar told the Lower House on Monday that Parliament will be dissolved in June 2015 and general elections can be held no later than September 2015. She said she would run the Government according to law.
The PP administration’s budgets have ranged from $49 billion in 2010 to last year’s $61 billion package, which was increased by $3 billion in a recent supplementation bill. The last budget’s income provided a reduction in deficit. The upcoming budget will be Finance Minister Larry Howai’s third. The first two budgets were delivered by former Finance Minister Winston Dookeran.
Howai told the T&T Guardian recently that his framework was almost ready. His most recent report on the economy noted continuing stability and progress in various sectors. Up to July, issues being finalised in the 2015 budget included whether it would be a deficit package and if it would exceed the $61 billion of 2014.
Final details worked on
Yesterday, Finance Ministry officials continued meetings to tie up final loose ends, including the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP). Howai said the recent claim by People’s National Movement (PNM) senator Faris Al-Rawi that the Government had spent $400 billion in the last four years was incorrect.
He said: “Assuming that the entire budgeted amount is spent this year, including the mid-year appropriation (which is probably not going to happen), the total expenditure over the four years to September 30, 2014, will be $226 billion—pretty far from $400 billion.” He added: “Going forward, we need to do what we can to preserve the sustainability of our fiscal position, but we do have some fiscal room. I don't expect any changes in priorities, which are poverty reduction, education, food production, crime and health care.”
Howai had said National Security had sought an increased allocation for equipment and had received some in the mid-year review. On the land and building tax, Howai said the supporting infrastructure to implement it is still not in place.
While Government’s package is not expected to begin exploring the longstanding concern about removal of the fuel subsidy, Government sources also said the package will have to be balanced in the context of the upcoming election year, as well as recent advice from the International Monetary Fund to tighten policies.