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Imbert says new debts keep being discovered: Government may not repay all $2b owed

Published: 
Friday, June 17, 2016
Finance Minister Colm Imbert responds to a question during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. Photo: NICOLE DRAYTON

In response to Sunday Guardian reports of a $2B debt that the Government owes to contractors and service providers, Finance minister Colim Imbert has said that some of the money may not be repaid, if government determines that they shouldn’t be.

Moreover, he said at the weekly government briefing yesterday, he had not known of the debts when he prepared the 2016 budget, and the government is uncovering new debts and contracts. He said they had to be dealt with in various ways—in the same way government had to meet  the $5 million in backpay owed to some sectors—and he would have to raise financing for the  debts.

“We just don’t have the money,” Imbert added.

Government in recent months has been in the first stage of auditing contractors’ debts to determine if debts genuinely deserve payment and to ensure no fraud is involved, Imbert said. He said the Government would have to determine if the work was actually done and what deserves payment. He said this had been in the process for the last eight months. Imbert said contractors had suggested government give them bonds,.

“We are considering all options,” he said.

Financing drive abroad
Imbert  also said  he would be doing a “roadshow” in  several US cities—Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago—next month to raise US$1b in financing that is needed to  carry T&T through the rest of 2016 and into 2017. It’s expected to strengthen  foreign reserves and deal with cash flows for matters including the Public Sector Investment Plan. 

He said  a team of  Finance and Central Bank  officials  will make presentations to US banks. He noted the past PP government had done the same  during their term, and they raised (US)$550m.

“I don’t expect it will be a difficult ‘sell’, I’m confident in the ability  of myself and the Governmeny to ‘sell’ T&T....T&T hasn’t ‘gone through’” Imbert said, noting  recent local success in raising $3b in funding. He said approval had been given to  borrow $3b. An auction  with financial insitutions yielded $1.88b, showing that they  “still have an appetite for government debt”. Cabinet approved a request for proposals to banks to raise the rest of the $2b to be borrowed.

Govt warning on nude pics
Government expects law enforcement authorities to  take the appropriate steps regarding the list of  over 500 young women—and photos-recently  leaked on social media, says Minister Stuart Young (Office of the Prime MInister).  

At yesterday’s media briefing, Young said law enforcement has warned that continued publication and exchange of the material were criminal acts. He said Government  is finalising amendments to the  cyber-crime bill, now being re-drafted.

Young also said the burden of  today’s Parliament debate on the Bail bill will fall on the Opposition which will have to “have a very good explanation if they don’t support the bill.” 

He assured amendment to the legislation which would be discussed today simply extends the bill by another two years allowing it to serve as an anti-crime tool.  He said Government had talks with the Opposition which had stated its members were still in caucus on the bill. 

“We hope they’ll be responsible for citizens,” he added. Young described remarks by Opposition Suruj Rambachan on the bill, as “playing politics “ with the issue.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert also said  amendments to the Insurance Act and the  Gaming and Gambling act   were being completed for presentation soon.  He said he’d  assured the Opposition, these two would be  brought back in the same format as they had been formulated last term to avoid delay in implemementing these important laws.  Young said talks are continuing on the Sandals plan and  further word would be given  at  another stage.

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