Saying government is continuing to penalize the poor, president of the San Fernando Business Association Daphne Bartlett yesterday lamented that the 2018/2019 fiscal budget has little support for farmers and small business owners.
In an interview, Bartlett said she expected more to be said on agricultural diversification, noting that the $1 increase in the price of super fuel, will hit farmers and other citizens hard in their pockets.
“Who buys premium fuel? The rich who can afford it. The poorer and middle classes use super and once gas prices go up, everything goes up. We can expect to see more problems ahead,” Bartlett said.
She also said Finance Minister Colm Imbert did not answer questions on Petrotrin.
“They have not been honest with the nation. You said they are doing 40,000 barrels per day with no benefit to the taxpayer. You cannot say that because it is not true. They say we are losing US$3 a day when we refine a barrel of oil but that occurs when the oil price is low. Petrotrin has paid their taxes from 2009 to 2015 to tune of $22 billion and we benefited from that,” Bartlett said.
She also said while she welcomed the Sandals resort in Tobago, the government had an obligation to reveal details about the project.
“Are we building it? Or are they building it and we are managing it? What is the arrangement?” she asked. She also said the Chinese dry-docking project in La Brea sounded good initially but after she did her research she realised that the project will not bring long-term benefit to the people of T&T.
“We could have built it ourselves and owned it? The Chinese are colonising many countries in the world. They already own quarter of Jamaica. They offer loans and when you cannot repay, they take over.”
She also said that Imbert spoke about the training 300 more doctors at the Teaching Hospital but this was nonsensical as many qualified doctors are finding difficulties in getting work.
“I have employed a few of them at my establishment and they are working for a little more than minimum wage,” she said.
Bartlett said she was happy that the San Fernando waterfront project will finally get off the ground saying the construction of an administrative complex with 300 parking spaces will bring great benefit to San Fernandians. She noted that the budget appeared to be an election budget because of the increases in pension and grants.
“The fact that you targeting 27,000 pensioners with increased pension and additional grants to the disabled shows that you are preparing for elections because while Petrotrin workers and their families will not vote for you, pensioners will come out and vote,” she said.
Imbert in his presentation said the new waterfront project will be completed in 2020 at a cost of $144 million. He said there will be the reclamation of lands at Kings Wharf North at cost of $57 million, construction of a fishing jetty and construction of medium income houses at Lady Hailes using a public-private partnership. He also said the $77 million Moruga industrial park will be completed by March 2019 and will assist farmers with agro-processing.