The 2020 budget must create jobs and a recovery plan for T&T as well as stimulate the slow economy—including via payment of the estimated $6 billion owned on VAT refunds—since the current environment has seen increased migration by some.
Several of these points were noted by business, economic and political experts yesterday in comments on the 2020 budget which Finance Minister Colm Imbert will present on October 7.
Economist Indera Sagewan said it’s a difficult budget to predict.
She said, “This is a wait-and-see budget. Usually, one gets a sense based on what’s happening and how Government spending has gone. But in this fiscal year, it’s been difficult to get a sense of what the Government is focusing on spending, save for a few infrastructural projects like the Curepe Interchange. It would appear the Government is challenged from a financial perspective.”
“Politics always informs/influences budget spending. Usually, the normal pattern is that this close to Local Government and general polls, spending would have been ramped up a lot by now in construction and infrastructural development but we are not seeing that happening. The economy seems to have slowed down and there isn’t significant private sector investment. All of this indicates it will be difficult to say what the budget can have apart from the fact we may not get increased taxes since Government exhausted that option in earlier budgets.”
Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas said it would be a budget geared for elections,” but what sort of things would be implemented in this budget that we didn’t do before? I hope to see an upward movement of the economy and job creation—even temporary—since this is needed especially in Tobago.
“I don’t know how it’ll be done since we’re more seeing people being let go—Petrotrin, UTT etc. If we don’t absorb people, crime will rise when people get desperate. Those with the money are doing their best to put their money outside and allowing their children to remain overseas if they are studying. The movement has become more exacerbated due to the current economy and rise in crime. How will the private sector, for instance, be involved in job creation if they’re putting their money abroad? That sector seems to be awaiting opportunities from Government to make more money,”
“Since it’s likely to be an election budget, hopefully, we’ll see movement on internal self-government for Tobago But there’s also need for more education, constructive engagement with the public in the context of good governance—rather than ministers speaking down to people— and institutional strengthening. None of the institutions is doing well— police, media, unions, judiciary— and when institutions are ailing, that tells you something about the country.”
T&T Chamber CEO Gabriel Faria said non-payment of VAT refunds by Government—estimated around $6 billion—is one of the reasons for noninvestment since people are awaiting capital from this.
He said, “If that $6 billion is put back into the system and Government also repays interest on the loan they took from the private sector, that’ll stimulate investment.
Faria added: “We also want to see a structured plan for transforming the economy. Components for this include a long term plan for Tobago— as nothing beyond reactive’s been done since the loss of Sandals—and the other component is creating an entrepreneurial landscape for young businesspeople especially in technological areas requiring. There’s a lot of cash in TT’s banking system which can be mobilised. An e-payment system will also move the process greatly.”
Political analyst Dr Winford James said, “ It may be difficult to have the traditional type of election budget we’ve seen though I can see the minister trying to convince the public of the ‘turnaround’ he’s spoken of. Will the minister have projects to employ those who’ve lost jobs? Will he reinstate things he’s removed to ease the burden on some? Where will the money come from to do any new projects? “
UNC MP Bhoe Tewarie said, “I hope the Finance Minister will account for Government’s stewardship identifies what’s been achieved after four budgets. I’m interested in whether he’ll retreat from his ‘turnaround’ narrative and provide an accurate picture of T&T’s financial/economic state.”
“What’s the plan for recovery and jobs? What will be our foreign reserves situation be at the end of 2020.? What’s likely to be our debt situation then? Will the Government manage expenditure within revenue? How will they help ordinary citizens survive? He needs to give business something to move beyond their current survival mode business needs to develop the confidence required to invest, grow and create jobs. The economy won’t move without this.”