Positive as well as negative projections on next Monday’s 2023 Budget package.
These came yesterday from Government, Opposition and economic experts ahead of the Budget presentation.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert will deliver the Government’s eighth Budget from 1.30 pm next Monday at the Parliament. Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar ‘s reply is expected next Friday from 10 am.
Yesterday Government officials - when asked about the package- pointed to information from Central Bank which was circulated under hashtag “#GoodGovernanceInAction #ForABetterSaferFutureTogether #wearethePeoplesNationalMovement.”
The information was prefaced by the following: “Next Monday is Budget Day in T&T. Ahead of that day, the Central Bank has released its quarterly report for July 2022. Attached is a quick snapshot (or two) of our present economic position.”
The statement gave a summary of the Central Bank’s report.
It also stated the outlook, “Economic activity is expected to improve in 2022. Local energy production is poised to benefit from the start-up of several upstream projects from bpTT, Shell Trinidad and Tobago, EOG Resources Trinidad and Touchstone Exploration. Additional impetus should come from higher commodity prices and increased demand for energy-related products.”
“Activity in the non-energy sector is expected to benefit from heightened business activity and recovery of consumer demand. Meanwhile, the external impetus to domestic inflation is expected to persist in the short term, stemming from disruptions to global supply chains and high international energy and other commodity prices.”
The statement concluded, “Macroeconomic policy in T&T will continue to grapple with the challenges of nurturing a solid economic recovery alongside inflationary concerns.”
Consequently, Government sources said this Budget will be bigger than the 2022 Budget of $52 billion - due to increased recent oil windfall revenues - and the need to stimulate the economy.
A date on the property tax start-up is expected “along with new innovations” and “some things which would cushion” some sectors. Increased allocations are expected for National Security, Education, Youth Development, Local Government, and Health among other Ministries.
Opposition shadow Finance spokesman Dave Tancoo said, “What people want to see in this Budget is Government’s recognition of T&T’s growing poverty levels, mass unemployment, runaway crime and need for genuine transformation of the economy - and the necessary action to deal with all of this.
“Unfortunately what I expect from Government is a continuation of promises they have no intention of keeping, more fluff, buzz words, PR and deceptive statements and the introduction of heavier burdens on taxpayers who can least bear it.”
Tancoo projected an increase in the overall cost of living.
“Increased fuel prices leading to even higher food and transport prices, property tax, higher water rates and maybe worse. This Minister has remained consistent in his disconnect from the realities of the difficulties faced by the vast majority of citizens.”
Former UNC Minister and the State approved Roadmap to Recovery Committee member Vasant Bharath said is not optimistic.
“I expect more of the same chest -beating and back-patting. But it’s unwarranted as none of today’s revenues - which are a windfall from the international conflict- didn’t result from anything Finance (Minister) did. What happens if the war ends? The Budget must show direction how to fund what T&T needs.”
Bharath also said: “Government’s failed at implementation. Very few Roadmap recommendations - to kickstart the economy- were implemented.”
Economist Dr Vanus James hoped Tobago would get the 6. 9 per cent of the Budget the Dispute Resolution process facilitates.
“But I’m sure Tobago may get the usual 4.3 per cent.”
James felt the Government should do as suggested and adjust the fuel price in relation to oil price movement, “So when the price drops, fuel costs decrease.”
James added that keeping a cap on the fuel subsidy of a (US)$80 oil price was reasonable, but has to be implemented on a sustainable basis.
“They also ought to focus more on economic diversification but that requires proper discussion before plan,” James said.