Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley blamed the heavy borrowing by the People’s Partnership administration for the financial problems that the People’s National Movement inherited when it came into office in 2015.
Rowley, speaking at the PNM’s post-budget forum at the Arima Town Hall, Arima on Sunday, criticised the Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s budget rebuttal.
“What’s joke to them is death to we,” Rowley said.
He said the State had some $16 billion in the bank until the UNC came into Government. He said the Government chose Super Industrial Services Ltd (SIS) even though that company was bidding higher than any competitor.
“When government changed, the contractor abandoned the job, gone,” he said.
Rowley said the last of the NGC’s billions went to pay SIS.
Rowley said in 2015 the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) got some US$3M and threatened to sue the current Government for the same amount this year.
“Man, they threatened, people here start to attack the Minister,” he said.
He said the Minister of Sport and cricket icon Brian Lara helped to negotiate the new CPL contract.
“They realised that we are not prepared to throw away people money, we renegotiated,” he said.
The new deal included half a million dollars in cash, use of the Brian Lara Stadium and provision of ambulances over three years.
“And now the CPL is one of the hottest tickets in sport. We are available to negotiate in the future,” he said.
He said Persad-Bissessar’s plan for foreign exchange to let market forces control the exchange rate, leads to sky-rocketing inflation and an unchecked cost for the US dollar.
“The Government is managing inflation, having the lowest level of inflation that I can remember,” he said, adding that the inflation rate is 1.2 per cent right now. You go to buy something, the same thing you bought a year ago, and it’s now only a dollar more, that is manageable,” he said.
He described Persad-Bissessar’s budget contribution as an election manifesto but said it was a disguised “stink bomb.”
He said the Government had to raise corporate tax to 30 per cent to improve tax income.
“But there’s all sorts of fancy dance and claims to reduce that to 25 per cent or 20 per cent,” he said.
He said the UNC’s promise to reduce corporation tax would reduce the income to the State.
“What they’re doing is threatening the country’s very future,” he said.
Rowley also used the PNM post-budget meeting to defend the work of the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) over the changes to the voting boundaries.
He said a seasoned politician like Dr Suruj Rambachan should have known that the EBC follows a mathematical formula to change the boundaries as the population moves and changes.
The meeting was chaired by Education Minister Anthony Garcia. Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis was also in attendance. The party also presented its nine local government candidates for the Arima district.