PORT OF SPAIN — Trinidad’s revenue has declined by $10 billion over the last four years because of the global economic recession, says Finance Minister Larry Howai.
He said: “$10 billion is a huge sum, which could make a significant difference in this country if we had it but if you lose $10 billion in income in a short period of time, you have to do something with expenses to bring yourself back in line.
“We recognise we cannot do it right away and we have to phase ourselves in.” Howai pointed out that gas and oil prices during the middle of the last decade were much higher than they were now.
He said: “The gas price in the middle of the last decade was US$10 to US$12 per mmbtu (million metric British thermal units) and it is now US$2 per mmbtu and oil in 2008 was US$140 a barrel and now it is about half of what it was then.”
Howai was speaking to Joseph Remy, president of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, at the Ministry of Finance yesterday at a pre-budget consultation. The consultative process with different stakeholders will end on July 31. Howai said there had been four years of budget deficits and he wanted to see a balanced budget in a few years.
He added: “We have run four years of deficits in T&T. I would like to get us back to a balanced budget at some stage. “Within the next three to five years, I would like us to have a balanced budget. It does not mean you cannot be short from time-to-time because there will be years where you have a surplus. “Having run four years of deficit, by the time you hit a seventh year of deficit, it is supposed to be in balance.”
Howai told Remy he wanted to expand the country’s economic pie.
“To a large extent, in our discussions, I want to know what are some of the thoughts you may have on increasing revenue,” Howai said, “because if we increase revenue, we can better meet the needs we have.” Remy told Howai that Fitun had made “critical submissions” in the last two fiscal years but none was translated into action.
“Implementation is a curse word in T&T. We have all these grandiose plans but the problem is implementation,” Remy said. (Guardian)