PORT OF SPAIN — Budget day is September 9.
The Office of the Prime Minister issued a short release yesterday evening stating that the date for the 2014-2015 national budget was designated after consultations between Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Finance Minister Larry Howai.
In a telephone interview shortly after that announcement, the prime minister denied that the date was announced to distract from the pending local government elections.
“The budget must be called in September, it has nothing to do with the local government elections. We simply must do it,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“Some may try to push it (budget) to October but it must be called in September.”
Despite that assurance, leaders of three other political parties have stated that the budget will be used to offer election goodies on a national scale to sweeten the People’s Partnership’s reception for local government elections. Those elections are constitutionally due in October.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said he hoped the government was ready for an “early budget” because he expected it to be laced with election goodies for the country.
“They are hoping something would come to their rescue so we could expect a friendly budget,” he said in a telephone interview.
Rowley contradicted the prime minister, saying the budget date had “everything to do with the local government elections”.
He said it was “patently clear” that the government would be using the state resources in the budget as part of their campaign for the local government elections.
“I hope they are well prepared for the early budget and are not going to present a rushed budget to appeal to voters,” he said.
Rowley said when the government saw the “calamity” facing them in the Chaguanas West by-election, Persad-Bissessar “played Santa Claus and started handing out goodies”.
“The prime minister made promises outside the national development process, all kind of things, items that should be part of the national development, and we expect the same thing this time, but on a larger scale. We expect this budget to be used in a similar way.”
But, Rowley said, the country would see through that.
“It would not change the price of cocoa, it would not change the price of coffee.”
Jack Warner, interim leader of the Independent Liberal Party, also said he saw through to the reality behind the announcement.
“Budget day? I want to know when is local government election day,” Warner said. “If that is being used as a means of diversion, it will not succeed.”
Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah said he “suspected” that the budget would be called early in September.
“The budget would be used to offer the citizens a number of goodies as a base for the local government campaign,” Abdulah said. (Express)