Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 9th 2014 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 08TH SEPTEMBER, 2014
Senior citizens pension increases, a min-
imum wage of $15 an hour, another tax
amnesty, mortage concessions for home-
owners and compensation for protective
services officers killed in the line of duty.
These and other concessions were part of
the 2014-2015 budget sweeteners presented
by Finance Minister Larry Howai yesterday,
a year away from the general election.
With the theme "Empowering our People
through Sustained Economic Growth and
Prosperity," the $64.6 billion budget was the
largest to date---$3 billion more than last
year s $61.3 billion package---but carries a
reduced deficit of 2.3 per cent of GDP.
It was also the final leg of People s Part-
nership (PP) budget themes over the last
four years of the term, starting with former
Minister Winston Dookeran s $49 billion
package in 2010/11, "Facing the Issues: Turn-
ing the Economy Around."
Yesterday, Howai started and ended his
two-hour-and-ten-minute presentation by
lauding Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar s leadership as transformational.
Howai added: "This administration has
traversed a very challenging period over the
past four years but we have remained resilient
and strong. As we have systematically over-
come the several challenges which had con-
fronted us, we are progressing with confi-
dence and optimism to a renewed mandate
"The welfare of our state is being safe-
guarded and we are convinced this budget
will continue to consolidate our vision of a
stronger, fairer and smarter T&T. We have
delivered on our commitments made in May
2010 and done so within a coherent, cohesive
framework and in the context of fiscal pru-
Education got the largest portion of budg-
etary allocation---$10.1 billion---with National
Last year Howai said he was working
towards balanced budgets by 2016. Yesterday,
he said the plan was on course to meet the
He gave a glowing account of the economy,
saying: "As a nation we are better off today
than we were four years ago."
He said the medium-term outlook was
for an excellent economic performance,
although there are underlying issues that
need to be addressed if T&T was to sustain
Howai s announcements involved a num-
ber of positive changes which will have an
impact on a large cross-section of the pop-
ulation in the coming year. Persad-Bissessar
has said elections are constitutionally due
by September 2015 and will be held when
they are due, not before.
The budget debate begins at 10 am on
Friday with the Opposition s reply.
A story in yesterday's Guardian reported
(Page A7) that questions had been raised over
the authenticity of a video showing the after-
effects of grubbing at Invaders Bay, Mucurapo.
In fact the authenticity of the video is not in
doubt and we apologise for that error to readers
and to Papa Bois Conservation, the organisation
which reposted the video on Facebook.
In addition, there was no mangrove in this
specific area in the immediate past. Other trees
and vegetation were dug up when the land was
GETTING IT RIGHT
Sweeteners from Howai
Among key announcements, Howai hiked
the minimum wage from $12.50 to $15 hourly,
effective January 1, 2015. It was $9 an hour in
Senior citizens, whose pension was $1,950
in 2010 when the PP took office, will receive
$3,500 from next month following a $500
increase yesterday. This assists 84,720
The pension will be adjusted with the
receipt of other pensions, with a cap of
Some 35,000 retired public officers who
received $1,950 a month in 2010 will now
receive $3,500, also with a $500 increase.
Also announced was a new fund from
which could be drawn $1 million, which will be
placed in the estate of members of the
protective services killed in the line of duty,
The disability grant, which was $1,300 in
2010, has been increased to $1,800, assisting
The public assistance grant will also be
increased by $300, assisting 24,797 people.
Government's second tax amnesty will
apply to tax penalties and interest for late
filing of returns and late payments of income,
corporation and VAT taxes and the business
and environmental levies.
It also applies to returns, penalties and
interest on outstanding tax liabilities for years
of income up to 2013. The amnesty, effective
immediately, expires on March 31, 2015.
The personal allowances for people aged 60
and over will be increased from $60,000 to
$72,000 for calculation of income tax, from
An estimated 11,300 self-employed people
earning $3,000 and less will be covered by the
national insurance system from January 1.
Self-employed people over 57 will receive a
one-off payment equivalent to three times
their contribution. Those in the 50-56 age
group, who contributed fully in each year
before their retirement, will be credited with
additional contributions to allow them to
receive a minimum monthly pension.
Also new is a savings bond allowing small
investors and pensioners to buy bonds in
small denominations, including $1,000 a bond.
Housing mortgage concessions, including a
new five per cent mortgage programme for
households with a combined monthly income
of more than $10,000 and less than $30,000,
will benefit 26,100 applicants in the Housing
Development Corporation framework and a
similar number in the private sector
Government also increased the tax
allowance from $18,000 to $25,000 a
household a year on mortgage interest in the
year of income for first-time homeowners for
Howai also said agricultural lease issues for
former Caroni employees were being
expedited for completion in 2015 and a similar
measure was in place for those with
residential lease issues.
He also outlined the $500 monthly
allocation for babies born to underprivileged
families for the first year, and the $410 million
Constituency Development Fund. The fund
will only be operational subject to the passage
of law, associated regulations and
implementation of appropriate control.
Tax relief will be given on imported hybrid
and electric-powered vehicles, which
contribute to reducing gas and diesel use.
On rumours that the Gate programme
would be halted, Howai said: "Let me assure,
this administration will keep Gate secure and
A national qualifications and credit
framework soon to be introduced will
strengthen the system's quality, he added.
Howai also said: "In 2015 we anticipate that
close to 100 per cent of the population will
receive a 24/7 supply of water."
Among revenue-earning streams, Howai
announced a 50 per cent increase in fines for
driving-related offences. He also doubled
praedial larceny fines and announced a
taxation and regulatory framework for
tagging and taxing gaming machines from
• Private-sector management for Napa's hotel
• Government campus: Customs and Excise
Division ready next month, Immigration Division
by March, BIR by August 2015 and Education
and Legal Affairs buildings by September 2015.
Unused buildings will be offered for sale/lease
• Repairs to Stollmeyer's Castle, Whitehall in
advanced stage, work on President's House and
Mille Fleurs begins next year
• Consideration of an alternative route to
• Incentives for food/beverage industry creative
arts/entertainment, yachting sectors
• Legislation to protect HSF, including increasing
the amount below which withdrawals cannot be
• Flood alleviation programme for South
• Walkover and canopy with staircase near
Cuthbert Circular, off Diego Martin Highway
• Designs for highways in Princes Town/San
• Establishment of T&T National Games
• $1bn for interceptors, patrol boats to "blockade"
Gulf of Paria
• World-class marina within Tobago Plantations
• Unit Trust legislation expanding mutual funds
• India's Quatro Services PVT launching card-
processing centre locally
• Motor Vehicle Authority by March 2015 at
Caroni, 13 access offices by September 2015
• HCU bond issue programme early in new fiscal
• National centre for differently-abled by
December, 24 buses for elderly/disabled
• lnvestors for VMCOTT, National Helicopters
• 35 CNG fuelling stations by April 2016
• Increased allocations (12 per cent) for Servol
Adolescent and the Parent Outreach
• Deficit 2.3 per cent of GDP.
• Total revenue $60.3bn.
• Total expenditure $64.664bn.
• Pegged on oil price of US$80 a barrel
and gas price of US$2.75 a mmBttu.
• Oil sector revenue $21.2bn.
• Non-oil sector revenue $39.1bn.
• Education and training $10.1bn.
• National Security $6.9bn.
• Health $5.5bn.
• Public Utilities $3.9bn.
• Housing $2.8bn.
• Local Government $2.6bn.
• Works and Infrastructure $2.5bn.
• Transport $1.9bn.
• Agriculture $1.3bn.
• Tobago House of Assembly $3.7bn.
• Public Sector Investment Plan (PSIP)
SLICES OF THE PIE
• Unemployment 3.6 per cent
• Inflation 2.8 per cent
• Public-sector debt 43 per cent of GDP
• Gross official reserves US$10.2bn
• Gross foreign direct investment US$3.3bn
• Heritage and Stabilisation Fund US$5bn
• Innovation Fund $50m
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