Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 9th 2014 Contents A5
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar says yesterday s budget
was the best ever presented by the
People s Partnership (PP) Govern-
She spoke with reporters in the
lobby of the Parliament, minutes
after Finance and the Economy Min-
ister Larry Howai presented the
$64.4 billion fiscal package in the
House of Representatives.
Persad-Bissessar said the Govern-
ment had succeeded in reducing the
budget deficit from just over three
per cent in mid-year to just over two
per cent at the end of the fiscal year.
She also said the Government
achieved that while developmental
programmes were continued and
sustained and was also able to imple-
ment poverty eradication initiatives,
diversify the economy further and
create job opportunities for many
All that was done, she said, "with-
out sacrificing sustainable economic
development and without further
taking the country into deficit."
Persad-Bissessar recalled that in
2010, when she became Prime Min-
ister, the budget deficit was 5.7 per
cent of GDP.
"With today s budget, we are
down to 2.3 per cent deficit," she
In response to a question, Persad-
Bissessar denied the largest percent-
age of the budget was allocated to
transfers and subsidies, saying: "The
largest slice of the budget goes to
recurrent expenditure --- the payment
of salaries --- and the State carries
a large percentage of employees."
The PM said the budget was pre-
pared to cater for several new col-
lective agreements which were due
in the new fiscal year.
Persad-Bissessar said the alloca-
tions for transfers and subsidies were
not that in the true sense of the
words "but could be used for con-
struction, infrastructure development
and so on."
She pointed out that no new taxes
were introduced to obtain increased
revenue, saying the money will come
from existing streams, such as
increased production and the energy
The PM also downplayed claims
that the babycare grant, a $500
monthly provision for mothers from
low-income families, will encourage
a baby boom.
The measure is to be administered
by the Ministry of the People and
Social development, which she heads.
Since it was announced last weekend,
Persad-Bissessar said some people
were happy about it while others
She said the household income
ceiling would be $3,000 a month
and the provision required the moth-
er to attend parental outreach work-
shops hosted by her ministry, as it
would be tied to the babycare pro-
Dismissing claims that the meas-
ure was intended to encourage
women to have babies, she said the
proposal was first made while the
United National Congress (UNC) was
in Opposition in 2007.
She was very incensed that year,
she said, after reports that a mother
had gone to a shop and stolen a tin
of baby milk. She said that caused
her to make the suggestion then but
it was being implemented in this
budget because the resources were
The PM said the Government was
not paying mothers to make babies
as they were being born anyway and
the State had a responsibility to pro-
vide for mothers in those circum-
stances. She said the grant would be
organised in such a manner so as to
allow the mothers to obtain only baby-
care services with it.
"I do not envisage that it will be
used to purchase alcohol. It should
be circumscribed for baby supplies,"
The grant is to be paid initially as
a voucher which can be cashed at
Kamla pleased with fiscal package...
Govt's best ever, says PM
Finance Minister Larry Howai is congratulated by Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar and his government colleagues after
presenting the 2015 budget in Parliament yesterday.
PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
Finance and the Economy Minister
Larry Howai yesterday confirmed
that the tax amnesty in the budget
was granted in response to calls from
the business community.
Howai was answering questions
during a news briefing at Tower D,
Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain,
after his two-hour presentation of the
$64.4 billion 2014-2015 budget.
He said the proposal was made dur-
ing the time of industrial unrest at
Inland Revenue earlier this year as the
offices were open for limited hours
daily at some locations while others
were closed as staff protested unsafe
He said the measure was used pre-
viously and he expects it to be suc-
cessful once again, as people will want
to make the payments, especially as
penalties were being waived.
"We estimate that we will bring in
at least $500 million from this par-
ticular initiative so we thought it was
a good opportunity to do that," he
Howai said collections from the pre-
vious tax amnesty helped to reduce
the budget deficit last year.
"Because of measures, such as this
we are able to project a deficit now of
2.3 per cent rather that 2.6," he said.
The minister was unable to say how
much was allocated to the Elections
and Boundaries Commission ( ) to
implement possible runoff elections
That measure was contained in the
Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014,
which was approved in the House of
Representatives and subsequently in
the Senate, with amendments, last
It is to return to the Lower House
for legislators to approve the Senate
amendments and possibly go back to
the Senate again before being sent to
President Anthony Carmona for
The measure will provide for a
second round of polling in con-
stituencies where the winning can-
didate did not secure more than 50
per cent of the votes cast in the first
The runoff poll will be contested
by the candidates getting the highest
and second highest number of votes.
A third candidate will contest if
he/she obtains at least 25 per cent
of the votes cast in the original poll
and come within a five per cent mar-
gin of the votes obtained by the sec-
In this scenario, however, the can-
didates will not require at least 50 per
cent of the votes to win the runoff.
Tax amnesty can bring in $500m---Howai
Most of Finance Minister Larry Howai s budget
delivery yesterday received the silent attention of
the Opposition People s National Movement (PNM),
until he announced the grant to assist babies born
to underprivileged families in the first year after
While Government members pounded their desks
in loud approval, PNM MPs laughed as well, with Mar-
lene McDonald asking the Government across the floor
what would happen in the second year.
The answer was a retort from Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar, with some People s Partnership (PP)
MPs asking if the PNM planned to repeal that if it got
Government MPs also pounded their desks loudly in
approval as Howai detailed Government s proposals and
particularly its achievements over its four-year term.
The Parliament chamber was packed for yesterday s
presentation, which was the fifth and final budget of
the PP administration s current term.
Those present included mayors and aldermen of
PP-held corporations, UNC chairman Khadijah
Ameen, UNC temporary senators Larry Lalla and
Garvin Nicholas,THA Chief Secretary Orville London,
PP and PNM senators and Independent Senator, econ-
omist Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir.
Missing the budget delivery were Congress of the
People MP Winston Dookeran (who is out of T&T)
and PNM MP Patrick Manning.
Government MPs entered the chamber together
after a brief Cabinet meeting on the budget. Arriving
late was COP MP Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. (GA)
Babycare grant brings laughter
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