Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 2nd 2015 Contents A5
Saturday, May 2, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Moody s Investors Service s
rating of T&T does not truly
reflect the country s strong
tals, Finance Minister Larry
Howai said yesterday.
Howai was responding in
Parliament to Moody's down-
grading of T&T's government
bond rating and issuer rating
to Baa2 from Baa1 and the
changing of the outlook to
negative from stable.
Among the key reasons listed
by Moody's for the downgrade
were persistent fiscal deficits,
challenging prospects for fiscal
reforms, decline in oil prices
and limited economic diversi-
But Howai said the Heritage
Stabilisation Fund stood at
US$5.6 billion and official
reserves at the end of the first
quarter stood at US$10.8 bil-
lion. The country's external
debt ratio remained manage-
able at approximately nine per
cent, while inflation remained
in single digits at 3.6 per cent,
He said when the Govern-
ment came into power in 2010
it inherited an economic slump
from the previous year. This
required an expansionary fiscal
Howai said the drop in oil
prices had made the achieve-
ment of deficit reduction chal-
lenging, but the first half of
this fiscal year showed a
marked improvement in the
budget with a deficit of $3.9
The Government actually
showed a surplus of $47 million
at the end of March, he noted.
Howai said the energy sector
had seen an upsurge in activity
and continued to perform.
The Juniper Platform, a
US$2 billion investment by
bpTT, is being constructed and
new rigs are in the country
drilling for new reserves of oil
"We have signed 21 produc-
tion-sharing contracts and
licences in the last five years,"
he said, adding this would
mean a high level of drilling
for the rest of the decade.
"Drilling is now twice what
it was in 2010."
Oil prices have increased
from a low of US$43.39 per
barrel on March 17 to US$59,
the minister added.
"With increasing energy
prices Government will be able
to improve its fiscal perform-
ance in the coming quarter,"
He said the Government had
also developed a macroeco-
nomic fiscal policy designed
to meet the country's require-
ments and this was already
being used as a target.
Separate requests for Energy Minister Kevin Ram-
narine and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to be
referred to the House of Representatives Committee
of Privileges, for alleged parliamentary breaches during
previous sittings, were not determined yesterday as
House Speaker Wade Mark was out of the country.
As the sitting was called to order at 1.30 pm, the clerk
indicated that the sitting would be presided over by
Deputy Speaker Nela Khan, prompting Rowley to ask,
"Where is the Speaker?" The answer was not forthcoming
as Khan had approached the chair.
The T&T Guardian was later informed that Mark was
in Canada to attend the funeral of senate speaker Pierre
Claude Nolin, 64, who died after a five-year battle with
a rare cancer.
During the sitting, Ramnarine issued a statement to
clarify what he had said at the previous sitting.
He recalled yesterday that in response to a question
from Rowley on the order paper, he said the basic monthly
salary of the former executive chairman of state-owned
Petrotrin, Malcolm Jones, was $162,500.
He then said he was subsequently informed by Petrotrin
that Jones' basic monthly salary effective January 1, 2007,
was $125,000 per month and that he also received "a 30
per cent gratuity of his monthly gross salary."
In seeking to clarify the matter, Ramnarine said yes-
terday, "When the 30 per cent gratuity is added to the
basic (monthly) salary of $125,000, one gets the figure
$162,500 per month." He "apologised for any lack of
clarity in this matter and it was never my intention to
mislead the House."
Sources said yesterday that the clarification by Ram-
narine may effectively have saved him from being referred
to the Privileges Committee.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last week made
a request to have Rowley referred to the Privileges Com-
mittee, alleging that he breached parliamentary privilege
when he presented a motion of no confidence against
Finance and the Economy Minister Larry Howai.
The Speaker is now expected to rule on that matter
at the next sitting.
Before the start of yesterday's sitting, however, all eyes
were on Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner, who went
across to sit on the government bench for a chat with
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan.
Warner returned to his seat for the start of the sitting
and remained there, even after the Opposition, led by
Rowley, left the chamber for the fourth sitting as the
debate on a motion of no confidence against him resumed.
Khan, who was about to contribute, appealed to the
Opposition MPs, as they picked up their documents, to
"stay and defend your leader."
But Patricia McIntosh, Port-of-Spain North/St. Ann's
MP, shouted as she approached the door, "We are leaving
to defend him. We are leaving to defend him."
Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne was the
last to depart and Khan also called on him to stay and
defend Rowley. Browne said, "I'll be back."
He then left the chamber.
Howai: Moody's rating unfair
Central MP Dr
chamber after the
debate on the no-
Leader Dr Keith
He said Moody's comments
in regard to the Central
Statistical Office (CSO) also
appeared to be based on
Howai said progress was
made by the CSO over the
past year in the timeliness and
production of critical economic
The Central Bank has
provided 19 statistical officers
to the CSO, he added.
"Government is mindful of
the need to find the right
balance between maintaining
strong fiscal financial
fundamentals while making
the necessary investments to
infrastructure," he said.
"Over the past three years,
Government has been able to
deliver a considerable level of
improvement in goods and
services to the nation as a
Howai also listed a number
of major projects done by the
Government, which included
• Chancery Lane Teaching
Hospital and Scarborough
• Delivery of a 24-hour water
supply to 70 per cent of the
population 24 hours a day
compared to 13 per cent in
• Completion of 93 schools
with a further 91 under
• Completion of the
Carenage Fishing Depot
• Refurbishment of 105
• Construction of eight new
police stations, with another
three under construction
• Delivery of 6,999 homes
between 2010 and 2014 and
another 3,112 under
• Start of construction of the
Point Fortin and Couva
• Near completion of the
cycling and swimming
• Construction of the Diego
Martin Highway and Valencia
• Paving of 1,709 kms of
roadway throughout the
Howai said Government
remained committed to
improving the lives of citizens,
transforming the economy and
creating new jobs without a
deterioration in the country's
He also noted that in
Moody's rating, T&T remained
comfortably within the
He said Moody had taken
similar rating action against
South Africa, Russia, Bahrain,
Japan and Costa Rica.
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