Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 5th 2015 Contents RHONDOR DOWLAT
Stung by Opposition criticism of Govern-
ment spending, deficits and the Moody s
credit rating downgrade, Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Communica-
tions Minister Vasant Bharath last night
punched back in defence of their economic
record during the Monday Night Forum at
Guaico, Sangre Grande.
"Moody s or no Moody s, we will not stop
development in Trinidad and Tobago," Per-
Referring to Opposition Leader Dr Keith
Rowley as Chicken Licken, the storybook char-
acter who ran around warning that the sky
is falling, Persad-Bissessar told supporters,
"Do not be panicked by Chicken Licken."
She reeled off a string of economic accom-
plishments such as "95 schools in five years"
and said that her Government had always
undertaken "people-centered development."
The PM and Bharath both challenged Rowley
to say what he would cut to balance the books
if he were PM.
Bharath noted that T&T had one of the
lowest debts in this part of the world.
"All of you know that inflation was in double
digits, over 16 per cent. Today, inflation and
cost of living is less than nine per cent. So
when they talk the economy they do so rest-
lessly, without any attention to what this Gov-
ernment has done.
"This Government handled prudently. What
does this mean? It means that we have taken
your ideas on board, we have listened to you,
understanding your needs and spending
according to what your requirements are,"
He added: "I ask Dr Rowley, what will he
cut? Will he cut social welfare programmes?
Will he cut subsidies? Will he cut infrastructure
or roads and bridges? Will he increase your
taxes? Will he cut the fuel subsidy? Will he
dip into the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund?
Will he cut education? Will he lay off gov-
ernment workers? Will he reduce the minimum
wage or Will he cut your pensions? These are
the questions that he must answer."
Last week, the credit rating firm Moody s
Investors Service downgraded T&T s govern-
ment bond rating and issuer rating to Baa2
from Baa1. It also signalled less optimism
about the country s growth prospects, changing
its outlook from "stable" to "negative."
Moody s said the key drivers behind the
downgrade were persistent fiscal deficits, chal-
lenging prospects for fiscal reforms, a decline
in oil prices and limited economic diversifi-
cation. It also criticised the Government on
planning, citing a weak macroeconomic policy
framework, lack of a medium-term fiscal strat-
egy, and "inadequate provision of vital macro-
Rowley was quick to weigh in on the down-
grade on Friday, and repeated his attack yes-
"This Government has run a deficit in every
single budget, spending far more than we were
earning and there was no plan to change that,
(only) old talk," he said during a press con-
ference at the Office of the Opposition Leader
in Port-of-Spain, adding that the downgrade
would hinder investment. (See other story)
"This Government has just been engaging
in spending, spending, spending with no plan.
It is not a good thing for T&T and it was
But Persad-Bissessar, in her address to the
supporters last night, assured that the country s
economic fundamentals were very positive
and very strong.
She disclosed that the country had recorded
a surplus and not a projected debit of over $3
"Now recording our numbers for the first
half of this fiscal year, it was projected that
there would be a deficit in our budget, meaning
more expenditure, less revenue, less money
coming in. It was projected that the second
half, that we would have had a deficit of over
$3 billion," Persad-Bissessar said.
"That was really cause for concern, but
through the prudent fiscal management we
recorded a surplus. No deficit in our revenue.
It is not a massive surplus but it is a surplus
of $47 million verses the projection of over
$3 billion in deficit.
"Chicken Licken (Rowley) would have you
believe that the country is bankrupt that we
must cut everything."
The PM also announced last night that the
screening process for general election candi-
dates would start from Monday.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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Opposition Leader Dr Keith
Rowley has maintained his prop-
erty at One Woodbrook Place has
always been declared as one of his
assets to the Integrity Commis-
He made the comment at a press
conference at the Office of the
Opposition Leader, Port-of-Spain,
yesterday as he responded to Leader
of Government Business Dr Roodal
Moonilal s claim in Parliament last
week that Rowley may have ques-
tions to answer over the property.
Rowley made it clear yesterday
that he had not breached any act
in the Integrity in Public Life Act
in relation to the property and
records would show the necessary
declarations were always made.
"That property was acquired on
November 12, 2010. The transaction
was concluded. It included a series
of payments over a number of years
leading up to the completion.
"The transaction price was $2.12
million and it was declared with
the Integrity Commission from
2011 onwards at a value of $2.5
million," Rowley said.
He challenged Moonilal to make
his statements regarding the prop-
erty outside Parliament.
Rowley also dismissed allegations
that as minister of planning, he
approved the construction of One
Woodbrook Place and in turn
received an apartment.
"On the commission s Form B
there is no requirement for any
person in public life to file about
an apartment. Form B requires you
to declare if you have any interests
in land. Any apartment in One
Woodbrook place is not land.
"And therefore the leader of
Government business, who uses
this Form B every year, but comes
to the Parliament and tells the
country that he has checked the
Integrity Commission and has
found that I have not filed and he
is writing to the Integrity Com-
mission to ask them to investigate
me for not filing about property I
own, is wickedness of the highest
order," Rowley said.
He said his declarations were
made on Form A which the com-
mission was duty bound to keep
Last Friday, Moonilal announced
that when the House sits tomor-
row, it would debate a second
motion of no confidence against
Rowley which calls for his suspen-
sion from the House in relation to
the Emailgate scandal.
Rowley said it was clear that was
just another attempt to try to attack
his integrity to score political points.
"Having looked high and having
looked low and finding nothing to
tarnish my character the Govern-
ment is deliberately trying to lie so
as to create doubt in the public s
mind about my behaviour as a pub-
lic officer," he said.
During the no confidence motion
debate against Rowley last Friday,
Moonilal said Government planned
to write to the IC asking whether
Rowley had failed to declare he was
part owner of a One Woodbrook
Place apartment. He said eyewit-
nesses had told the Government
that Rowley and his family had
been seen going in and out of the
property, but Rowley had denied
"I have no difficulty if he owns
property. It s his failure to disclose,"
Moonilal told the House.
Rowley: I declared my property
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, left, chats with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
and her husband Dr Gregory Bissessar during the party's Monday Night Forum at the Guaico
Government Secondary School last night. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
We won't stop
PM postive despite Moody's downgrade
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