Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 5th 2015 Contents A5
Saturday, December 5, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Finance Minister Colm
Imbert says the former PP gov-
ernment raided the National
Gas Company (NGC) of almost
$14 billion in cash. He made
the claim while presenting
three motions for debate in the
House of Representatives yes-
The motions seek to increase
the ceiling for government bor-
rowing by $50 billion under the
Development Loans Act, Exter-
nal Loans Act and the Guarantee
of Loans (Companies) Act.
Imbert said the former prime
minister Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar s government increased the
borrowing limits under the leg-
islation by $32 billion in 2011.
Imbert said when the limits
were increased the then govern-
ment said it would not use all
the funds. He said the former
government used $28 billion out
of the $32 billion.
"Only $4 billion left out of
that 32 billion," he added.
Imbert said, "Instead of seek-
ing to further increase the limits
they raided the NGC. They took
$1.5 billion in 2013, $1 billion in
2012, $4.5 billion in 2015...They
raided the NGC of almost $14
billion in cash. They went into
the NGC bank account and took
out $14 billion and used it for
recurrent expenditure with no
He also said the former
went into the overdraft at the
Central Bank, they raided the
overdraft, they wiped out that
whole $6.5 billion and then used
up the entire $9 billion overdraft
He said, "They took $14 bil-
lion from the NGC in cash, they
took $16 billion in cash from the
Central Bank from overdraft and
then they borrowed $28 bil-
lion...$58 billion, and rather than
telling the Parliament what they
were doing, they hid it from the
Imbert said deposits in the
Green Fund ($3.7 billion) and the
Unemployment Fund ($8.3 bil-
lion) have been "pledged as col-
lateral against the overdraft and
they have borrowed against it
and now those funds are not
available to people of this coun-
Imbert said there was now no
access to the Funds. "They have
mortgaged the Green Fund, they
have mortgaged the Unemploy-
ment Fund. So $8.4 billion in
the government s Unemploy-
ment Fund cannot be touched,
so they mortgaged it."
He told legislators, "With the
continuing need for rolling out
debt finance infrastructure as
well as for meeting budgetary
purposes, the Government must
pursue a debt strategy which is
sustainable and flexible."
If those objectives were to be
achieved, Imbert said, "The
Government must create head
room under the existing pieces
of legislation to maintain a range
of borrowing options in suffi-
cient amounts so as not to
unduly limit the country s ability
to make financing decisions
which would minimise both the
cost and the risk of the debt
portfolio as well as ensure that
the total public debt does not
exceed sustainable limits."
The minister added, "This
debt strategy cannot now be
implemented given that Gov-
ernment is constrained by the
absence of adequate head room
under the three pieces of legis-
lation which permit it to bor-
He said the new strategy "will
allow the Government to
streamline its interactions with
financial institutions which pro-
vide the financing requirements
not only for the Government
but for state enterprises and
statutory authorities and also to
adhere to best practices at man-
aging its debt profile."
He said the Government
intended to ensure that T&T s
debt portfolio remained within
international benchmarks as
measured by the debt to GDP
He said in 2015 under the for-
mer government, "$1.8 billion
in new loans have been con-
tracted; Couva Children s Hos-
pital $1 billion."
He said, "There were several
new loans which were in the
final stages of negotiations, prior
to the Sept 7 election, which
this Government is now saddled
with. They just borrowed like
they were going crazy."
Imbert added, "In 2015,
under the Guarantee of Loans
Act, several loans in an amount
of $1.3 billion are under review
and Letters of Guarantee may
or may not be cancelled."
He said the current debt to
GDP ratio of 46 per cent reflect-
ed an outstanding debt amount
of $76.5 billion. "This amount
is in excess of the statutory limit
under the three pieces of legis-
lation that exists at present," the
He said the new Government
did not view the proposed
increase in the ceiling limit as a
licence to borrow indiscrimi-
According to Imbert, the Gov-
ernment was seeking to increase
the total limit by $50 billion via:
• The Development Loans Act
from $30 billion to $45 billion
• The External Loans Act
from $15 billion to $30 billion
• The Guarantee of Loans
(Companies) Act from $25 billion
to $45 billion
Also in Parliament yesterday,
the Government and Opposition
paid glowing tribute to founding
member of the PNM Kamalludin
Mohammed who died on Tues-
day night at the age of 88.
Imbert and Opposition MP Dr
Fuad Khan were high in their
praise for the contributions made
to this country by Mohammed.
He was awarded the country s
highest award, the ORTT, and
he was also a recipient of the
Order of the Caribbean Com-
munity. The House observed one
minute s silence as a mark of
respect for his passing.
Imbert: PP raided
NGC of $14b cash
Finance Minister Colm Imbert moves the motion on the Increase of
Loans Ceiling under the Development Loans Act during yesterday's
sitting of Parliament. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
The Government must investigate whether
commercial banks are manipulating the foreign
exchange system for their own benefit.
This was the suggestion from MP for
Tabaquite/Talparo Surujrattan Rambachan.
Rambachan said this during a debate on a motion
to increase the loan ceiling under the Development
The motion was brought by Finance Minister
Colm Imbert and sought to raise the debt ceiling
by up to $50 billion.
Following complaints by manufacturers and local
businesses regarding a limited access to foreign
exchange, Imbert issued special directives to the
Central Bank on the foreign exchange market.
Imbert re-established the foreign exchange dis-
tribution system that was in operation as of March
He also made a special injection of US$500
million on October 30, 2015, to clear the queues
for foreign exchange at commercial banks.
Despite this, problems with foreign exchange
have been ongoing.
"Where did the 500 million US dollars go?"
Rambachan asked yesterday.
"I remember the Minister of Finance said he was
doing a study to find out where the money has
He said importers were still complaining that
they were hit hard by foreign exchange limits.
He referred to a Guardian article where the
Couva/Point Lisas Business Chamber president
Liaquat Ali said he found it extremely strange that
a certain commercial bank could say they did not
have US to sell but it was possible to access a loan
for the same US currency to be paid back with
interest to that bank.
He described a situation with a constituent who
wanted to purchase US$20,000 from a commercial
bank to pay for his goods.
"He is a small entrepreneur and he went into
business, so he had $125,000 in the bank.
"He went to the bank for the foreign exchange
and they said they could not give him the money.
He went back again and they said they had to hold
his money against a loan for US$20,000 for seven
per cent interest and they would lend the money
and he would get it."
Rambachan said he picked up the phone and
called the bank and asked if it was true. He said
the Government needed to investigate whether one
bank paid for its own investments in other countries
with the foreign exchange that should have legit-
imately gone to the traders in the country.
...Used Green and Unemployment Funds as collateral
As foreign exchange
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