Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 31st 2015 Contents RENUKA SINGH
The Governemnt s intention to split and
utilise a portion of the multi-billion Heritage
and Stabilsation Fund is a cause for concern
to the Opposition.
In a statement yesterday Opposition leader
Kamla Persad-Bissessar picked apart Prime Min-
ister Dr Keith Rowley s Tuesday night address
to the nation and said that it was evidence that
the Government does not have an economic
"The use of the Heritage and Stabilisation
Fund creates more anxiety and questions. If Dr
Rowley intends to withdraw US$1.5 billion he
must immediately explain how he will use this
to achieve stabilisation and a balance in expen-
diture and revenue and how he will meet require-
ments for utmost transparency and scrutiny,"
She said Rowley needed to give the country
the assurance that funds from savings will not
be used for consumption, but for investment
spending and creating value within the econ-
The former prime minister said Rowley s
speech did nothing more than "exacerbate anxiety
and instability"as he failed to address how he
intends to fix the ongoing shortage of foreign
She said her government was operating in a
time of low energy prices and had already outlined
several plans to reduce government spending.
Persad-Bissessar said that Rowley demon-
strated that he "has no understanding or idea
of how to manage the present economic chal-
"We were clear and specific that budget adjust-
ments would focus on maintaining a healthy
level of investment and protecting jobs, incomes
and the vulnerable," she said.
She said since taking office in September,
Rowley and Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert
used "every possible opportunity to complain
and misinform the public on the nation s
finances" adding that neither seemed "ready or
able" to take the reigns.
Persad-Bissessar sought to make political hay
of Rowley s trip to Miami to attend a private
wedding, his fourth abroad since taking office
four months ago.
"The Prime Minister must stop the campaign-
ing, and the joy-riding and take responsibility
for Trinidad & Tobago... three of these four trips
have been for personal business -- a PNM
fundraiser in London, a wedding and golf in
Barbados, and now a wedding in Miami. By the
time Dr Rowley returns on 4th January, he would
have served 117 days in Government and spent
almost an entire month (24 days) travelling abroad
to secure his personal interests," she said.
"He made absolutely no clear and cogent ref-
erence to fiscal strategy or policy. The private
sector needs to know what the Government s
development agenda and plans are if they are
to align their strategic plans to the direction
intended by the State," she said.
She challenged the Prime Minister s claim
that the previous government did not decrease
expenditure in the face of the falling energy
" The 2015 Budget by the People s Partnership
Government had originally projected operating
expenditure of $60.1 Billion. The Estimates of
Revenue and Expenditure 2016 showed that the
revised estimates of expenditure for 2015 was
$55.6 Billion, a reduction of almost $5 Billion,"
Thursday, December 31, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
GML ENTERPRISE DESK
Acting Prime Minister, Finance Minister
Colm Imbert says that The Government
wants to enter into an arrangement with
the private sector to build houses "to help
stimulate economic activity, create employ-
ment and also so that the state does not
have to put out billions of dollars to build
Speaking to the GML Enterprise Desk,
Minister Imbert, who is working from home
following minor surgery, said: "The plan is
to provide fiscal incentives to private housing
developers in such a manner that they would
be motivated to finance and construct hous-
es."He explained that in thinking the plan
through the government was hoping that
"the private sector would raise the financing
, whether it be bridge or construction financ-
ing, construct the houses in accordance with
agreed designs, simple designs nothing elab-
orate and then those houses would be
matched to mortgages being offered by the
TTMF and the Home Mortgage Bank."
He said "the government plans to merge
the two institutions (the TTMF and the HMB)
and create one large institution."
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley
announced the initiative on Tuesday night,
telling that country: "We intend to ramp up
housing construction as a major driver of
the economy, but there will be a compre-
hensive over haul of the funding arrangements
of the programme."
Imbert explained: "There are already about
fifty thousand approved mortgages at the
TTMF and the HMB but there are no houses
to match them with, so that is where the
money would come from. The mortgage
institution would provide the funding to take
out the construction cost and the government
would take up any shortfall or settle any
delay in the payment by the mortgage insti-
tutions to the private sector. In short we
would guarantee the payment." He said people
who purchased the houses would provide
the repayment for the construction work
and the Government would pick up the slack.
The objective of the initiative according
to the Prime Minister was to "stimulate eco-
nomic growth by selectively using what is
available in the most innovative way."
Minister Imbert said the benefits would
be the creation of employment and the stim-
ulation of economic activity," telling the
Enterprise Desk: "We want to mobilise local
resources, construction material utilise pri-
marily local stuff, aggregate and so on. The
whole point is to get the private sector
involved so that government does not have
to put out billions of dollars to build hous-
es."He admitted that the concept was in the
early stages but he said it would get off the
ground in 2016.
Imbert defends private sector housing arrangement
Coming public panic and desperation,
devalued back pay dollars for public servants
and fears of a return of the 1986 recession.
These were some of the responses the T&T
Guardian got from economists, former min-
isters and trade unions to Prime Minister Dr
Keith Rowley s long awaited address to the
nation on the state of the economy Tuesday
Selby Wilson, who served as finance min-
ister in the National Alliance for Reconstruction
(NAR) government during the 1980s recession,
said there might be concern whether the mit-
igating measures announced by Rowley were
adequate given T&T s economic circum-
"I think his measures are a step in the right
direction but not enough is articulated about
how robust they are."
Wilson said while Rowley spoke about cut-
ting state expenditure by seven per cent he
gave no firm indication how his Government
would deal with its own expenditure.
"I am not sure how he plans to handle Cen-
tral Government s expenditure. It appears he
plans to do so by dipping into the Heritage
and Stablisation Fund."
The wisdom of this move will have a lot
to do with how the HSF will be used, whether
to support current expenditure or initiate pro-
ductivity activities in other sectors, Wilson
"If the HSF is to be used to support current
expenditure, this will not be moving forward."
He said the country could end up in dire
straits like the 1980s recession when the gov-
ernment of the day had no choice but to go
to the IMF.
"Not going there would require very good
management of our resources," he advised.
Former planning minister, Dr Bhoe Tewarie
said there was little clarity, no discernable
plan and no identification of priorities in Row-
ley s address.
Further, Rowley s failure to inspire confidence
in the general population could lead to panic
and desperation, Tewarie warned.
"It is unlikely Rowley s statement will trigger
confidence anywhere, in the general popula-
tion, local business sector or international rat-
ings agencies," he said.
"The lack of confidence in the general pop-
ulation will fuel uncertainty and, if not man-
aged properly, can lead to panic and desper-
"Lack of confidence within the business
sector could curtail investment and impact
foreign exchange demand.
"A negative response from the ratings agen-
cies will affect the cost of money from inter-
Tewarie said, except in the housing sector,
he did not see an emphasis on stimulation of
private sector financing and private sector
action in the economy.
"I find his entire approach to business activ-
ity contradictory and confusing."
If the TT dollar is devalued, it could mean
public servants late back pay would also be
devalued to half the amount.
This was the concern expressed by Public
Services Association president, Wa ts o n D u ke ,
on CNC 3 s Morning Brew programme yes-
Duke was referring to Finance Minister
Colm Imbert s promise that public servants,
owed some $5 billion, will be paid at an
unnamed date in the new year.
Imbert made the promise as he announced
on December 11 that the Government had no
money to pay public servants outstanding
arrears on salaries.
Duke felt a devaluation of the TT dollar
may be on the cards and could impact the
value of public servants back pay.
He called for an urgent meeting, with Rowley
and the labour movement to discuss the mat-
ter.National Trade Union Centre president,
Michael Annisette, called on the Government
to avoid any unnecessary delay.
"They should do everything humanly pos-
sible to settle outstanding issues, the same
way they find money to pay contractors," he
Annisette said an initiative introduced by
the NAR government during the 1980s reces-
sion to allow public servants to own shares
in state companies was rejected by his union
at the time but would be a good idea now.
"In hindsight, we saw the wisdom," he said.
Annisette welcomed Rowley s embrace of
the labour movement at this time but
expressed reservations about whether it will
bear good fruit.
"Our experience has been that the tripartite
approach has been cosmetic and not real and
we really hope given the dynamics we find
ourselves in, discussion will be based on mutual
respect and on putting T&T first."
Annisette called on everybody, not just
labour, to make sacrifices.
"Everybody has to make sacrifices, the busi-
ness community, the Government, not just
labour. "For instance, an economist called for
wage freezes across the public service but said
nothjing about freezing prices on goods and
"If labour suffers whole economy suffers."
to PM's address
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