Opposition, experts expect ‘election’ goodies in budget

Ex­pect an ‘elec­tion’ Bud­get when Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Colm Im­bert de­liv­ers the 2020 Bud­get on Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 7, so said the ex­perts as well as the Op­po­si­tion.

The pro­jec­tions came yes­ter­day af­ter Im­bert an­nounced the bud­get’s de­liv­ery date dur­ing a brief state­ment in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

 

But Im­bert did not give a time, but oth­er gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials said it will most like­ly be from 1.30 pm.

It will be the Row­ley-led PNM ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fifth Bud­get, tak­ing the Gov­ern­ment and TT in­to two elec­tions—lo­cal Gov­ern­ment as well as gen­er­al elec­tions.

UNC leader Kam­la Per­sad- Bisses­sar was not present in Par­lia­ment when the date was an­nounced. How­ev­er, she was ex­pect­ed to com­ment on it at last night’s UNC fo­rum.

How­ev­er, the UNC’s Gan­ga Singh and Op­po­si­tion MP Prakash Ra­mad­har of­fered their take on it, say­ing they both ex­pect­ed an “elec­tion bud­get”.

 

 

Singh added, “It’s a pre-elec­tion Bud­get, with two polls com­ing af­ter so it will fol­low in typ­i­cal PNM style. They’ve pun­ished the peo­ple in years one, two, three and now, the bud­get in year four head­ing in­to year five, they’ll re­ward peo­ple to try to turn the elec­torate’s minds back to­wards them favourably. It’s al­ways been PNM’s psy­chol­o­gy and the pat­tern so far hasn’t seemed to have changed.”

Singh added, “We ex­pect to see them pro­duc­ing tan­gi­bles such as in­fra­struc­ture and job cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties. But I ex­pect they’ll have fur­ther deficit fi­nanc­ing to stim­u­late the econ­o­my since it con­tin­ues be­ing flat and they’ll have to bor­row which they’re al­ready do­ing.”

UNC MP Roodal Mooni­lal al­so chimed in. He said, “This will be the PNM’s fi­nal bud­get—thank­ful­ly —so I’m look­ing for­ward to it. But they can’t pro­duce any sig­nif­i­cant project in 10 months left of the term, so we can ex­pect paving, box drains and oth­er in­fra­struc­ture they may of­fer. Dur­ing the PP’s tenure we had a pub­lic func­tion for all mem­bers, rank, and file in­clud­ed where we pro­duced book­lets of what we did—but they haven’t ac­count­ed for their tenure, much less in­clud­ed gen­er­al mem­ber­ship in last week­end’s Hy­att cel­e­bra­tion.”

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Dr Bish­nu Ra­goonath said it would be an elec­tion bud­get whether or not Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment polls are called this year or not or if there’s an ear­ly gen­er­al poll.

He said, “The chal­lenge is what they’ll of­fer since the econ­o­my doesn’t al­low them the free­dom to do as much as they may want to, so Im­bert will have to be care­ful in pick­ing/choos­ing items which will im­pact on PNM’s sup­port,”

For­mer PNM Min­is­ter in Fi­nance Mar­i­ano Browne said he ex­pects Im­bert to ‘bluff “since the econ­o­my is still in the dol­drums.

“What are the mark­ers of a turn­around? We’ve in­creased tax­es and re­duced ex­pen­di­ture both of which are de­fla­tion­ary which is why in­fla­tion is low. But there’s no re­al change in the in­ter­nal eco­nom­ic dy­nam­ics. So if he’s com­ing with an elec­tion bud­get, he’ll have to bor­row.”

There is spec­u­la­tion among po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial ob­servers that Im­bert’s 2020 bud­get will be slight­ly high­er than the 2019 bud­get which was $51B—that was a slight in­crease over pre­vi­ous bud­gets since 2015 fol­low­ing re­duced oil prices and con­se­quent eco­nom­ic down­turn.

In the 2019, Bud­get state­ment how­ev­er, Im­bert had said there’s been a “gen­uine eco­nom­ic turn­around” as a re­sult of Gov­ern­ment’s mea­sures and he’d main­tained the op­ti­mistic out­look in his May mid-year Bud­get re­view.

Among con­tents, the 2019 Bud­get had pro­ject­ed prop­er­ty tax col­lec­tion would be­gin this month. The 2020 Bud­get is ex­pect­ed to give a sta­tus re­port on that tax col­lec­tion ef­fort, the pro­posed TT Rev­enue Au­thor­i­ty—leg­is­la­tion for which is an up­com­ing pri­or­i­ty—and an­nounce who will be buy­ing or leas­ing the Pointe a Pierre re­fin­ery and Paria Fu­el Trad­ing com­pa­ny and what po­ten­tial out­comes this will bring for TT .

The 2019 Bud­get was pegged on an oil price of ini­tial­ly (US)$65 and sub­se­quent­ly US($55) af­ter prices fell. Yes­ter­day’s oil price was be­tween (US)$57—$60.

Af­ter the Bud­get is pre­sent­ed, de­bate is ex­pect­ed to con­tin­ue with Per­sad- Bisses­sar’s re­ply on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 11.

Reporter: Gail Alexander

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