The country’s economic footing is expected to be detailed today in Parliament when Government adds almost $3 billion to the 2021 Budget.
Proposals for the funds were presented Monday by Government ministers who were grilled by the Opposition on the funds.
Today’s Parliament debate on a Supplementation and Variation bill will add more money to the 2021 Budget which was $49.5 billion. After debate on the bill in the Lower House, it will be debated in the Upper House on Friday.
Of the total $2.9 billion, amounts ranging from a high of $994 million to a low of $4 million will go to 12 ministries, which includes the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and the Elections and Boundaries Commission providing supplementary funding for them to carry their expenses – particularly recurrent expenditure – for the next three months until the end of the current fiscal year in September.
The Government is also shifting $103.3 million from Finance to the Prime Minister’s Office, Agriculture and Social Development ministries.
Statements in Parliament today by the Government are expected to give the mid-year review of the Budget (coming later than the usual May period) including how COVID-19 has impacted the country financially and economically since the implementation of the Budget last October. While Government is expected to reiterate its relief measures, no one in the Government could confirm if new measures will be announced after a recent meeting with businesspeople.
On Monday the Prime Minister’s Energy Conference statements offered Government’s perspectives on that sector’s path.
The government recently said there was a lower revenue shortfall. Oil prices at US$69-71 have been higher than the Budget’s oil price peg of US$45. Businessmen have also noted a lot of duties have been flowing into the Government from heavier than usual imports of health supplies for the COVID situation.
On business people’s cries for assistance, last Wednesday a Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce spokesman said via email, “The government has an obligation to support the citizens in a situation like this. Many business owners have found themselves owing their suppliers and their landlords money.”
“In some instances, they have not even been able to pay themselves and some are using their personal savings to pay employees something, even when their businesses are closed with barely enough to cover their personal expenses.”
He estimated Government owes the private sector about $4 billion in overdue VAT (Value Added Tax) and tax refunds and maybe an equivalent amount to suppliers.
The spokesman said, “The government needs to take responsibility for providing support to those who have been impacted it’s not an obligation they can’t abdicate to others.“
Last Sunday Opposition Economy spokesman Dave Tancoo called for the review to have:
*Rental assistance and other social grants provided (salary relief grant/ income support grant cannot be a one-off payment. That is ‘’hush’’ money)
* Clear plan to incentivise business and restart the economy.
*Particular Support for MSMBs including businesses forced into bankruptcy/ closure as a result of government policy.
*Injection into the agriculture sector – incentivise agriculture and create market security for farmers.
* Deliberate fostering of new business initiatives with foreign exchange earning potential.
*True statement of the current status of the Consolidated Fund
Meanwhile, today’s situation is expected to be where the Opposition will file its motion of contempt against Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for remarks he made about vigils for Andrea Bharatt and the spike in COVID-19 cases nationally.