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Opposition Leader and former prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC MP. (Image courtesy Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago)

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says that Finance Minister Colm Imbert has “confessed” that the country is in deep, economic crisis.

In a media release yesterday following Imbert’s media conference, Persad-Bissessar said that it now was “abundantly clear” that the government gave the country false hope in their budget presentation four months ago.

“Instead of pushing the reset button, the PNM has pushed the self-destruct button on our economy via their inept policies,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“It was clear that all the Minister of Finance was seeking to do at this press conference was utilise old figures and graphs to hide the fact that this government overestimated revenues in the budget in an attempt to have the country believe that the economy was stable,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said the Government is blaming Covid-19 even though the economy was already”fragile” because the Government failed to diversify even before the global Covid impact.

“The citizenry must not for one minute believe Imbert’s “sad stories” that our current predicament is due to Covid. It is a clear indicator that our economy is reaching a crisis level given that we have lost out over 1 billion dollars in revenue in the first four months of the fiscal year,” she said.

“Minister Imbert said g Government resorted to loan financing and making further withdrawals from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to pay salaries and wages and pensions and to keep the health sector going. The Opposition contends that the country cannot continue to draw down on the HSF for recurrent expenditure without a plan for revenue generation. The government’s plan is unsustainable,” Persad-Bissessar said.

She said that the drop in tax revenue across the board is a “failure of this government to incentivise our economy” in the non-Covid years which has led to massive turmoil now that we are operating in a pandemic.

“It is even more ironic that the Minister of Finance would be shocked by this decrease in revenue from taxes when his government failed to institute any proper fiscal recovery or stimulus plan for businesses coming out of lockdown,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar described the Government’s Road to Recovery plan as another “political gimmick” just like the proposed injection of $500 million for agriculture.

“When asked for an update on this fund Imbert could not even identify one single project almost a year after it was announced. Today we are experiencing an economic collapse due to this administration’s lack of vision, planning and proper policy,” she said.

“Again, Minister Imbert provided no plans on how his Government plans to preserve jobs and provide relief for the thousands of citizens who have been affected by the poor economic climate. His only solution remains borrowing and taxes,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said that for the 2020 General Election, Imbert and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told the population they “had all the solutions and ideas to uplift our nation, but now is priming the population for more difficult times ahead”.

“As usual, in expected “Imbertian” style, everything else is to blame for the collapse of the Financial Sector except the Minister of Finance,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar cited this as yet another example of the failure of the PNM Government.

“They continue to fail in every possible sector and every additional day they remain in office, the worse off our nation becomes,” she said. See Page 15