Imbert dismisses claims by UNC that economy will collapse

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Imbert dismisses claims by UNC that economy will collapse

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has given the assurace the Government will be prudent in its spending, and he has dismissed claims by the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) that the economy will collapse.

During debate on the Mid-Year Budget Review in the House of Representatives last night, Imbert described the views of the opposition as inflammatory and incorrect.

Government requested an additional $2.3 billion in expenditure to the $59.2 billion allocated in the national Budget read in September last year.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other Opposition members had earlier criticised the request while insisting that it reflected an atrocious state of the economy.

However, Imbert said: “All I heard from the Leader of the Opposition was a series of inflammatory remarks that had no basis whatsoever, that have no substance, that have no facts to back them up, that have no logic to back them up … statements such as the country is bankrupt … statements such as the economy has collapsed,” he said.

“The honourable Prime Minister made the point that we’ve been hearing that mantra since 2016. So apparent, every single year, the economy has collapsed, in ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘20, ‘21, ‘22, ‘23 and now in ‘24.”

He told the House that he felt the need to reassure the public that this was not the case, and read a media release issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on June 5, that suggested the economy was doing better than expected and would grow by 2.4 per cent in fiscal 2024.

“They vex with the IMF,” he said.

He added that the Opposition needed to understand what a supplementation of appropriation was, and he assured that the Government would act responsibly with the extra $2.3 billion it was requesting.

“Every year this administration, when it does its supplementation, we are cognisant of revenue challenges. We control expenditure. If you look at the actual outturn at the end of the year, we never use the entire supplementation. We have to do the appropriation so that the fiscal space exists, that if there is an emergency and the expenditure is inescapable, that the appropriation is there because if you don’t have the appropriation, you cannot make the expenditure. But we have always come below the supplementation,” Imbert said.

“I can tell you without any fear of contradiction, even though we have asked the Parliament to supplement the original appropriation by $2.3 billion, taking the total approved appropriation to just over $61 billion, I can tell you certainly we are going to prioritise and manage expenditure, and we will certainly not end up the year with a deficit of $9 billion.”

Imbert challenged the Opposition to explain why it believed that the economy had collapsed.

“Try and find space in the savannah for the reggae concert that took place last week and the one that is happening tomorrow. Go and see if you could find space inside there. Our nation’s roads are clogged with vehicles. Every carnival fete was sold out this year. So how is it … if the country gone through, the economy collapse, people suffering, how is it that all this activity is taking place?” he asked.

The minister told the House his Government knows how to run the country and has been able to do so with oil prices as low as US$25 per barrel.

Imbert also condemned the Opposition for what he said were efforts to get gas deal licences with Venezuela cancelled.

“Look at what they’re hoping for, that there will be a change of administration in the United States and the new administration will kill and bury T&T. That is what they’re hoping for and they want to know why we call them unpatriotic. Instead of hoping that there’ll be a smooth transition and the policies would continue no matter who is the president of the United States and that the relationship between the United States and T&T will continue to be warm and beneficial to both parties, they want the new administration to kill T&T. That is government UNC style.”

AT the end of the sittig around 8pm, the motion was approved and the corresponding bill passed.