The National Budget was passed in the Senate on Tuesday, with 22 votes in support from the government and Independent benches and six abstentions from the Opposition.
Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, in his closing contribution, defended the deficit budget and the imposition of taxes on luxury food items.
He explained that T&T spends $55 million annually on the importation of apples and grapes “And this is something that we certainly need to control.”
According to Imbert, “The price for a kilo of grapes is $10.20. That is $4.65 per pound. When VAT is added we will increase grapes by 58 cents. That will not prevent grapes from coming into the market.
In the case of apples, Imbert said the price of a pound of apples will now go up by 43 cents.
Imbert also defended his Budget, which used an oil price of US$45 and a gas price of $3 per MMBTU.
He said “what we have done in the last six Budget exercises is that we utilize the projections from several important and recognized bodies that are in the business of forecasting oil prices and that will include the US energy administration, the IMF and World Bank and another research entity out of Europe. Based on all projections and our projections, we calculated that price.”
He said “We are running a deficit. We decided not to do what some suggested which is to spend the same amount we earn. This will crash the economy. We have no choice but to run a deficit. Major economies are doing the same. Advanced economies have suffered.”