Oropouche West MP: Gov’t plans to increase 2023 budget

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Oropouche West MP: Gov’t plans to increase 2023 budget

Oropouche West MP Davendranth Tancoo says plans are afoot to propose an increase in the 2023 Budget.

Speaking at UNC’s media briefing on Monday, Tancoo said Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC) is on Friday expected to discuss proposals to increase the 2023 Budget level from $57 billion to $61 billion in the upcoming Mid-Year review.

Tancoo said Parliament will discuss the provisions to what has now come to be known as the Mid-Year Review on Friday.

He added, “Last October last year, the Finance Minister presented the 2023 Budget boasting about closing the fiscal deficit gap and managing T&T’s resources efficiently. He gloated about the deficit being close to balanced, at $1.51 billion for fiscal 2023 based on Government revenues, of $56.2 billion and expenditure of $57.7 billion.

“Having committed to already spending $57.7 billion in 2023, the Minister is now coming to Parliament to seek an additional $3.58 billion for a total proposed expenditure of $61.54 billion in the current fiscal year- that’ll be largest single budget this PNM Government has ever spent.

“This means if Government revenues remain the same as predicted, the deficit will grow to $5.35 billion or a whopping 255 per cent higher than what the Minister projected.”

Tancoo said the Budget presentation estimated revenue premised on the price of oil in 2023 being US$92.50 per barrel and natural gas at US$6 per MMBtu.

“Today, natural gas is trading at US$2.36 per mmbtu, less than half of what he assumed in October 2022. Brent Oil prices are trading at US$79.66 per barrel, or more than US$10 lower than what the Budget was based on.

“Obviously then, with lower prices for oil and gas than budgeted, the projected Government revenue can be expected to be much lower than expected. As such, a lower revenue would mean that the actual deficit will be even higher than the current $5.35 billion being projected by the Minister.”

Tancoo noted that when he raised the issue in Parliament of how the Government was going to fund the shortfall in revenue caused by falling energy prices, he was told Government used a negotiated price based on a basket of product prices.

“So, we wait to see whether the Minister will finally come clean with anticipated Government revenues…”

Tancoo said the Finance Minister will be seeking money to pay rent for August and September for the Statutory Authority Service Commission, that the Children’s Authority was “underfunded to the tune of $62.5 million” and $313 million of additional funding is being requested for the Finance Ministry to pay for outstanding arrears to contractors and service providers.