National Transformation Alliance
27th September, 2022, Media Release
There is no question that Trinidad and Tobago faces its most dire social and economic climate in a generation. It is in this light that the NTA was hopeful for a comprehensive and proactive budget presentation, that would steer us out of the current situation we are in, and set a path for a return to prosperity for Trinidad And Tobago.
The tone set by the government given their commitment to fiscal discipline is commendable, as they aim to close the deficit by next year. These are the goals that successful nations must set, and we wait to see the results of these promises, and fully intend to hold the government to their word!
That said, our economy continues to stutter, begging the questions of why and what measures we can take to get growth started.
It was encouraging to see the repayment of 4Billion in VAT. This will provide critical, much needed, and deserved capital into the hands of businesses and individuals. Whilst yet to be determined if it will be an economic stimulant, as the macro environment may deter investment, it is still a much needed move on the part of the government. The capping of the fuel subsidy and the commitment to Property Tax, will continue to garner much debate, and rightfully so, because of the impact it would have on the population, especially those with lower and fixed incomes.
The increase in the tax exemption from $84,000 to $90,000 whilst also welcome, will likely serve to just net off against the other increases citizens have to face, but it is a much needed reprieve to the population.
We were disappointed to see government expanding its reach, as opposed to reducing it, especially when it came to including more government structures. There was much good in the sense of ‘what’, such as addressing housing and education, but it was typically light on the ‘how’.
Also light, was any specific addressing of the food security crisis that we face. There was some mention of hybrid flour, but the decline in agricultural production in the nation, as per real agricultural GDP, is of deep concern. A more detailed use of the money allocated to agriculture must be made, given the continued rise in food prices globally, and the decline in agricultural GDP domestically, in terms of real value add!
There was no mention of public private partnerships, and getting the private sector involved. Instead we see, alarmingly, the broadening of the HDC into 3 companies: Contractor, maintenance and sales. Why no PPP? Is another monster being created? Collaboration between the public and private sector is critical for the cohesive and robust development and transition of our economy, and as such, we should be looking to decrease the government’s role in commerce, as opposed to increasing it.
Whilst there was certainly attention given to National Security, the avoidance of specific addressing of the historical murder rate was disappointing. This is psychologically impacting the nation and is greatly inhibiting economic activity, at all levels. Policy makers must be more aggressive in addressing this untenable situation, and they must engage all stakeholders in ensuring that this destabilizing trend is reversed.
We have to begin to look beyond the politics of this most important event in our national calendar, and whilst we have articulated both good and bad, it is time for the country to lay down its differences, and work together to create the country we all desire.
The government has presented its economic scorecard for the next 12 months. However, this fiscal package stands devoid of a Country Strategy, which the NTA believes is a critical pillar for Transformation.
Moreover, the impact on the vast majority of the population cannot be ignored, and as the NTA engages with communities, we intend to listen to the population, and the points they wish for a government of Transformation to consider.
NTA will make further comments as is warranted.