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Browne predicts $35b Budget

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Former Finance Minister Mariano Brown, second from left, speaks with President of the Penal/Debe Chamber, Rampersad Sieuraj following the Chamber’s pre budget breakfast forum at Powergen Sports Club in Siparia, yesterday. Also in photo is Dr Vaalmikki Arjoon, left, and Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.

Given the decline in the country’s revenue, former finance minister Mariano Browne estimates that the 2017/19 budget will be approximately $35 billion.

Browne, who thinks Finance Minister Colm Imbert should be forthright and tell the nation the naked truth about the state of the economy, told guests at a Penal Debe Chamber of Commerce pre-budget forum: “The reality with this budget is that, in a sense, it’s one where we have to face the maker. We have to tell people the reality. That is what I expect from the Government, that is what I expect from the Minister of Finance—to be serious.

“Can I expect him to be serious? The answer is, no because he has his eye on 2020.”

The former PNM minister said T&T has moved from $60 billion in revenue to $42 billion, then $38 billion.

“And this year my number is $35 billion. That is where I expect it to be. You can’t run a $60 billion expenditure profile if your revenue is only $35 billion,” he said.

Browne said the Government cannot meet the expectations of the population which had been built under boom conditions, so Imbert needs to speak about cutting expenditure and increasing productivity in his budget presentation.

Former minister PP Bhoedradatt Tewarie said the biggest problem facing the country is crime which has led to a lack of confidence in the economy. If crime continues unabated, he warned, “ultimately we are going to fall off the precipice.”

“In my estimation, the crime situation is not being addressed in the country in the way that it should, and therefore not protecting us from falling over the precipice and the foreign exchange situation is not being addressed responsibly to deal with the developmental questions in the country,” he said.

Tewarie warned that the country will be in serious problems if Government continues to spend more that it earns.

Economist Valmikki Arjoon said it is quite likely Government will continue to borrow to fund the budget.

He said: “We need to reignite confidence in the economy to encourage foreign direct investment.”

Instead of Cepep, the focus should be on farming and encouraging young people to get involved in agriculture, he said.