I will now turn to our performance in other areas over
the past year.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to lead a Government that
continues to record tremendous economic success. But,
success has not come easy, nor has it been by chance or
sheer good luck. Success has come because of our good
economic polices, because of the talent of our people
and the vibrancy of their entrepreneurial spirit.
Indeed, two international credit rating agencies: Standards
and Poors and Moodys recognised the quality of our macro-economic
management and increased Trinidad and Tobago's credit
rating. Standard and Poors, in upgrading our local and
foreign currency rating from BBB+ to A-, noted our growing
net public sector creditor position which, I must emphasise,
was considerably stronger than the 20 percent median for
A-rated sovereigns. Our prudent fiscal and monetary policies
were also contributing factors. In raising our foreign
currency rating from Baa3 to Baa2, Moodys cited essentially
the same strengths.
Mr. Speaker, real GDP increased by 6.5 percent. This was
the twelfth consecutive year of positive growth in Trinidad
and Tobago and could be somewhat of a record among developing
Our non-energy sector has also registered positive growth
rates as a result of the buoyancy of the construction
sector, increased activity in manufacturing, tourism and
the expansion of small business activity in distribution
Economic expansion has led to the creation of more than
28,000 jobs in 2004 and a reduction in the unemployment
rate to an average of 8.3 percent with the rate in the
last quarter of 2004 being 7.8 percent; as a result of
which skill shortages have arisen in some sectors. I wish
to indicate, Mr. Speaker, that this Government is accelerating
the expansion of training programmes to deal with these
Inflation, which has been subdued for several years, has
risen slightly in 2005. For the most part, this has reflected
high food prices due to the impact of inclement weather
on domestic agricultural production and to the increase
in import prices related to the rise in the international
price of oil.
Our external sector has been particularly strong with
the country's external reserves now at a comfortable level
of US$3.8 billion, or the equivalent of 7 months of imports.
Mr. Speaker, the year 2004/05 was also another year of
disciplined, efficient and responsible fiscal management.
In terms of the broad picture, the Central Government
registered a surplus of $299.7 million, which is significantly
larger than originally expected.
Honourable Members may recall that for revenue purposes
the 2005 Budget was predicated on an oil price of US$32.80
per barrel. As it turned out, the average oil price received
for our mix of crude oil exports was US$41.16 per barrel
which resulted in oil revenue collections of $11.1 billion,
some $3.2 billion higher than envisaged in the Budget.
With non-oil revenue also slightly higher than budgeted,
total revenue collections exceeded the Budget estimate
by $4,185.4 million.
Total expenditure for the year is estimated at $27,901.3
million. It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that this
expenditure is $3,893.4 million more than the original
Permit me, Mr. Speaker, to explain to this House and to
the population at large, how the Government spent the
(i) While in the Budget we had undertaken to transfer
$1.4 billion to the Interim Revenue Stabilisation Fund,
we in fact transferred $2,593 million. That is responsible
fiscal management and underscores this Government's commitment
to putting aside savings for the welfare of our children
(ii) We spent some $1.4 billion on subsidies to maintain
the price of gasoline and other petroleum products. This
was partly funded by the Production Levy on oil producing
companies. I am sure that Honourable Members of this House
would know that fuel prices have reached astronomical
levels both in the region, as well as in the developed
countries. And as fuel prices go, so do the prices of
bus and taxi fares, of electricity and indeed the prices
of a whole range of items that are significant in the
Budgets of the middle and lower income groups. Without
subsidies, a gallon of 92 RON unleaded gasoline which
now sells at $2.70 per litre would have to be sold at
$5.20 per litre, $1.48Bn is a very significant outlay
on petroleum product subsidies, and Trinidad and Tobago
will in due course have to decide what would be a reasonable
size for this "Oil Dividend" and at what prices
it would be reasonable to sell this increasingly precious
commodity on the domestic market.
(iii) Education, National Security and Health, clearly
our three priority areas, accounted for $7.5 billion or
20 percent of total expenditure: interest payments amounted
to $2.6 billion and pensions, another category of statutory
payments, amounted to $2.0 billion.
(iv) Transfers to the THA and to local authorities amounted
to $1.6 billion while other similar transfers (to deal
with CARONI and BWIA, to maintain water and electricity
rates and to subsidize inter-island transport) amounted
to another $1 billion.
(v) Mr. Speaker, an amount of $426 million was spent on
the Unemployment Relief Programme in the past fiscal year.
While this Programme has had its challenges, it has been
an important instrument of poverty alleviation providing
approximately 50,000 temporary job opportunities for individuals.
(vi) Expenditure under the Public Sector Investment Programme
(PSIP) amounted to $2,847 million.
We have reduced the ratio of public debt to GDP from 48
percent to 40.5 percent.
In the process of building such strong economic fundamentals,
Mr. Speaker, the lives of many people across the country
have been improving. This Government is justly proud about
the successes achieved during the current fiscal year.
We honoured our commitment to distribute the benefits
of development to all citizens through enhanced healthcare,
education reform, improvements in infrastructure, provision
of housing, job creation, training opportunities and quality
Mr. Speaker, while the respective Ministers will outline
the achievements in greater detail, I would like to highlight
* The establishment and rapid development of the University
of Trinidad and Tobago is nothing but a spectacular success.
With the advent of UTT and the introduction of our GATE
financing programme, enrolment in tertiary education has
increased by forty percent.
* We have had several other successes in our thrust to
develop a high-quality seamless education system - the
launch of our pre-school education programme, the initiation
of a programme of home-work centres and the introduction
of a system of local school boards cementing the links
between the schools and the community.
* The Textbook Rental Programme, the School Transportation
Programme and the School Feeding Programme were all expanded.
The number of books provided increased from four hundred
and fifty thousand in fiscal year 2004 to 1.2 million
in fiscal year 2005 and included primary and secondary
schools. The provision of breakfast meals increased from
25,000 to 37,208 and lunches from 92,000 to 94,736.
* Under the GATE programme, we processed 24,117 applications
at a total value of $138 Mn. This represented more that
twice the number of applications processed by the Dollar
for Dollar Programme in fiscal 2004.
* In health, despite all the setbacks, and all the industrial
issues that always seem to arise at the most inopportune
times, we have been making significant strides in providing
quality health services to the country. We have drastically
reduced the waiting lists and the waiting time for a whole
range of surgical operations, including cataract, hernia,
prostate, orthopaedic, and certain gynaecological conditions.
* The Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP) has
been a phenomenal success providing thirty-six (36) drug
items free of charge for persons suffering from cardiac
disease, hypertension, diabetes and a host of other ailments.
To September 2005, over 500,000 prescriptions were filled
on behalf of approximately 150,000 citizens.
* From January I, 2005, we increased access to the Eric
Williams Medical Sciences Complex, making services not
provided at other public health institutions available
to the public free of charge on referral from other public
health institutions. The result has been overwhelming.
* Our housing programme has been an unparalleled success.
Over 6,000 houses were constructed in fiscal 2005.
* We also established the Family Court Project to facilitate
settlement of family disputes in an environment which
is different from the confrontational atmosphere of traditional
* We distributed Caroni lands as promised. A total of
7,247 former workers received two-acre plots of agricultural
land for intensive cultivation while 6,755 persons will
receive residential lots shortly. This distribution should
set the basis for a resurgence in domestic agricultural
production. We also fulfilled our commitment to provide
training for former CARONI workers. As much as 2,854 former
daily paid and 751 monthly paid workers have already benefited
from training through agricultural programmes, and technical
and computer literacy courses. Mr. Speaker, this is yet
another demonstration of keeping our faith in the country
and to Caroni workers.
* Despite operational deficiencies, WASA improved the
levels of service to more than 50,000 persons in over
32 communities including Arima, California, New Grant,
Carenage, Square Deal, Maraval, South Oropouche, Carlsen
Field, Siparia, Sangre Grande, Paradise Heights, Vion
Hill, Buccoo and Signal Hill.
* The Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facility at the new
Beetham Plant was completed and will serve Port of Spain
and environs from Diego Martin in the West and Mt. Hope
in the East thereby providing a better service to over
* In 2004, our hotels recorded the highest ever occupancy
levels. Trinidad averaged 80 percent while Tobago averaged
85 per cent.
Mr. Speaker, of the many successes in the energy sector,
I must single out the manufacture of the second-locally
fabricated platform - the Cannon-ball constructed for
bpTT in our fabrication yard at La Brea, by Trinidadians
and Tobagonians. This feat spells the dawn of a new industry
in Trinidad and Tobago, (the platform-manufacture industry),
and constitutes a significant boost for our local content
Mr. Speaker, by any standard, these are remarkable achievements
that give the Government and the public sector the confidence
to carry on with the transformation of Trinidad and Tobago.