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Better days ahead—West
Although Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West yesterday kept all details of the October 1 Budget close to her chest, she promised that T&T will see better days ahead.
However, West admitted that the 2019 fiscal package which will be delivered by Finance Minister Colm Imbert will be another deficit budget, while she does not envisage any new taxes to be imposed on the population.
Leading up to last year’s budget, West had advised citizens that Government needed to take austerity measures to stabilise the economy.
For this year, however, she said, “We still don’t have an all-clear. We are still moving upwards rather than on a stable footing. So I would expect that the situation would be allowed for some relaxation in the austerity. I am thinking there should be relaxation of the austerity measures that we have had to introduce.”
Asked if the impending closure of the Petrotrin refiner could result in an increase in fuel prices, she said, “What I will tell you, is that the price of fuel is not determined by the existence and non-existence of the refinery. That is a separate policy issue because it depends on whether and to what extent the Government is prepared to continue to subsidise.”
On whether or not Government will hike fuel prices, West said, “I cannot reveal that. I am unable to say at this point. It is not a Petrotrin issue.”
West, who spoke in the Senate to the T&T Guardian following the tea break of yesterday’s sitting, also remained tight-lipped on whether citizens can expect any goodies or cutbacks.
Giving an update on the Property Tax, however, West said Government was still working on its implementation.
“We have to complete 50 per cent of valuation of properties in T&T before we can commence based on the legislation that was passed and we are working on getting that done.”
She was unable to say what percentage had been completed, saying Cabinet will get a report on that shortly.
Although the Government won a court matter regarding the implementation of Valuation Return Forms under the Property Tax Act 2009 in March, West said this matter still slowed things down a bit.
Told while Government holds the view that T&T was on a road to recovery, some citizens feel the country was still in recession, West responded, “We have been able to demonstrate that there has been a turnaround. The problem is the trickle down to everybody in the economy. It takes longer depending on where you are.”
West said Government rolling out more projects will help ease the burden on those who are most affected by the economic downturn. But she admitted that the sentiments on the ground is that people had concerns.
“But if they look at the record they will see that apart from the Petrotrin matter we have not laid off thousands of people and we explained why the Petrotrin decision was necessary.”
Asked if T&T will see better days ahead, West said “Oh, most definitely…and I think that in 2019 people who have not begun to feel it yet, will feel it. We have had businesses begin to say, yes, we are seeing some positive impacts. The more that happens…is more that will trickle down.”
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