Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said that the revenue this country earned from petroleum in 2016, amounted to just $1.7 billion compared to $19.3 billion two years ago in 2014.
He said when other shortfalls are taken into account, this government had $20 billion less to run the economy, than when the previous government was in office.
He made the revelation at a public meeting in Mt Dor last evening, saying he had only just got the figures.
"In 2014 oil peaked at US$112 a barrel, around the middle of 2014. Today I checked the price of oil, it's US$44.43, just about one-third of what it was in the middle of 2014," he said.
"In 2014 we got $19.374 billion from petroleum. You want to guess how much we got in 2016? $1.714 billion. So it dropped from $19B to less than $2B. So we have lost over $17 billion in revenue to run this country," Minister Imbert added.
He continued: "We get money from other places. We get money from Point Lisas. We get money from the petrochemical companies. We get money from Atlantic LNG, from corporation tax, from income tax, from value added tax, the government earns its revenue through a multiplicity of revenue streams. But the main revenue stream is revenue from petroleum, or it used to be."
The Minister, who will read his second Budget next week Friday, said it was a very difficult year for the Government as energy prices plummetted.
"That is just from petroleum. We have shortfalls in other areas because the oil sector supports the economy and if the oil sector is not doing well, it has a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy.
"So in 2016 we ran this country with at least $20 billion less than the UNC ran this country and the country still runs...it still runs. So understand the kind of job we have had," Minister Imbert said.
He told the meeting that he will reveal more in the Budget presentation and has advised not to take as fact, the predictions already being made.
"I am seeing all kinds of things in the papers. They say increase tax, reduce tax, raise the price of gas, lower the price of gas, devalue the dollar, revalue the dollar, spend more, spend less, balance the budget, run a deficit - only two people know what's in the Budget and those two people are here tonight.
"One is me and one is the honourable prime minister. Nobody else knows what's in the Budget, not even the Cabinet.
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Speaking on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the Minister said he had in his possession, two Cabinet notes that confirmed that the UNC Government had agreed to the same FATCA model being presented by this Government, including reciprocity.
Reciprocity will allow the US to report to the Board of Inland Revenue on all T&T citizens doing business and paying taxes in the US, while the Board of Inland Revenue will also report to the United States on US citizens doing business and paying taxes in T&T.
The Minister says he cannot understand why the UNC is now objecting to that provision.
"Why is the UNC afraid of our Board of Inland Revenue finding out which Trinidadian in the United States is paying taxes in the United States and has a bank account in the United States?" he asked.
He said if the legislation is not passed it would spell chaos for this country and affect everyone.
"Your credit card gone through. You wouldn't be able to have a credit card and purchase items in the United States. So you could imagine the calamity that would befall Trinidad and Tobago if we are not compliant with this Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act?"
The Opposition Leader has called on the Government to establish a Joint Select Committee to look at the legislation, saying they will agree to meet throughout the weekend if necessary to complete the work in time.
Story compiled by Sampson Nanton for CNC3 Digital.
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