Expect an ‘election’ Budget when Minister of Finance Colm Imbert delivers the 2020 Budget on Monday, October 7, so said the experts as well as the Opposition.
The projections came yesterday after Imbert announced the budget’s delivery date during a brief statement in Parliament yesterday.
But Imbert did not give a time, but other government officials said it will most likely be from 1.30 pm.
It will be the Rowley-led PNM administration’s fifth Budget, taking the Government and TT into two elections—local Government as well as general elections.
UNC leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar was not present in Parliament when the date was announced. However, she was expected to comment on it at last night’s UNC forum.
However, the UNC’s Ganga Singh and Opposition MP Prakash Ramadhar offered their take on it, saying they both expected an “election budget”.
Singh added, “It’s a pre-election Budget, with two polls coming after so it will follow in typical PNM style. They’ve punished the people in years one, two, three and now, the budget in year four heading into year five, they’ll reward people to try to turn the electorate’s minds back towards them favourably. It’s always been PNM’s psychology and the pattern so far hasn’t seemed to have changed.”
Singh added, “We expect to see them producing tangibles such as infrastructure and job creation opportunities. But I expect they’ll have further deficit financing to stimulate the economy since it continues being flat and they’ll have to borrow which they’re already doing.”
UNC MP Roodal Moonilal also chimed in. He said, “This will be the PNM’s final budget—thankfully —so I’m looking forward to it. But they can’t produce any significant project in 10 months left of the term, so we can expect paving, box drains and other infrastructure they may offer. During the PP’s tenure we had a public function for all members, rank, and file included where we produced booklets of what we did—but they haven’t accounted for their tenure, much less included general membership in last weekend’s Hyatt celebration.”
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said it would be an election budget whether or not Local Government polls are called this year or not or if there’s an early general poll.
He said, “The challenge is what they’ll offer since the economy doesn’t allow them the freedom to do as much as they may want to, so Imbert will have to be careful in picking/choosing items which will impact on PNM’s support,”
Former PNM Minister in Finance Mariano Browne said he expects Imbert to ‘bluff “since the economy is still in the doldrums.
“What are the markers of a turnaround? We’ve increased taxes and reduced expenditure both of which are deflationary which is why inflation is low. But there’s no real change in the internal economic dynamics. So if he’s coming with an election budget, he’ll have to borrow.”
There is speculation among political and financial observers that Imbert’s 2020 budget will be slightly higher than the 2019 budget which was $51B—that was a slight increase over previous budgets since 2015 following reduced oil prices and consequent economic downturn.
In the 2019, Budget statement however, Imbert had said there’s been a “genuine economic turnaround” as a result of Government’s measures and he’d maintained the optimistic outlook in his May mid-year Budget review.
Among contents, the 2019 Budget had projected property tax collection would begin this month. The 2020 Budget is expected to give a status report on that tax collection effort, the proposed TT Revenue Authority—legislation for which is an upcoming priority—and announce who will be buying or leasing the Pointe a Pierre refinery and Paria Fuel Trading company and what potential outcomes this will bring for TT .
The 2019 Budget was pegged on an oil price of initially (US)$65 and subsequently US($55) after prices fell. Yesterday’s oil price was between (US)$57—$60.
After the Budget is presented, debate is expected to continue with Persad- Bissessar’s reply on Friday, October 11.
Reporter: Gail Alexander