Saturday 28 November, 2020

COVID-19 talks: Kamla wants clarity on plans for HSF

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is seeking clarity from Government on how it intends to use the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF), to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

Government has signalled its intention to access the fund to aid in its COVID-19 efforts.

On Friday, Persad-Bissessar held bipartisan talks with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a media conference following the meeting, the Opposition Leader raised questions about plans for the HSF.

"The second thing that emerged today is that the Parliament will come back, we were advised by maybe Wednesday to deal with specifically the word HSF. HSF is the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. Now that is a very piece of legislation that is there. We do not know how they intend to amend, what they intend to do with it. But we know they intend to bring a bill about the HSF.

The HSF is our rainy day fund, it is true. But the circumstances from which draw downs can be made from it is spelt out in the existing law and there the Government signalled they are coming to change the criteria and circumstances. We don't know yet how, when, why. We know it is coming soon," the Persad-Bissessar said.

She also questioned whether the HSF will be drawn down, with no plans to replenish it.

"I hear the Prime Minister say the Minister of Finance will be coming for a package of $6 billion dollars. Now we know it's going to cost us in the circumstances we are in.

But we are in an election year and this $6 draw down of the HSF will mean that you are drawing down every single cent, accumulating after all these years in the HSF with nothing to replenish the coffers."

Persad-Bissessar added that legislation that requires Opposition support be shared at the earliest, and that the Opposition is given an opportunity for input into those Bills before they are laid in Parliament. 

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