Thursday 18 April, 2019

Imbert: Billions borrowed to pay salaries

Finance Minister Colm Imbert today revealed that in 2017 government borrowed billions of dollars to pay public servants.

Minister Imbert said, “In the last year I had to go to the banks to borrow to pay salaries on at least four unplanned occasions. On some occasions we had to lock down the Treasury, telling them we can't issue any more cheques because we simply didn't have the money to pay for it…We didn’t announce it but this is how we got through 2017.”

The Finance Minister was at the time speaking at the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Post Budget Analysis meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain this morning.

Imbert has also noted the banks' response to the imposition of a corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

Yesterday, the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago described the decision as ‘contradictory’ and ‘short-sighted.’

However, Minister Imbert defended the decision, reiterating that the burden of adjustment must be spread across the board.

He said, “I notice the banks are angry with the imposition of tax of 35 percent on them but we have to spread the adjustment. The economy is in a recession. People are losing their jobs and the banks are posting profits of 1.2 billion dollars a year.”

The Finance Minister further added that he hoped that the tax measures rolled on in yesterday’s budget would be temporary.

Colm addresses foreign exchange uncertainty

Minister Colm Imbert in addressing the foreign exchange issue explained that “Sometimes you can’t telegraph what’s happening. If you read the speech very carefully, I made the point that the exchange rate will now move more in step with demand and supply and the availability of foreign exchange.’’

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce has expressed disappointment with the way the budget addressed the forex shortage.

The Chamber said the budget did not appear to adequately address the current mismatch between supply and demand for foreign exchange.

Also weighing in on the foreign exchange situation at the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Post Budget Analysis meeting, Economist Marla Dukharan expressed concern with how the matter is being addressed.

She said, “I believe that preferential foreign exchange access as was outlined in the budget and the de facto controls that are in place right now will only serve to create market distortions and to exacerbate existing market distortions. It will support a black market, which we know we have and is alive and kicking in Trinidad and Tobago and is undermining the confidence in our currency.”

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