Black Immigrant Daily News
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley – AYANNA KINSALE
THE Prime Minister is predicting that Trinidad and Tobago will experience brighter days in 2023.
He expressed this hope in his New Year’s Message to the nation.
Dr Rowley recalled his participation with TT’s religious leaders in days of national prayer in 2022.
He said he and those leaders “urged citizens to remember that in periods of great darkness, there is always a dawn to be had.”
That dawn, Rowley continued, is in the performance of the domestic economy.
He said the economy is seeing signs of resurgence in both the energy and non-energy sectors and in the aftermath of the worst of the covid19 pandemic.
Rowley said the $57.6 billion 2022/2023 budget, which was approved by Parliament in September, “is focused on continuing this growth momentum, concentrating on infrastructure development of our roads, bridges, and government buildings and providing opportunities for our youth in various spheres, including innovative agriculture and increasing our energy sector activity.”
He said after being forced to tighten TT’s expenditure profile during the last few years, “for the first time in 14 years, this country experienced a budget surplus in 2022, with revenues exceeding planned expenditure.”
While acknowledging this was no easy feat and pointing out TT is not experiencing a boom, Rowley said, “Our carefully managed circumstances are improving.
Since 2015, he said the PNM has been doing “a careful reduction in excessive and wasteful expenditure, combined with significant changes in our energy fiscal regime.”
This approach, Rowley continued, “have positioned us to benefit from the current, higher energy prices in the world market.”
He also said, “There has been a good response and recovery from the non-oil sector and our financial systems remain strong.”
While this is happening, he observed that a new global dynamic has created various challenges.
“High energy prices have resulted in increased global inflation. The cost of food, fuel, electricity, fertilisers and other crucial inputs in manufacturing, agriculture and production has increased globally, to levels unseen in decades.”
Despite these challenges and their ability to erode the purchasing power of ordinary citizens, Rowley said, “I assure you that in 2023, the Government will continue to contain high and rising prices.”
He said improved earning allowed Government a renewed attempt to settle a large amount of recurring debt which was being carried in a number of government departments.
“This will continue into 2023.”
He also said Government is anxious ” to have its offer to public servants (2013-2019) adjudicated upon by the (special) tribunal (of the Industrial Court) so that negotiations for a new, less traumatic period, can commence in calmer and improved circumstances.”
In November, a dispute between five trade unions and the the Government over the latter’s four per cent wage offer to public servants was referred to the tribunal for resolution.
Those unions included the Public Services Association, Fire Service Association, TTUTA, Prison Officers Association and the Police Social and Welfare Association.
The Amalgamated Workers Union and the Defence Force have accepted the four per cent offer while police officers have said they, too, were willing to accept it.
Rowley said, “An early settlement as proposed by the Government would see a not insignificant sharing of the increased revenues with a large portion of the population, the salaried and wage-earning class, who have been feeling the brunt of the harsh realities that we have been grappling within the last few years.”
He cited the restructuring of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for better service delivery and the expansion of Caribbean Airlines’s (CAL) fleet and services across the Caribbean as welcome news.
Legislatively, Rowley said, “We are cautiously opening discussions on some aspects of public sector reform, and we continue to prosecute white colour crime. We will advance the whistleblower legislation and campaign finance reform on the legislative programme.”