Minister of Finance Colm Imbert moves a motion that the House adopt the report of the Standing Finance Committee during the sitting of the Parliament, yesterday.

Renuka Singh

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has announced that the State expenditure on senior citizens’ pensions stands at $4 billion per year.

He was speaking at the close-off of a motion to adopt the Standing Finance Committee report in Parliament yesterday.

“That is a huge amount,” Imbert said, adding that he rejected the “histrionics” by the Opposition that the State was not taking care of the vulnerable through social grants.

“Any country, of the size of T&T that spends $5 billion a year in social grants has to be among the leaders in the world in terms of how much money it spends in taking care of the poor and the vulnerable,” he said.

“Trinidad and Tobago is a world leader in terms of the amount of money that we spend taking care of our senior citizens, the disabled and socially disadvantaged,” Imbert said.

That $4 billion is spent to assist 100,000 senior citizens with pensions.

Imbert also said that the effects of the Evolving Technologies loan were still being tabulated but said the money was utilised to fund the development and management of the Vanguard Hotel, which is now the Magdalena Hotel in Tobago.

Imbert responded to several outstanding questions, one of which was about the financial institution responsible for the refinancing of a multi-million dollar loan to the Urban Development Company of T&T (Udecott).

The bill to vary the appropriation of sums seeks to provide over $43 million from the Consolidated Fund to add to the already budgeted figures.

“The institution that was used to refinance the $230 million loan to Udecott was First Citizens bank,” Imbert said.

“With respect to the effect of the loan it had no effect on our net debt to GDP and they are currently calculating whether there was any effect on interest,” Imbert said.

Imbert said if the loan was paid off in cash, the State would have incurred some interest on the overdraft at the Central Bank.

“And that has to we weighed up against any interest charges that might be due on the refinanced loan,” he said.

Among the answers to outstanding questions was one on how many people access the GATE funding for 2020. Imbert said that he believed that the year was incorrect but provided it anyway, saying that some 26,665 people accessed the Government’s GATE funding for fiscal 2020.