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SHALIZA HASSANALI

Brace for a hollow 2021 budget.

The warning came from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar two weeks ahead of the country’s October 5 fiscal package which will be delivered by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Responding to questions from Guardian Media, Persad- Bissessar was asked what is her expectation of the upcoming budget.

She said after five years without a single economic achievement to speak of “we can expect the Government to present yet another hollow budget devoid of ideas and dressed up with fancy slogans.”

At Thursday’s post Cabinet media briefing, Imbert said property tax will be used to earn state revenues, as the Government tries to keep the country afloat during major financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Persad-Bissessar said the next fiscal year “will undoubtedly be difficult,” stating that what the country needs is strong, leadership with a clear plan to improve our declining economy and help generate revenue for the future.

Regarding statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last month that the pandemic has devastated our efforts in the tourism market, creating a $15 billion hole which was likely to impact the upcoming budget considerably, Persad-Bissessar asked “where did this $15 billion figure come from.”

This hole was not caused by COVID, she said, but by their mismanagement and incompetence.

“Their politicising of the pandemic has created more problems for the people of T&T by their refusal to acknowledge their own failings. They ran an entire campaign saying we beat COVID-19 yet today we are supposedly in a $15 billion hole while cases continue to rise.”

She said the Government’s coping measure was to borrow, drawdown from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund and sell state assets to friends and financiers.

“Their Roadmap to Recovery report is yet to show any promising initiatives and they have taken us ten years backwards with disastrous policies.”

She said citizens are left to grapple with rising prices, soaring unemployment and diminishing income with little hope for the future.