Oropouche West MP, Davendranath Tancoo delivers his maiden speech during the budget debate at the Red House on Tuesday.

RADHICA DE SILVAEven though $253 billion was spent in the last five years, MP for Oropouche West Davendranath Tancoo says businesses are still going bankrupt because the government has failed to boost investor confidence.Delivering his maiden speech in Parliament on Tuesday, Tancoo said the government has shown insensitivity to the business community and a lack of understanding to the socio-economic challenges being faced by citizens.”Many small and medium-sized businesses who dutifully complied with the law, registered, and submitted their VAT returns on time were penalised by this Government’s withholding of their refunds,” Tancoo revealed.He added, “In our highly competitive environment, many were bankrupted as a result, and simply went out of business. Would you believe that these are some of the businesses, bankrupt, that this Member for Diego Martin North East is today promising tax relief for listing their businesses on the stock exchange?”He noted that the “460 companies which received refunds in bonds, still have to wait years before they can collect the face value of what the Government owes them unless they are willing to take a loss and sell them at a discounted price.”Tancoo also said at the end of 2019, there was over $4 billion in excess liquidity in the domestic market.”By September 2020, commercial banks excess reserves skyrocketed to 13.4 billion, the highest it has ever been in our Nation’s history. Interest rates are low but people are not borrowing to invest because they have no confidence in the government! We have already seen steps being taken to conduct valuations on several state assets,” he revealed.He added, “Why would the government conduct valuations now in what is the worse seller’s market we have ever had? The Minister wants us to believe that he has no plans to engage in a fire sale.”The MP also noted that many of the projects listed by the Minister of Finance as complete had never started.”I opened the PSIP 2021 booklet supplied by this Minister last week and randomly opened to page 49. I just selected one – the repair of Landslip L51 Reform Road – 2.0 -2.4 km which they claimed started in fiscal 2020. Madam Speaker, I checked and not a single boulder was put down on that Reform Road and I challenge any of them on the other side to prove me wrong,” Tancoo said.He added, “You cannot believe anything these Minister say! No work was done but the money was allocated and spent! Where has the money gone?”

He expressed concerns with the government’s public debt saying in 2020 the economy was expected to contract by more than 6 per cent.”The number of persons who lost their jobs grew by over 300 per cent in the first four years of this Minister of Finance and his government. They know that, and that is why they have deliberately underfunded the conduct of the household budgetary surveys/ survey of living conditions to conceal the truth from the population,” Tancoo alleged.He said he had hoped that the Budget would provide opportunities for the middle class.”It is no secret that the country performs best when the working class and the middle class get a fair chance when the economy is managed in the interests of everyone, when the people who create the national wealth, get their fair share of national wealth when everyone has a fair chance to achieve their true potential,” he said.He also challenged the Minister of Finance to provide a breakdown of all Government projects over the last five years saying there was geographic discrimination.”I challenge the Minister of Finance to give us the constituency breakdown of all the grants provided before and during COVID. Let him tell us which constituencies got these 25,000 food vouchers, how many, and when,” Tancoo said.He also called on the Government to fix the floodgates now.Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan who also delivered his presentation said there were over 400 desilting projects in 2020.

He said many of the flooding problems occurred because of the illegal encroachment in river reserves, inadequate drainages and a lack of funding.

He boasted that because of an aggressive drainage and desilting programme, flooding around the Caroni Drainage Basin has been reduced.

He said other desilting projects took place in Kelly Village, Bamboo Number One and Penal.Meanwhile, Housing Minister Penelope Beckles dispelled the allegations of geographic discrimination saying 45 contractors are in the process of constructing 173 housing units on service lots across T&T.

“Since its implementation in June 2020, 45 contractors are in the process of constructing 173 units on serviced lots within existing HDC housing communities, infill sites or in available government land developments across Trinidad. The projects are located at Arima (Malabar), Chaguanas (Edinburgh South), D’Abadie (Boys Lane), Mt. Hope (Pioneer Drive), Moruga (Preau Village), Princes Town (Buen Intento), Arouca (Bon Air), La Brea (Pier Road), Point Fortin (Strikers Village) and Gasparillo (Harmony Hall),” she added. (See other story)