Nobody is borrowing or investing since there is no confidence in an economy guided by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, says Opposition MP Dave Tancoo– but Imbert has argued that there is now slow recovery in some non-oil sectors.
Both squared off in Parliament yesterday debating Tancoo’s no-confidence motion against Imbert’s management.
Each used Central Bank reports to build their respective cases.
Tancoo said the Finance Minister’s performance is directly related to the economy’s performance. “When he fails, the entire country suffers,” he said.
He said the economy and non-petroleum sector were growing under the past PP administration when Imbert took office, “And like a sudden deadly virus, T&T’s economy went into shock and collapsed.
Tancoo cited collapse of the GDP, drop in T&T’s rating on doing business and fall in Government revenue.
He expressed concern on growing foreign debt and slammed Imbert’s borrowings and debt to local and foreign creditors and institutions.
Noting loss of 65,000 jobs, he added: “It’s clear the economy is in crisis ….they’ve gone from ‘Blame Kamla’ to ‘Blame COVID’”
“In a research paper published by Central Bank, it was determined the level of economic uncertainty deteriorated from moderate in 2014 to elevated and high uncertainty under this minister and eventually to very high during the first half of 2020 – a self inflicted wound.”
“When Central Bank reports that there is $10.5 billion dollars in excess liquidity in the vaults of commercial banks, it highlights what we already know– that the business community has no confidence in the investment potential of our economy under this minister .”
He accused Imbert of having Hero Syndrome – a phenomenon affecting people who seek heroism or recognition by creating a desperate situation that they can resolve.
“In the minister’s haste to build his narrative he ended up creating the problem, blaming everybody for it, and now, is unable to hide the truth any more,” he said.
Tancoo recognised Government had the majority of members to vote against the motion.
He said, “Everyone can predict the outcome of the vote. But that doesn’t stop us from highlighting this minister’s incompetence and failures.”
Colm: Non energy sector slowly recovering
Imbert revisited arguments against the PP administration’s financial management including that the economy had collapsed when PNM took office.
He said, “With expertise and hard work we arrested the decline and brought up revenue.”
He cited a Central Bank report, now out, which noted domestic conditions yet to fully stabilise from COVID shocks–but indicators also suggested the non- energy sector is slowly recovering fuelled by construction, finance and insurance.”Who to believe – them (UNC) or Central Bank?”
Imbert said the UNC cannot get over being judged and found wanting by the public in 2015 and 2020 general elections.
“They can’t get over the fact the (2020) election was won on our Government’s fantastic response to COVID and economic performance,” the minister added.
He said Government was able to endure through the oil price shocks and economic shocks of COVID to keep people in jobs, have sectors moving and industries ticking.
He asked if the UNC would have cut public service jobs or salaries or devalued the currency which PNM wouldn’t have done.
Imbert boasted that no other country had created a parallel health system like T&T’s .
He noted how health facilities in many countries were overrun/
“In Italy they were coming with trucks to pick up coffins ..terrible – that wasn’t happening in T&T,” Imbert said.
He said if what the UNC was saying was true, it would have been impossible for Government to win elections or maintain good financial ratings.
He noted in the middle of the pandemic T&T was also able to raise US$500 million in two hours on the international capital market.
“So what they talking about T&T bankrupt? When the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) yesterday was over (US)$ 5.7 billion – that’s not a sign of bankruptcy !”