By Ian Lambie
December 16, 2015 – newsday.co.tt
WE SHOULD all be ashamed, whether we be parliamentarian or proletariat who elected them to Parliament and permitted them to do their own thing for five years, that our legacy to our grandchildren and to our great-grandchildren will be: debt.
Since 2009 and up to 2015, our country has been spending more than it earned by approving deficit Budgets, with one exception — in 2010.
Our country’s total debt, as reported by the Central Bank, in 2006 was $26.582 billion; in 2007 it was $36.178 billion; in 2008, $41.691 billion; in 2009, $43.533 billion; 2010 when the PP Government assumed the reins for our finances it was $48.100 billion; 2011, $51.2013; 2012, $61.680; 2013, $66.866 billion; and in 2014, $79.121 billion.
This is an increase in our public debt of $31,021 billion, an increase of 64 percent, since 2010.
While Trinidad and Tobago has no control over the world’s market prices, our government does have the responsibility for balancing our annual Budget.
Our 2015/2016 Budget provides for an expenditure of $63.048 billion with revenue of $60.287 billion, a deficit of $2.761 billion.
I trust that our decision makers do not run their respective households in a similar manner: spending more than they earn and living in debt. No surprise that they want substantially increased salaries and perks, as determined by themselves. In 2007, I was very pleased when the government decided to save some of our energy wealth for future generations by establishing the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund for the purpose of saving and investing surplus petroleum revenues in order to cushion the impact on our public expenditure capacity during periods of revenue downturn, whether caused by a fall in prices of crude oil or natural gas, and to provide a heritage for future generations from the savings and investment income derived from excess petroleum revenue.
I had suggested at that time that there should be two distinct avenues for saving: 1. A Stabilisation Fund and 2. A Heritage Fund. By September 30, 2014, the fund had accumulated US$5.533 billion.
Mention must be made of the Green Fund, an environmental conservation fund, which was established in 2001 to provide financial assistance to organisations and community groups primarily engaged in activities related to reforestation using seedlings of indigenous forest tree species; restoring the functional capacity of an environmental resource damaged by natural or man-made causes; habitat or watershed protection and restoration after a storm; land restoration after quarrying or mining (a function which, in my opinion, should be the responsibility of the mining company, a condition which should have been included in the licence granted); conservation education programmes including sustainable hunting/ fishing methods; ecotourism projects; reducing pollution (air, water, land); protecting endangered plant and animal species, their habitats and ecosystems; and all other approved conservation projects.
We have been informed by the Minister of Finance that the Green Fund was used by the PP Government as collateral for a Central Bank overdraft.
On December 13, it was reported in the media that the minister had stated that should it be decided to proceed with a mass transit system, it will be financed by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. Additional debt for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to inherit.
It will be nice if the Government tells the people what system will be used, whether rail, bus or some other, the routes to be used and the cost of this proposed system.
In my opinion, any project which will add to the debt burden to be inherited by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren should be postponed until our national debt has been significantly reduced and our decision makers cease spending more than we earn.