The 2022 Budget is expected to be a little different since things must be incorporated into the package related to the pandemic while some old budget items that may have to fall by the wayside.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley indicated this following yesterday’s conclusion of a Cabinet retreat where discussions included kickstarting the economy.
Rowley, commenting on a T&T Guardian article about the National Gas Company (NGC), confirmed that he supported the board getting an indemnity for its investment in the Train 1 rescue package. He said it wouldn’t be a waste of money if Train 1 was decommissioned, adding that snippets of government information on these very complicated matters can be misleading. He said it’s not a simple matter of “shutting down” Train 1 but how Government negotiated its interests against its interests elsewhere in LNG.
Rowley said Government is constantly in highly confidential sensitive talks with Shell and BP and it wasn’t just an article about something on a page that was leaked.
“It’s very complicated. Rest assured everything Government does, its primary objective is protecting and preserving the people’s best interest,’’ he said
Rowley said the retreat involved a comprehensive review of T&T. With almost all ministries involved in handling the
COVID-19 challenge, there was a particular focus on presentations from Finance, Social Development and Agriculture.
Rowley said money wasn’t elastic so if new things had to be done on the COVID situation some old items that are normally in Budget “wish lists” may have to fall by the wayside as Government seeks to re-engineer growth. This includes assisting those “smothered” by COVID to regain their feet
The Social Development Ministry will also be re-engineered to ensure the help Government is providing reaches those who need it. There was also discussion on how the Finance Ministry will ensure Government support reaches small, medium and entrepreneurial areas. Health particularly must have funding to pay medical personnel and for drugs.
He said he was pleasantly surprised to see T&T was a little better off “than some conversations would have allowed you to think.” He said Finance Minister Colm Imbert was seriously “interrogated” to ensure the numbers are fact and not as bad as would have appeared.
Rowley said whatever concerns there are on losses and business disruptions, so far T&T has managed to evade the worst side of the pandemic and the health system hasn’t collapsed but it’s also a country with a consistent stream of COVID deaths.
“I’d hate to think we’re taking that as par for the course,’’ Rowley said.