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James: Budget wasn’t an honest statement
Political analyst Winford James says the 2013/14 budget was not an honest statement. Speaking a day after the fiscal presentation by Finance and the Economy Minister Larry Howai, James said the statement “brought no bold steps but contained the traditional revenue gathering and expense-making measures.” James said the size of the budget, $61 billion, was the largest in the country’s history and that should be noted. He spoke of moves by Howai to balance it.
He said no new taxes were introduced which meant “nobody is going to be affected by the budget.” James said the fiscal package provided some relief for pensioners. “The population was not ruffled or agitated by the budget,” he added. He said the Government had effectively backed-off from reintroducing the property tax. James said there were benefits in the package for the middle class as expenditure levels were to be maintained.
“It was not an arresting budget. It will not make you pause or sit up and take notice. It was a wish list,” James said. Dealing with the decision to remove the fuel subsidy for national airline Caribbean Airlines, James said while he was happy it would not be removed on the national airbridge, the same could not be said for the regional and international flights. He said maintaining the subsidy for CAL on the Trinidad/Tobago airbridge was necessary to boost inter-island travel. “It is good for Tobago tourism,” he added.
James said Howai had a lot of explaining to do as it seemed unlikely that the removal of the subsidy would not cause an increase in the ticket price for regional and international travel. He said the matter had to be more carefully thought through. On the allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly, James said “the barest minimum” was allocated. He said the THA was allocated about $300 million for development projects while the Central Government got $850 million.
According to James that was “silly politics, punitive and won’t get them (PP Government) very far.” On House Speaker Wade Mark’s declaration of Herbert Volney’s St Joseph seat vacant, James said it was a good ruling. He said Mark was “on the ball” in the matter and should be congratulated for his decision. Volney’s seat was declared vacant after he resigned as a member of the United National Congress.
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