T&T government burying head in sand over oil prices - Opposition
Trinidad and Tobago's main opposition People's National Movement (PNM) on Wednesday accused the coalition People's Partnership government of burying its head in the sand as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar indicated that her administration had no intention of reducing expenditure in certain areas, or cutting salaries in the face of dwindling global oil prices.
"The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who has led five consecutive record-spending budgets in this country, should tell us exactly how she and her Cabinet will manage our affairs so that
the challenging circumstances, collapse of oil prices, followed by lowering gas prices, would find us in a situation where our quality of life is not damaged irreparably," PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley said.
"Her statement has not addressed the challenges in front of us. She is burying her head in the sand and is totally consumed by the election that is a few weeks away," Rowley added.
In a New Year's message, Persad Bissessar said that she would, on January 8, address the nation on the state of the economy.
"I will address the issue of falling oil and gas prices and their implications for Trinidad and Tobago, and outline the way forward in the year ahead," she added.
Finance Minister Larry Howai said earlier this month that Cabinet would soon decide on measures to deal with the declining revenue stream brought about by the rapid decline in the price for oil.
Trinidad and Tobago's 2015 national budget is based on a reference price of US$80 per barrel of oil and a gas price of US$2.75 cents per mnbtu. But in recent months, oil prices had dropped from a high of US$102.90 a barrel to below US$55 a barrel.
Persad Bissessar, who will face a general election in 2015, said that her administration will table the finance bill in Parliament on February 9, noting that the legislation gives life and traction to the measures announced in the 2015 budget statement.
"Following this debate, during the following week, I will also engage stakeholders in a discussion on the state of the economy, the way forward and options for investment, growth, diversification and development," the prime minister said.
She said she wanted to give the country the assurance that "there will be no cut to affect the vulnerable and the underprivileged, as well as health-sector reform and crime fighting. The preservation of jobs is high on our agenda".
But, Rowley said, in a situation where the rest of the world, particularly those countries heavily influenced by hydrocarbon, are facing serious challenges "the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago is trying to convince the population that we do not have a problem ... to the extent that if we do have any kind of problem, she is on top of it".
He added that "what the country needs in these challenging times is leadership, honest leadership, (and) what the prime minister is going to tell the population is that we do not have a problem".