The trinidad Guardian / Economist Indera Sageewan-Alli says Government should cut the Cepep and URP budget in half and re-allocate some of the monies allocated to those programmes to a more viable agricultural programme.

With warnings of an economy in the doldrums having been sounded even louder last Wednesday at the Prime Minister’s Spotlight on the Economy, Sageewan-Alli said while those discussions might result in Finance Minister Colm Imbert “tweaking” the already prepared budget, warning bells had been sounded that “things are bad with the economy and the population should prepare for the worse.”

In a stark presentation, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul lamented that transfers and subsidies to public utilities WASA and T&TEC have been not just for debt payment but for operational issues. He was particularly concerned that “billions had been spent on WASA.”

Sagewewan-Alli said she expects the budget to speak to some of those concerns.

“The fact is that subsidies is a big area and I can see Government attacking the issue of the utility rates,” she said

She said there is very little left to do with the fuel subsidy: “Government may move to completely remove it, but subsidies on water and electricity will be looked at.”

The 2017-2018 budget will be a “real balancing act as Government is faced with trying to maintain economic activity but at the same time ensuring it is not done through transfers and subsidies but through productive activity,” she said.

Sageewan-Alli while cutting the make work programmes will be hard, these are the kinds of decisions that have to be made. I

“In a co-operative model the very same workers could see the opportunity to own part of the estate rather than surviving on a ten days,” she said.

The budget she said should present the opportunity for both “inspiration to increase productivity and the hope that something is being done to make things better.”

She expects increases in alcohol, cigarettes and gambling “because these are areas where no matter the price people will find ways to buy.”

In addition, given the foreign exchange situation,Imbert might analyse the effect of the seven per cent on line tax and “may want to double it, I could see that as a place they will go after,” Sageewan-Alli said.


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