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‘Billions borrowed to pay public servants’

Trinidad Express / Finance Minister Colm Imbert says Government made it through 2017 by borrowing billions of dollars from commercial banks to pay public servants.

“In the last year I had to go to the banks to borrow to pay salaries on at least four unplanned occasions. On some occasions we had to lock down the Treasury, telling them we can’t issue any more cheques because we simply didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he told a post budget meeting held by the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce on Tuesday.

“People don’t understand these things…we had to rush and issue treasury notes…rush to commercial banks and borrow a billion here and a billion there just to pay public servants salaries at the end of the month” he added.

“We didn’t announce it but that is how we got through 2017,” Imbert went on.

Again emphasising that Trinidad and Tobago was in a very difficult economic position, he implored the private sector to not only look at their own situation, but the country’s.

“I notice the banks are angry with the imposition of tax of 35 percent on them but we have to spread the adjustment. The economy is in a recession. People are losing their jobs and banks are posting profits of $1.2 billion a year. I’m sorry but we have to spread the adjustment,” Imbert said.

He said it was easy for people to suggest that Government devalue the TT dollar, but Government has to be sensitive to the effect this will have on both investment by the private sector, who outside of the energy sector are the economy’s engine of growth, and on the ordinary man.

“We will become a poorer country in terms of what we could afford and the cost of living will go up,” he explained.

Imbert said he hopes that the tax measures outlined in Monday’s budget will be temporary.

“…but it will only be temporary if everybody shares the burden,” he stressed.

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