Kamla promises no cutbacks despite falling petroleum prices
PORT OF SPAIN –– Oil prices are falling but citizens need not worry, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.
Delivering her New Year message at the post-cabinet media conference at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital, Persad-Bissessar said despite decreasing oil prices, Government would not be cutting back on any salaries, social and health care programmes, programmes or major projects.
Persad-Bissessar, who took no questions, said: “We are at a point in our nation’s affairs when we are faced with lower energy prices. I was part of a former administration in 1995 when the country also had to be managed with lower energy prices. Despite this, we demonstrated that we were up to the task and the country experienced a level of prosperity which few thought possible. I am therefore not daunted by the current situation but instead feel very confident of our ability to mitigate the impacts of lower energy prices whilst preserving jobs and promoting economic growth.
“I remain doubly focused on the task at hand. Attempts to distract my attention and energies from my responsibility to lead and manage the affairs of this nation will not deter me from my goal of a prosperous and secure nation.”
Persad-Bissessar said: “As we move into the New Year, I am as concerned about this country as everyone else should be. As such I propose to do the following. I will speak to the nation on the state of the economy on January 8, 2015. 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.
“On Friday, January 9, 2015 the Finance Bill will be debated in the House of Representatives. This bill 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.
“I wish to give 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. I look forward with keen interest in the ideas and suggestions which the stakeholders and citizens will share as we deepen our partnership in the interest of a prosperous and secure Trinidad and Tobago. In the meantime feel secure in the fact that your government is monitoring the situation on a daily basis and working with you in mind every day.”
Persad-Bissessar said when her People’s Partnership government came into office in 2010, the country’s financial stability was threatened by the CL Financial and Hindu Credit Union (HCU) fiascos, and now the country was in a better place enjoying political stability, economic growth, financial stability, lower levels of poverty although her government was the most scrutinized ever in the nation’s political history.
Persad-Bissessar also listed the government’s achievement, among them the maintenance of a subsidy on gas prices. And she said although the number of serious crimes was down, there were still the challenges of murders and domestic violence cases.
The 2015 Budget has been pegged to a US$80 a barrel oil price.
Oil prices have been on a decline since June 15 from US$115 per barrel. Four days ago, the price was US$54 per barrel.
On Monday, the price of oil was just under US$60 per barrel, and the price of natural gas has also been on the decline.
Local companies have already begun revisiting their budgets to deal with a possible prolonged decrease in oil and gas prices.