This budget is a budget of recycled broken promises according to the Opposition Leader. Among them, she says, are: Valencia to Toco Highway, Toco Port, highway extension to Point Fortin, San Fernando Waterfront and La Brea ship building facility.
KPB: Government has foreshadowed a “police shutdown.” She claims there have reductions in allocations for the TTPS at a time when robberies and home invasion are everywhere. She alleges that there has been a reduction in the funding for “goods and services” for the TTPS from $515M in fiscal 2020 to $334M in fiscal 2021. KPB also claims that there is no money allocated for new vehicles. She also says on the TTPS has been unable to pay contractors, some of which say they will no longer service police.
The Opposition Leader suggests that Government put a “price cap” on fuel at the pumps to protect consumers. This follows the budget announcement of the removal of fixed retail margins for all liquid petroleum products.
KPB: Government’s proposal to sell NP gas stations will make the company less profitable as it earns significant revenue through its agreements with petroleum dealers, as well as management and rental of gas stations.
KPB also believes there is a shortcut in valuation which she has dubbed “macco valuation” due to valuators not being allowed to enter homes. Instead, she says valuators stand on the curbside and estimate the value of the property.
Property tax: The Opposition Leader is warning tenants that rent prices could increase due to the implementation of property tax. She is also questioning the move to start implementing the tax on residential properties. She believes industrial and commercial properties should have been targeted first.
KPB: There are no new, sustainable revenue streams in the budget. There are just taxes, borrowing and sale of assets.
The Opposition is calling for a forensic investigation into the $6bn spent on COVID-19 grants. “I am not convinced that the provision of these grants is being done equitably and with transparency.”
KPB: Every day people reach out to me saying they are in desperate need for support.
The Opposition Leader is asking the state to consider allowing Local Government agencies to help with distribution of grants. She believes centralizing distribution at two ministries means grants are not reaching the people most in need.
On jobs, the Opposition Leader says employment was a disaster even before the COVID-19 pandemic. She claims, based on NIB data, that 64,692 persons lost jobs between June 2015 and June 2018. She says more persons, outside of the NIB system, also became unemployed.
KPB: The budget was outdated before the ink had dried. There is nothing new in the package, she says.
The Opposition Leader urges government to consider a 5% pay cut in solidarity with suffering citizens. She says this has been done by countries like New Zealand. The money, she says, can go to a fund for needy citizens.
She calls for benchmarks from Government for the promises made regarding devices for students. She again criticizes the state for cutting the laptop program.
The opposition leader says, “We are as stable as jelly.”
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar kicks off debate on the 2021 Budget with her official response in the House of Representatives.