T&T Prime Minister warns of tough economic measures

Keith Rowley
Keith Rowley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Prime Minister Keith Rowley on Sunday marked the first anniversary of his People’s National Movement (PNM) Administration in office, warning the population to expect new taxes and tougher economic policies as he seeks to steer the country’s ailing economy away from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Rowley, who was given a 51 per cent approval rating by the Trinidad Expressnewspaper in a poll released on Sunday, said that the new taxes would be outlined when Finance Minister Colm Imbert presents the 2016-17 national budget later this month.

Speaking on a television programme here, Rowley said while all was not lost in turning around the economy that has suffered ever since the global price of oil slumped from more than US$100 to as low as US$40 over the past year, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago must continue to brace themselves for tough times ahead

“As difficult as the circumstances appear and sound, if we make the best decisions available to us, then there are ways out of all of these situations and that is what the Government is aiming to do,” Rowley told television viewers.

“We are in a period which require very sane and sober decision-making, and the Government has a responsibility to ensure that our decision- making and our execution [are] underpinned by an understanding that we are in a situation where if we do not make these decisions, sometimes painful as they might be, the situation could be far worse than it is right now,” he added

Rowley brushed aside remarks by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that his Administration should receive an “E” grade for its first year in office, reminding the population that it was because of the reckless spending of the former People’s Partnership Government which she led, the oil-rich twin island republic now faces socio-economic problems.

He gave his first year in office a seven out of 10, saying as a “country we have not done too badly.

“We are in a very difficult situation like …all other petrochemical economies which suffered some significant downturns that immediately put the country in a situation where the population is required to respond.

“By and large, I think we have not done too badly and there are areas where we could have done better, and we do have some significant adjustments to make and the future would depend on how well we make those adjustments,” Rowley emphasised.