Trinidad and Tobago: Leader of Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad Bissessar slammed the Rowley-led administration and outlined the reasons and further impacts of the downfall in the energy prices in Trinidad and Tobago.
What have you done with all those billions of dollars? What do you have to show for expenditures of this massive amount of money?” asked Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she joined the debate following the delivery of the Mid-Year Budget Review by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
She laughed as she recounted that Imbert boasted that the Government had not borrowed any money in the past five months.
“You know you’ve hit rock bottom when the only accomplishment this Government can tell us about is that they did not borrow for the first five months of the year.
Big accomplishment, shouting and boasting and celebrating,” she said.
“All the things that the minister is boasting and crowing about has nothing to do with leadership.”
She said the good news brought by Imbert was actually based on the higher international energy prices.
“So the question is this, after the war in Ukraine, after these prices go back to normal, what would you do? What will you do?” she asked.
“You have shown no projects, no policy, no strategy, no plan to grow the economy but you boasting about high energy prices.”
Persad-Bissessar said once the war in Ukraine is over, the Government will go back to “raiding” the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.
“Would you go back to borrowing, because you have no new projects, no revenue streams, no investments?” she asked.
Persad-Bissessar said it was “very difficult” to believe all the good news Imbert had listed.
“I am not saying he is dishonest but I am saying that he is over-exuberant and very optimistic and seeks to infuse that into the national population but I am not convinced,” she said.
She said she was also not convinced that Imbert even believed himself.
“Very low tone, very low key,” she said.
She said while Imbert listed the billion-dollar VAT payment, the IMF report said that over $7 billion was owed to people.
“That VAT payment goes backwards, it is not accrued over this period,” she said.
She said that the Government was taking VAT payment as a loan and giving it back to people years later, and promised to revamp this when she took over the Government.
One of the issues that plagued yesterday’s debate was the determination of speaking times, which was initially set for 45 minutes for rebuttal but was changed last-minute to 66 minutes. Persad-Bissessar told the Government that if they thought they were “blindsiding” her, they were wrong.
“And listen, you (Imbert) talked for 67 minutes, I could do that and more so don’t think you blindsided me, don’t think you blindsided us by telling us that we would only have 45 minutes and come today and say ‘unlimited time’. I am not afraid, I could out talk you any day, any time,” she said to desk-thumping support.
She read out the details of a WhatsApp exchange between Opposition chief whip David Lee and the leader of Government business about the speaking times, in which the Opposition was told that the 45 minutes, which was customary, would be in place for the first responder and 30 minutes for other speakers.
“You misled this House and you misled us,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said there was a “biasness” in the House and did not blame the Speaker but said the PNM attempted to run the House as if it was Balisier House.