UNIMPRESSED: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Chief Whip David Lee at the Leader of the Opposition’s Office in Port of Spain on Monday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –
OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday described the $57 billion budget by Finance Minister Colm Imbert as a “spranger’s budget.”
Speaking an hour after Imbert’s four-hour presentation, Persad-Bissessar said the budget was filled with broken promises and nothing to stimulate TT’s economy.
She said she was told that a spranger (a homeless drug addict) was someone who would “pick up” whatever they could find to sell. The budget, she added, reminded her of that.
“These measures, recent taxes and recent fines are like sprangers. It is like a spranger’s budget,” she said at the Opposition Leader’s office, Port of Spain.
She said it was just a “wash, rinse and repeat” budget with some of the promises recycled from previous budgets. Some of the reused promises, she said, included digital hubs, free public WiFi and improved health facilities.
She described Imbert’s presentation as “sufferation for the people” and was not sure if she would last as long as Imbert did during her response on Friday.
Asked if there was anything in the budget – titled Tenacity and Stability in the Face of Global Challenges – she found to be good, the Opposition Leader said there were a few notable items. She added though that they were not enough to give the budget a passing grade.
“What are the overall strategies for the economy to grow? I don’t see anything this minister has mentioned, and he boasted so heavily about the energy sector being the greatest and ‘we will do this,’, I don’t see any of that growing the economy.”
Not wanting to cherry pick, she said the social grants was one of things she can agree with, along with awarding $210 million to health care workers.
She questioned why the police were not afforded a similar payment as health workers, since they too worked throughout the pandemic on restricted or no leave.
Asked if she was concerned about the increase in the cost of living – a knockon effect of the increase in fuel – leading to more crime, Persad-Bissessar said there is no correlation between the two.
“There will be an increase in suffering. I will not say poverty is the cause of criminality, there are many other factors that impact criminality and violence.”
The country is already reeling from the onslaught of crime, she said, and there was nothing in the budget to address it, adding there was no strategic thinking but only tinkering on past unfulfilled promises.
“It is clear that the country’s economy is on a deathbed, it is not just unhealthy. We are on a deathbed.” She promised to respond in greater detail on Friday when the budget debate begins.