Trinidad and Tobago
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Mark, Obika slam ‘backward’ budget

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Opposition Senator Wade Mark. –

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark and UNC chief economist Taharqa Obika have declared that the 2022/2023 budget is taking TT nowhere except backwards.

Addressing a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Port of Spain on Sunday, Mark said, “Under Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the UNC, the country had five years of economic prosperity.”

But all of this changed when the PNM was elected to government on September 7, 2015.

Mark said, for the last seven years TT has gone nowhere except backwards.

“That is the root of PNM policy.”

He claimed the latest person to advance that policy was Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland. Referring to Scotland’s contribution to the budget debate, Mark said, “He (Scotland) will use his coal pot to cook his breadfruit.”

Mark said Scotland and several other PNM MPs seem to be wanting the population to cut their productivity.

He wondered if the population will be asked to use flambeaux in the absence of electricity, or whether people will have to pay for their children to attend school.

Mark slammed Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe for criticising people about complaining too much and being unwilling to sacrifice.

“The people have been sacrificing for seven years.”

Mark said the people have not benefitted from that sacrifice to date.

He reiterated that over 100,000 people have lost their jobs over the last seven years.

Recalling that Cudjoe found herself in difficulty when she ran up charges on a government-issued cell phone bill, Mark asked, “Who had to sacrifice for that?”

He said taxpayers had to pay that bill.”

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Obika agreed with Mark.

He wondered how Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning could be defending the positions being advanced by Government in the budget. Obika wondered whether Manning’s father, former prime minister Patrick Manning (who died in July 2016) was turning in his grave.

Referring to the increased fuel prices mentioned by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the budget presentation in the House of Representatives on September 26, Obika asked whether the fuel subsidy had been completely removed.

On September 26, Imbert announced that the prices of premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel would be $7.75, $6.97 (increased by $1) and $4.41 (increased by 50 cents) per litre respectively.

“It should be noted that at these new fuel prices, if oil prices average US$95 per barrel for fiscal 2023, the Government will still be required to spend $1.45 billion to subsidise the price of fuel.”

Imbert said if oil prices average US$90 per barrel in 2023, “we will still have to spend $1.2 billion subsidising fuel.”

The budget debate continues in the House on Monday from 10 am.