Trinidad and Tobago
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Roget: Budget means more pressure for the masses

Clint Chan Tack OWTU president Ancel Roget.
OWTU president Ancel Roget.

OILFIELD WORKERS Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget believes the majority of the population will not benefit from measures that were outlined in the 2022/2023 budget by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the House of Representatives on Monday.

Roget spoke at a virtual post-budget panel discussion on Tuesday.

He was particularly critical of Imbert's announcement of increased fuel prices, which took effect on Monday.

In his budget presentation, Imbert said, "We have therefore decided to increase, as of today, the prices of premium and super gasoline, and kerosene by $1 per litre and diesel by 50 cents a litre."

The new prices are $7.75, $6.97 , $4.41 and $4.50 per litre for premium gasoline, super gasoline, diesel and kerosene respectively.

In April, the prices for premium gasoline, or premium gasoline, super gasoline, diesel and kerosene were $5.75, $4.97, $3.41 and $3.50 per litre.

Recalling that fuel prices had been increased in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Roget said, "More pressure for the masses."

He reiterated the OWTU's view that the increase in fuel prices will cause an increase in the cost of other goods and services.

He also claimed the decision to increase fuel prices was reflective of a strategy pursued regularly by the Government.

"They now give with their thumb and index finger and take back with both hands."

Roget believed because of the increased fuel prices, most people will not benefit from measures such as a one-time $1,000 transport grant (for people on social grants) and people earning $7,500 or less a month no longer having to pay income tax.

He said the budget benefited entities such as multinational energy companies as opposed to ordinary people, through measures such as reduced rates of supplemental petroleum taxes for new production in marine areas.

Imbert said this measure "will allow companies to access the required financing to increase their drilling and get approval for new exploration and production programmes thus increasing the production of much needed oil."

Roget predicted that people will face additional pressure soon because "property tax is around the corner."

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah agreed.

On property tax, Abdulah reiterated the MSJ's view that commercial and industrial property owners should pay this tax first, before residential property owners.

Former TT United Farmers Association head Shiraz Khan found it difficult to listen to Imbert's three-hour-long budget presentation.

"It was really boring."

Khan was dissatisfied with the $1.33 billion allocation for agriculture in the budget.

"We still treat agriculture as the bastard child of the economy."

Khan was not swayed by Imbert's announcement of an additional $300 million for agricultural incentives, infrastructure and programmes.

After querying whether anyone benefited from similar allocations in previous budgets, Khan said neither the PNM nor the UNC was serious about developing agriculture.

He recalled that a year after being elected to office on May 24, 2010, the UNC-led People's Partnership coalition "bulldozed farmers' lands to put down houses."