Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in Parliament. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI
The Prime Minister says the Government is offering public servants a four per cent wage increase because that is what the country could afford.
Speaking at a press conference at the Red House after the 2023 budget on Monday, Dr Rowley said, “I don’t have any problem with people advocating for the best for them, but at the end of the day there has to be reason.”
This after, the Industrial Court granted the Minister of Labour an ex-parte injunction, on Sunday, ordering teachers to go to work rather than engaging in industrial action planned for Monday.
He said he was aware public servants had not had a salary increase for a long time but the government had already borrowed $6 billion to pay public servants back pay, and money for anything more than four per cent was not available.
And if the unions did not agree with the four per cent, the final decision would be with the Industrial Court, not the Government.
Rowley also said he believed the Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, presented the best national budget in eight years.
“Not very long ago we were in a situation that was dire and it largely had to do with our accustomed expenditure level and finding ourselves in a situation of significantly reduced revenues.”
He said the country had to go into a lot of debt to keep public servants’ jobs and the economy going during the pandemic. And TT’s situation improved mainly because of external factors outside of the government’s control, specifically the Russian/ Ukraine war, which increased oil prices.
The budget was based on an oil price of US$92.50 a barrel and gas price of $US6 per MMBtu. As such, the 2023 budget deficit was less than one per cent, which, according to the PM, was a very good position to be in.
He said because energy prices fluctuate, the country’s economic situation was temporary so the government had to monitor the situation and be cautious. However, he said, if oil prices collapse and the revenue did not “pan out” as the Minister of Finance anticipated, the deficit would increase but “it would not kill us.”