Finance Minister Colm Imbert has accused the Opposition of “scaremongering and hysteria” and of giving “fake news”. He said all of this was “entirely unwarranted”.
He was responding to Opposition statement on the $1.7 billion drawdown from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. The Opposition, which said it was very worried that Government's bad financial decisions were mortgaging the country's future, also said that Government “quietly” borrowed some $1 billion from the Central Bank overdraft facility and was seeking a further US $300 million loan from the Andean Development Bank.
Imbert said the Ministry of Finance, “in the interest of full public disclosure”, had recently advised that the Government intended to draw down TT$1.71 billion or US$251 million from the Heritage and Stabilization Fund, as part of the financing of the 2017 budget. “This intention had already been announced in the 2017 budget speech, and so, it was no secret,” he stressed.
He said that budget financing in Trinidad and Tobago was achieved in two ways, either by borrowing, or by drawdowns from the HSF, if the circumstances permit. “The positive aspect of a drawdown from the HSF is that it does not increase the public debt and thus does not increase our debt to GDP ratio,” the Minister stated.
He said in response to this “clearly articulated and prudent financing strategy, the commentary from the Opposition has been unreasonable and illogical, to the point of being ridiculous, with the usual liberal use of misinformation and what is now known as alternative facts or fake news”.
Imbert also pointed out that it was made clear in the press release from the Ministry that the HSF had earned US$274 million in income between May 2016 and March 2017. “Apart from the fact that the drawdown is governed by the statutory rules of the Fund and is based on the well known shortfall in revenues from petroleum in 2016, this drawdown of US$251 million is less than the income from the Fund over the last 10 months,” he stressed.
Further, the balance in the HSF after this drawdown at US$5.444 billion will be higher than it was after the last drawdown in May 2016, when it was US$5.420 billion, which demonstrates fiscal prudence, he said.