Finance Minister Larry Howai will present the largest national budget in the history of the country on September 9.
This year’s budget will be bigger than last year’s because the government will be looking to clear up substantial outstanding payments that should have been paid but have not.
“I have a big allocation to value added tax (VAT) (refunds) to clear up the backlog and so on, so because we have to take on these additional expenditures, I expect the budget numbers to be a lot higher but we will keep to our commitment to continue to try and reduce the deficit,” Howai told the Express yesterday at the International Financial Centre, Tower D, Port of Spain.
Earlier, Howai had signed an “aide memoire” with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the Bank to provide funding and expertise to the government to develop its Public/Private Sector Partnership Programme (PPP).
This, he said will contribute to the government’s goal of a balanced budget.
“The intention is for the PPP—precisely why we are doing it—to reduce the deficit. It will reduce the country’s debt. There are two ways we can do a project: either take money from the Infrastructural Development Fund or borrow it. So if I don’t have to take it out the IDB I don’t need as big an allocation in the Public Sector Investment Programme.
“If I don’t have to borrow, the debt number won’t be exacerbated. But we will have to incur cost in recurrent expenditure because we will have to pay for the service, but it does not send up expenses immediately but spreads it out over a longer period and ensures a better quality service (as run by the private sector) because it will be maintained better than with the government,” he said.
The PPP plan will in its first stage prepare for the establishment of medical diagnostic centres throughout Trinidad and Tobago (under its line ministry, the Ministry of Health), as well as construct ten primary schools and ten early childhood care centres across the country.
The diagnostic centres will take some time to approve, so Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan could not give a time-frame for tenders of construction, but Howai said tenders for the ECCEs could go out within six months.
Plans for PPP projects have to be approved by a nine-minister committee including the Attorney General, and then full Cabinet approval.
The government will seek both local and international private sector partners, Howai said, especially for the technical expertise needed for diagnostic centres, but the ECCE will utilise most likely mainly local contractors.