Trinidad and Tobago can expect some austere measures in the upcoming fiscal 2012-2013 Budget, Finance Minister Larry Howai has said.
But, he clarified yesterday, it will not be real austerity.
"It's not really austerity but getting value for money. Some programmes need to be streamlined and focused on a bit better. The idea is to do that while taking some initiative to stimulate the economy," he said.
Howai gave a brief interview to the Express after the closing ceremony for the Deepwater Bid Round 2012 at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad), Port of Spain, yesterday. He noted that the budget will look at growth, but also address the areas in which the country needs to tighten up.
"A lot of those areas relate to transfers and subsidies where we need to spend a little more time looking to how we can do it a little better," he said.
He said the budget document was essentially ready but was quiet on the exact date it will be delivered and what size the budget will be.
Howai said the country's financial position, especially in the context of the wider Caribbean region, was "pretty good".
"The rest of the Caribbean is facing austerity and austerity in the real sense. We don't really have real austerity. They have high debt to GDP levels, relatively low foreign exchange reserves and their main product—tourism—is probably going to face some problems. But certainly Trinidad and Tobago has a certain degree of fiscal space. We have relatively low debt to GDP levels, we have relatively low unemployment and strong cash flows," he said.
He admitted headline inflation was high and a concern, but core inflation remained low.
"The big thing is food price inflation we have to focus on. That is going to be a bit of a challenge," he said.