OPPOSITION Senator Dr Lester Henry has said there is a "plan afoot" to change the investment rules of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to allow local managers a share of the money.
He questioned the motive behind the plan, noting that the foreign managers have a "brilliant track record" and the local banking system was already "awash with liquidity".
"Could be a back door of enriching friends and family of the Government," he commented.
He was contributing to the debate in the Senate yesterday on the 2012/2013 national budget at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
Henry said this country's non-energy sector exports to Caricom were collapsing and there was a "precipitous" decline in the past year of $2 billion. He noted that in the Review of the Economy, trade with Caricom countries from October 2011 to June 2012 was $7.5 billion, down from $9.8 billion for October 2010 to June 2011.
He said Government was talking about expanding to other markets "but we can't keep what we have already".
He noted that total visible trade exports fell from $63 billion in October 2010 to June 2011 to $54 billion in October 2011 to June 2012.
"So what is there to shout about?" he asked.
He said he was "bewildered" that Finance Minister Larry Howai made no reference to what former finance minister Winston Dookeran had said would take place in the previous budget, and it was for the general public that he was supposed to state how the previous $54 billion budget had been spent.
He suggested that there be a law to ensure such an error was not made again.
Henry noted that with the global economic outlook and the almost dismal outlook for the local energy sector, this Government should be consolidating but instead was bringing expansion.
He said based on their own review of the economy there was decline in petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction. He noted one of the "worst things" was the decline in tourism with airline arrivals, cruise ship arrivals and yachting all on the decline.
"You have the distinct credit of chasing people away from Trinidad and Tobago," he quipped.
Howai, in his brief 24-minute budget presentation, spoke on the issues of strengthening revenue generation, changing land and building taxes format, increased production of oil and gas resources, and the need to create an enabling environment for growth.
He stressed that none of their initiatives will be successful unless the crime situation and lack of personal security this administration inherited is addressed.
He said there was a need for a strategic interventions, as we cannot simply "throw money at the crime problem", and there were therefore programmes like the Sport Ministry's "Life Sport" and "Hoops for Life".
Howai reiterated that there will be "stringent measures" to streamline the GATE programme, the implementation of infrastructure for CNG, and later this year the roll out of the inclusion of the self-employed in the National Insurance System which would cover "a wide range of persons" including taxi drivers, private consultants and domestic workers.