Finance Minister Larry Howai said yesterday that plans were now underway for the public offering of shares in two State-owned financial enterprises to private investors within the next 12 months.
Those enterprises are the bank, First Citizens, and Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Bank.
Howai, the former chief executive officer of First Citizens, made the announcement as he led off the Senate's debate of the budget for fiscal 2012/2013 yesterday at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
He had announced plans to have Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) of both State enterprises when he first presented the budget in the House of Representatives on October 1, but had not at that time given any deadline for the public offerings.
"Over the next fiscal year, government will take the necessary steps to make the IPOs of First Citizens Bank Ltd and Trinidad, and the Trinidad Mortgage Bank a reality," Howai told the Senate yesterday.
But he said on October 1, the IPOs will comprise 20 per cent of the First Citizens shareholding and will be limited and not offered to international investors.
He said yesterday, however, the IPOs will only occur in consultation with the line Ministries and boards of directors responsible for both State enterprises.
Armed with an arsenal of financial statistics, the Minister said that while the Government projected there would have been a deficit for fiscal 2012 of $7.6 billion or 4.9 per cent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product or GDP, it spent slightly less than the $54.6 billion it had expected to spend.
"For fiscal 2012, central government's fiscal operations are expected to result in an overall deficit of 6.6 billion or 4.3 per cent of GDP. Total revenue and grants is estimated at $47.6 billion and total expenditure and net lending at $54.3 billion, resulting in a surplus of $1.5 billion," Howai said.
Howai also said the net asset base of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund rose from US$4.7 billion or TT$26.3 billion in fiscal 2011 to close to US$4.7 billion or close to TT$30 billion in fiscal 2012.
But Opposition Senator and economist Dr Lester Henry raised some concerns about the future of the fund, which is managed by external managers, as he led off the Opposition's response.
"They want to interfere to change the investment roles to have local managers have some of that money, So you will have the possibility of injecting heritage and stabilisation funds into the domestic economy. Now why would you want to do such a thing?" Henry asked.
He said that could be what he called "another back door way of enriching friends and families of the government."