INDEPENDENT Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan has expressed "deep-seated concern" about the acceleration in this country's debt, levels of borrowing and the speed at which it was happening.
He was contributing to the debate on the 2012/13 budget in the Senate yesterday at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
He said Government has to be more conservative with planning and projections as the country's oil and gas volumes were decreasing and there was little opportunity to increase these.
"Don't hang your hat where you can't reach," he advised.
He criticised the "God is a Trini" mentality and the belief God will ensure oil and gas prices remain at a point where we "continue to live the way we living" without increasing our volume of output.
He said the "family" of Trinidad and Tobago must not be misled but must be told the "cold hard facts".
He noted, however, that any government in power, and with national elections in two years and Local Government elections and Tobago elections coming up, would be "hard pressed to cut expenditure".
He said, however, this was a political decision.
Ramkhelawan said whatever administration was in power the country will feel the brunt of bad decisions and benefit of good decisions.
"We have to prepare for a time over the next three years, if we cannot get stellar growth, where we are going to have to band our bellies collectively," he added.
He noted that the debt to GDP ratio has grown from about 36 per cent to 46 per cent in one year, "a 10 per cent jump in absolute terms of debt", which was mainly for the CLICO situation.
He said if the country continues to borrow, and the growth position is "muted and flat", and this country's debt to GDP ratio crossed the 60 per cent threshold those who lend externally would not want to lend any more.
Ramkhelawan said Finance Minister Larry Howai was "searching and scrambling" for sources of revenue but had fallen short.
He added that if the country does not get growth and the cost of borrowing increases and financing goes up, the "tipping point" will be reached faster than anticipated.
On the issue of agriculture, he noted that with the shutdown of the sugar industry, 50,000 acres of land have been left lying fallow "and up to now we cannot even ramp up to put five or 10,000 acres of those lands back to agriculture usage".
On the CLICO issue, he questioned whether all the debt had been resolved, noting that taxpayers will have to bear the burden of former finance minister Winston Dookeran's increase in the 20 year bonds from 45 cents on the dollar to dollar on the dollar.