PORT OF SPAIN – Cabinet will go into a three day retreat from Monday, according to a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
The statement said that the “working retreat” will follow the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session today.
It gave no details as to the agenda for the retreat, but political observer say that crime will be among the priority items given the escalating crime situation here that has resulted in more than 400 murders so far this year.
Last year, the island recorded 600 murders and during the recently held campaign for the Local Government elections, the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) highlighted the crime situation with Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar reiterating her party’s position on licensed firearms for citizens and urged those under threat from attacks to “light them up” and “empty the whole clip”.
But Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was critical of the Opposition Leader’s position, noting that while the issue of crime and criminality was not new to Trinidad and Tobago, no one needs to be re-traumatised by persons on a political platform who are only intent on using it to create fear-mongering among the masses.
“But talking bout empty the ‘matic and empty the clip…all of that is unfortunately, a script that somebody wrote for the Opposition Leader who went off and made a fool of herself,” Rowley said .
The Cabinet retreat comes a few weeks before the annual budget is presented to Parliament and in recent times, the government has welcomed domestic and international reports of an improved economy.
Last month, the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) said economic activity was expected to improve this year, bolstered by activity in both the energy and non-energy sectors.
The CBTT said that Central Government’s fiscal position remained in surplus, albeit lower than the corresponding period one year earlier. It said the fiscal accounts recorded a surplus of TT$88 million (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) in the first nine months of fiscal year 2022/23 (October 2022 to June 2023), compared with a surplus of three billion dollars in the same period a year earlier.
“Total revenue rose by TT$2.3 billion, while expenditure grew by TT$5.2 billion. Adjusted General Government debt outstanding (which excludes debt issued for sterilisation purposes) increased to TT$134.6 billion (68.2 per cent of GDP) in June 2023 from TT$129.7 billion (66.5 per cent of GDP) recorded at the end of September 2022.”
In July, the government welcomed the latest international credit ratings for the oil rich twin island republic after the United States-based agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) affirmed the country’s BBB – credit rating, with a stable outlook.
“S&P’s affirmation of our credit rating is a positive development and Trinidad and Tobago is one of the few investment-grade countries within the Latin America and Caribbean region, and in fact, the only one in the Caribbean,” said Finance Minister, Colm Imbert. (CMC)