FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert yesterday boasted that Trinidad and Tobago had maintained a good rating from the international rating agencies, which were pleased with the Government’s programmes.
Speaking in the House on a private motion, filed by Opposition UNC MP Bhoe Tewarie, Imbert said: “We have been able to maintain an investment grade rating with Standard and Poor’s and I am happy to announce today that Moody’s confirmed our credit rating. Where countries all over the world are being downgraded, today Moody’s affirmed our international credit rating,” he said.
“We were able to get our credit rating affirmed because we have a comprehensive medium macro-economic fiscal framework that we produced for Moody’s and they accepted it,” he said.
“UNC don’t have to accept what we doing you know but Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and all the international agencies are happy to accept what the PNM (Government) is doing,” he said.
Yesterday, Moody’s affirmed T&T’s rating at Ba1 but changed the country’s outlook from stable to negative.
It’s one of the highest in the Caribbean region, according to the Ministry of Finance press release issued.
“In a series of rating decisions that have seen a number of oil and gas exporting countries downgraded all over the world, Moody’s has simply changed the outlook to negative,” the release said.
“The shock-absorption capacity of Trinidad and Tobago has been enhanced by a bold and pro-active policy response. The rating stability owes in good part to the track record of the government, which responded to the previous oil shock post 2015 in a way that, according to Moody’s, exceeded its expectations. It is the intention of the Government to continue to preserve what underpins Moody’s credit rating; the sizable fiscal buffers, low liquidity risk and limited external vulnerabilities,” the release said.
“Each of them protect the population of Trinidad and Tobago throughout exceptionally adverse global circumstances,” said Imbert.
Moody’s decision to keep the rating of T&T unchanged is a testimony to the resilience of the country, in the face of unprecedented shocks, said Imbert.
He said at the Road Map Recovery meeting on Monday, there was the presentation of the first report and all the things the Government was doing, including a $300 million loan programme for small and medium enterprises and a $35 million grant for micro-enterprises.
“As I speak here the Minister of Transport is in his office handing out fuel grants of $2,000 to maxi taxi owners because we are a Government that cares about people and that is estimated to cost $10 million and it may actually cost a little more as we go along,” Imbert stated.
He said Tewarie’s motion was a “mish-mash, hodge-podge of ridiculous, frivolous proposals which made absolutely no sense,” he said.
He poured cold water over the UNC’s economic plan. He said the Opposition’s proposals would destroy the country’s economy and health system. He said after the UNC increased public expenditure by 50 per cent, with no revenue flow, and after taking the country from a credit position to $8 billion in overdraft, it was proposing to reduce taxes.
“Where is the money coming from to run the country?” Imbert asked, saying that the UNC’s ideas were “pie in the sky”. He said the UNC also “mortgaged” the Green Fund, but now was proposing to create a “Green Climate Fund”.
Imbert said the UNC was proposing to take what it described as “idle cash” from NIB and Unit Trust to create a food security fund. But, he said, every NIB report showed that the contributions were less than the benefits paid and unless action is taken, the NIB’s fund would be in difficulty in the next ten to 15 years. He said Unit Trust funds belonged to its unitholders and was not idle cash that a UNC administration could just “huff”.
Turning to the UNC’s proposal to invite the private sector to manage a locally branded hotel in Tobago, Imbert said the UNC chased away Sandals.
“They destroyed the reputation of Trinidad and Tobago as a safe haven for international hotel branding. They maligned Sandals, they maligned the Government, but their plan to create a brand hotel in Tobago, he said, adding that all the UNC talk was empty and vacuous.”
Imbert said the pain being felt by the population was due to the “reckless, overspending, the waste, corruption and mismanagement of the UNC administration between 2010 and 2015”.