|Supporters cheer the announcement that VAT from Nov. 15 there would be no VAT on food|
Speaking in her dual capacity as leader of the United National Congress (UNC) and as PM, she assured the country that the move is no political gimmick since it is something she had recommended while she sat in opposition in 2008.
She said it was one of two initiatives she had suggested to reduce the cost of food to the average citizen. The other, she said, was to consider reducing the import duty of food items to cut costs while still allowing locally produced items to remain competitive. She said these two items would be in Monday's "People's" budget.
Persad-Bissessar spoke at a pre-budget rally at Mid Centre Mall in Chaguanas attended by thousands of supporters of the People's Partnership.
With respect to the elimination of VAT, Persad-Bissessar said a committee would be established immediately comprising the Supermarkerts' Association, the Trinidad & Tobago Manufacturers' Association and other private and state stakeholders to review the list of items. The committee would report back before the Nov. 15 deadline for dropping the VAT.
In her preview of the budget the Prime Minister said it would contain measures to change the course of the country in the shortest possible time. She noted that her government had brought "fiscal control" to the country through the prudent management of former Finance Minister Winston Dookeran.
She noted that when the People's Partnership government took office the economy was under extreme stress with negative performance of minus 4.6 per cent. That has improved, significantly, she said to growth of 1.2 per cent.
She said the 2013 budget would focus on people and how to undertake initiatives intended to improve infrastructure, health, social services, housing, unemployment and to bring crime under control. She predicted a construction boom as a result of the projects to be undertaken once the budget is passed. That would further reduce unemployment and put more money in the hands of the average citizens.
From the inheritance of a "nearly depleted treasury", she said, the ship of state is now in "calm waters" as the country looks forward to economic expansion. She called on citizens to "embrace genuine prosperity" and take the opportunity to get better off than ever.
Speaking earlier, Finance Minister Larry Howai gave the assurance that the economic is stable and strong. He said the measures he would announce on Monday would help keep it that way.
Howai said the country's foreign reserves are at US$9.8 billion while the Heritage Stabilsation Fund has US$4.5 billion. Unemployment is down from 5.9 per cent to 4.9 per cent, he said. Howai added that citizens can expect to see improvements everywhere.
He said the emphasis would be on people with initiatives to deal with food production, crime, health services and education. He was emphatic that the GATE program for students would remain strong but added that there would be "no waste or abuse" in the system. The budget, he said, would be "about all of us for a better T&T."