PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar. 6, (CMC) – Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowly, has sought to assure Trinidadians that the country is not bankrupt.
Rowley, who addressed reporters at the end of a retreat in Tobago, yesterday, however, acknowledged that his administration is struggling to pay debts to public servants, contractors and suppliers on time.
“It is not a simple matter of, if you can’t pay, you are bankrupt. The Government does not go bankrupt… the Government is in that situation where it might not be able to pay today, but its ability tomorrow is there, because the Government has a revenue stream and different pockets and, it is an accepted structure of public accounting and management, that the Government has many pockets and you are not allowed to empty all at once,” Rowley said.
The Government owes employees of the country’s regional health authorities and members of the protective services an estimated TT$5 billion (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) as a result of the 14 per cent wage settlements, agreed to by the previous administration, last year.
The Prime Minister said, the first few months of the life of the Government had to be about finding out what was the true state of the country’s situation, and even though the People’s National Movement (PNM) anticipated difficult situations, “in fact, the real numbers and the Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert’s, ability to pay, has been worse than we anticipated.”
He added, citizens must understand that there is a limit to what the Government can do without money, and that the Government could not go “barreling along with oil at US$29 a barrel and the overdraft at its limit and no money in the current account. There is only so much you could have delivered in that situation.”
Rowley noted, that the Government was now attempting to rectify its ability to access the cash to fund its debts.
He disclosed, that Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, will address the issue of public servants’ debts soon.