PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):
The Trinidad and Tobago government on Monday announced a multibillion-dollar package, including a TT$1,500 monthly payment to unemployed persons for the next three months, as the twin-island republic deals with the economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, speaking at a news conference at which it was disclosed that the number of people testing positive for the virus had reached 51, said that the government would also be making significant amounts of money available for the payment of value-added tax and income tax refunds.
He said that the Keith Rowley government would be looking at various avenues for funding the initiative, including from the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, as well as the Andean Development Bank.
Imbert said that apart from these financial institutions, Port-of-Spain will also look to towards loan financing on the international market from large entities like Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Bank of America, and JP Morgan.
He said the fourth source of funding will be “both foreign currency, US dollars, because there are large deposits of US dollars in the local banking system”.
People will go through ‘hardship’
Imbert said that the government would need an estimated TT$400 million to finance the unemployment salary relief programme, as well as TT$390 million to meet the VAT and income tax refund payments. In addition, the government has indicated its willingness to fund a TT$100 million Liquidity Support programme for credit unions for on-lending to their members.
“We recognise that people will go through hardship,” Imbert said, adding that the government would need to “find cash immediately” for various social programmes.
“We are looking at plugging a hole in our revenue situation of $6 billion to $7 billion, and immediately at another $2 billion in cash to deal with the support measures,” he added.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh expressed disappointment that some people who were still flouting regulations regarding social distancing as the authorities try to keep a lid on the novel coronavirus.
He told reporters that the government had to close down a private preschool in the west of the country on Monday after the principal had sent letters to parents indicating that the facility was open for business.