Cash transfers or no cash transfers? – APNU+AFC confused on use of oil money – Dr. Singh


The APNU+AFC opposition is incoherent on its proposed ideas for use of the country’s oil funds, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh told Trinidadian media on Thursday.

Appearing on the AM Prime show on WESN, Dr. Singh said the APNU+AFC has both supported and opposed cash grants distributed by the government.

Responding to a direct question, Dr Singh said, “They articulate positions that do not reflect any degree of coherence. In one breath they say that we shouldn’t be providing cash transfers in times of crisis, in another breath they say we should be providing cash transfers in times of crisis.

“You hear all manner of random noises from the opposition from time to time in their effort to be critical. Regrettably, the statements that come out of the opposition don’t constitute either a coherent policy position that one can seriously engage,” Dr Singh said.

Further, the minister noted the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) is keen on ensuring that there is equitable distribution of the revenues, whether directly to the population or to support development in all sectors.

Upon being elected into government, the PPP/C immediately rolled out the $25,000 COVID cash grant for every household in response to the financial hardships citizens faced amid the pandemic.

Soon after several other cash grants were distributed to ease the burden of citizens although the government had not tapped monies set aside in the oil fund until mid- 2022.

Despite this, the government had been criticised by the key figures in the APNU+AFC who later changed their position in advocacy of direct cash transfers to citizens.

“We [the PPP/C] are a firm believer in delivering on our promises so in the first instance when we prepared our manifesto, we prepared our manifesto coming out of a consulting process. It reflects commitments that we believe that we can deliver realistically and that we are committed to delivering,” the minister said.

The Minister said this is in contrast to the APNU/AFC who made promises in the lead-up to the 2015 election but failed to substantially deliver on those promises when they lost the elections in 2020.

The PPP/C, he said is ahead of delivering on its promises to the people, including homeownership, job creation, and the further development of all sectors.

“The manifesto is our binding commitment and we are delivering. We are ahead of schedule on delivering our manifesto and we will continue to push aggressively to make sure that we deliver every single thing promised in the manifesto,” the minister said.

Already, the government has said it intends to spend a majority of its early windfall from oil and gas on development projects.

In July, US$200 million equivalent to G$41.6 billion was transferred from the Natural Resource Fund to the Consolidated Fund to finance these national development priorities.

The government made its first withdrawal of US$200 million equivalent to G$41.7 billion earlier in the year, bringing the accumulated withdrawals from the NRF to US$400 million, equivalent to G$83.3 billion.

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