Política

Economist urges Government take time on removing fuel subsidy

“First thing came to mind is that there are so much work­ers in Trinidad and To­ba­go who are work­ing on de­pre­ci­at­ed salaries… to pay more at the gas tank now, it is a dif­fi­cult time we are liv­ing in,” De Gannes said

A econ­o­mist has ad­vised the Gov­ern­ment to be very care­ful with its tim­ing when re­mov­ing the fu­el sub­sidy.

Dr Vaalmik­ki Ar­joon gave this view in re­sponse to con­cern raised by the Prime Min­is­ter on Tues­day, that Gov­ern­ment now has to find $700 mil­lion to sus­tain the fu­el sub­sidy with the ris­ing cost of oil.

“When we go to pur­chase gaso­line at the pump, we im­port that, be­cause we closed our re­fin­ery sev­er­al years ago. And now the Prime Min­is­ter has sig­nalled an in­ten­tion that the fu­el sub­sidy is sim­ply not some­thing sus­tain­able. In fact, for many years now, in the past, many of us have agreed that it is not some­thing that was sus­tain­able,” Ar­joon said.

“I be­lieve that they should re­al­ly spare the na­tion at least for some months ahead, es­pe­cial­ly since they’re go­ing to be earn­ing more rev­enues like roy­al­ties, the sup­ple­men­tal pe­tro­le­um tax, et cetera. Now, I agree a sub­sidy is not sus­tain­able but we could re­al­ly end up un­do­ing any progress we made, re­cov­er­ing from the dam­age of the COVID 19 pan­dem­ic and have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences in over­all prices or the cost of liv­ing and do­ing busi­ness lo­cal­ly,” he fur­ther said.

Yes­ter­day, taxi dri­ver Roger Miller told Guardian Me­dia he spends on av­er­age $800 in fu­el a week. He said for a while now he has had to do a lot more to pro­vide for him­self and his fam­i­ly.

If the price at the pump goes up, he is wor­ried he’ll have to make even more ad­just­ments, a sac­ri­fice his pas­sen­gers will al­so have to make.

“To hold things down, we will have to do longer hours, come out ear­li­er and fin­ish lat­er and even take jobs that will cost about $200, we might have to cut it to $100 just to keep things flow­ing,” Miller said.

Lyn­don De Gannes, a mo­torist, said he too is wor­ried.

“First thing came to mind is that there are so much work­ers in Trinidad and To­ba­go who are work­ing on de­pre­ci­at­ed salaries… to pay more at the gas tank now, it is a dif­fi­cult time we are liv­ing in,” De Gannes said.

An­oth­er mo­torist, Ric­ki Ram­nar­ine, said, “For­tu­nate­ly, I have a diesel van and I think that the in­cre­ment in price would be a lit­tle bit less. But cer­tain­ly, I have a con­cern for the peo­ple who pay in gas and who live in the mar­gins of their in­come.”

“I’m on the road a lot. I fill up the tank, usu­al­ly at about $200. But when I had bought diesel ini­tial­ly, which would have been prob­a­bly about 10 years ago, I used to fill up the tank at about $100 or so,” Ram­nar­ine added

Ar­joon warned, “In the very near fu­ture, we could be look­ing at an in­fla­tion rate in the Unit­ed States of about 8.2 per cent – they are our largest trad­ing part­ner – so, when their prices are go­ing up by that amount, it means that when they ex­port to us or when we buy from them, we are go­ing to be pay­ing those high­er prices as well. Re­mem­ber that for a lot of con­sumers, their pur­chas­ing pow­er has been di­min­ished, so they haven’t re­al­ly seen an in­crease in salaries since they’re still liv­ing on 2013 or 2014 salaries. So, your pur­chas­ing pow­er has di­min­ished and that, of course, is go­ing to be wors­ened, giv­en high­er prices.”

Ar­joon added, “It is the mid­dle-in­come group, es­pe­cial­ly the mid­dle- and low­er-in­come group and small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es who are go­ing to feel the brunt of it.”

He said the ques­tion is whether Gov­ern­ment is on­ly look­ing to re­move the fu­el sub­sidy or lib­er­alise the price at the pumps as well.

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