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Tuesday, October 24 2017 @ 05:23 AM AST

Trinidad & Tobago to cut expenditure to avoid $14 billion deficit in fiscal 2018

Key takeaways from the prime minister's pre-budget forum at the Hyatt today in Port of Spain:

* "The country needs to know, that faced with a possible deficit in 2018 significantly about $14 billion dollars, some further cuts in expenditure will be unavoidable": Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

* While he didn't want to call it "exchange controls", Rowley promises to priotize distribution of foreign exchange to certain sectors to stave off depletion of reserves while protecting traditional exchange rate

* PM: Three or four sectors will be selected each year with projects aimed at generating foreign exchange and new levels of output.

* Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul repeats a lot of the bad economic news we already know

* PS Suzette Taylor-Lee Chee: Govt spent about $7 billion, about 20% of its revenues servicing debt this year; additional $5 billion given to state companies and agencies through the 'Transfers' part of 'Transfers & Subsidies' to service debt.

* NOTE: Last year, Govt spent about $4 billion servicing debt

* PS Taylor-Lee Chee: Trinidad & Tobago nearing debt ceiling after heavy borrowing; country can now borrow up to $6b locally and $11 billion overseas but at very high interest rates, given non-investment grade (junk) rating

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