COVID-19 to cost Trinidad and Tobago $6 billion — finance minister

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COVID-19 to cost Trinidad and Tobago $6 billion — finance minister
Finance Minister Colm Imbert during yesterday’s press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert 

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — The Government relief programmes to offset the negative impact of COVID-19 is expected to cost the country six billion dollars.

This was the projected figure given by Finance Minister Colm Imbert as he gave a breakdown of Government spending to date and projected expenditure to the end of September, during the daily virtual COVID-19 press conference yesterday.

“Government has already spent $934m up to yesterday on COVID relief, and when you add everything up including the VAT bonds, the Caribbean Airlines facility and so on, the total is six billion dollars.”

Imbert said $700m in outstanding VAT refunds have been paid in cash with another $3b to be paid in VAT bonds, which is expected to start this week.

He also stated that Caribbean Airlines will receive support from the Government.

“As you will realise Caribbean Airlines is earning no money at this point in time, so that we have secured a 65 million US dollar loan (TT$442m) to assist Caribbean Airlines. We may need to give WASA (Water and Sewerage Authority) some supplementary funding, that is being looked at right now.

He said in his capacity as Corporation Sole, he has signed agreements with the umbrella body of credit unions to make available $100m for the membership of some 20 credit unions, and that may be increased in due course with another provision geared towards small business lending within the credit union movement.

Imbert added that the provision to credit union is for them to make loans available to their membership at a significantly reduced rate of around three percent.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, which has been at the centre of the country’s COVID-19 battle, has also received significant support.

“The Ministry of Health so far has spent $55 million dollars. We expect them to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $137 million, and this is not an easily determinable figure because if for example there would be an increase in the number of cases, God forbid, then the Ministry of Health would have to spend some more money.

“In addition if a decision is taken or if it is possible for university students to come back to Trinidad and Tobago, they would have to be quarantined and that’s an expense on the Ministry of Health. So we have an additional provision for the Ministry of Health of $250 million dollars. We expect their actual expenditure to be $137m plus $250m,” Imbert said.

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