• 21 APR 2016

Post Cabinet Briefing Summary – Thursday 21st April, 2016

The Minister of Public Administration and Communications, the Honourable Maxie Cuffie, hosted the Post Cabinet Press Briefing today (Thursday 21st April, 2016) at the Office of the Prime Minister, St. Clair, Port of Spain.


At the briefing, the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Colm Imbert, announced that he recently led a delegation, comprising of senior officials from the Ministry of Finance as well as the Central Bank, to Washington DC. The Trinidad and Tobago delegation held bilateral discussions with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with a particular focus on technical assistance. Coming out of those discussions, arrangements have been made for experts from the World Bank and the IMF to offer advice on a number of pressing matters including an appropriate oil and gas fiscal regime in the current environment of low oil prices and declining production in local oil and gas fields.


This team returned to Trinidad and Tobago with the Minister of Finance on Tuesday (19th April, 2016). The Minister emphasised that during this period of low oil prices, it is necessary to model a fiscal regime that would achieve two objectives: maximise revenue from the government and provide sufficient incentives to oil companies to expand exploration, drilling and production.


The Ministry of Finance is also receiving assistance with the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. This assistance comes from the original team which assisted the Government in 2006 with the initial formation of the fund which led to the legislation (Heritage and Stabilisation Fund Act of 2007). This team will advise, following a review of the performance of the fund from 2007 to present, how returns can be maximised as well as draft appropriate rules for drawdowns from the fund.


The Minister of Finance also announced that he has accepted an offer from the World Bank to send a team of experts to review public expenditure in all key areas of Government activity such as education and national security. They will provide an update as to whether the Government is getting value for monies being spent. The team will also offer assistance on an appropriate foreign exchange policy and a number of other fiscal and monetary matters. Minister Imbert affirmed that a more detailed update on the discussions will be provided.


Minister Imbert also announced, in response to several inquiries following the announcement on April 8th 2016 regarding increased taxation on vehicles which have been deemed luxury vehicles (vehicles with engine sizes exceeding 1999 CC), that there will be a moratorium period. While the order for changes in the motor vehicle tax and customs duty was given and became effective immediately, the law requires that these matters be brought to and approved by the Parliament within twenty-one (21) days. The debate is scheduled to begin next Monday and the deadline for the matter to be passed is April 29th, 2016.


In establishing a way forward, two issues will be considered:

  1. Whether vehicles are in transit from another country having been ordered before the changes took effect
  2. Vehicles that are in Trinidad and Tobago but have not yet been cleared from the customs bond


Minister Imbert will indicate the time period up to which persons will be allowed to register their vehicles at the old rates and after which the new rates will kick in following Cabinet’s final decision on the matter next week.


Also present was the Attorney General, the Honourable Faris Al Rawi, who provided updates coming out of the recent meeting of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFTAF) Steering Group Committee, of which he is Chairman.


At the committee meeting, which was held in Washington, the continued harmonisation of efforts of the twenty-seven (27) member states was tabled into, in particular, the work that is being conducted in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing.


The Attorney General informed the committee of Trinidad and Tobago’s continued commitment and provision of significant resources, both in terms of human capacity and financial commitment, to the CFATF enterprise. Trinidad and Tobago is currently providing manpower resources in relation to the work of the CFATF and physically providing resource allocation, through joint enterprise, of services required. This dovetails with national efforts driven by the Ministry of National Security, the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs and the Ministry of Finance as well as the Central Bank and other supervisory agencies.


The Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs has established an anti-terrorism desk and is specifically driving the effectual application of the anti-terrorism laws of Trinidad and Tobago and establishing anti-money laundering provisions. This would ensure not only technical compliance (having laws to deal with the issue) but also enabling of the laws through the correct approaches (by way of supplementation and enabling of the various investigative and prosecutorial agencies including the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) which has the Financial Investigation Bureau).


This will also aid in managing the issue of reported and reputed foreign terrorist fighters who are returning to the jurisdiction. The Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs has established a special arm to not only take the applications to the courts of Trinidad and Tobago but also to focus on the operationalising of new laws, as per the legislative agenda which was published last Friday in the Parliament.