PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago, September 8, 2014 (AMG) —The expansion of the social safety net – which includes increases in senior citizen’s pension, minimum wage and disability grant – were some of the highlights of the National Budget of Trinidad and Tobago for the fiscal year 2015.

Social welfare provisions: Presented in Parliament by Minister of Finance, Senator Larry Howai, the fiscal package which carried at $64 billion price tag placed special attention on helping those in need. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar hinted at one of the goodies in the Budget – $500 per month incentive for all new mothers for a period of one year.  Mr Howai expanded on this, announcing that a Baby Care Grant of $500 monthly would provide financial assistance for one child only, born to underprivileged parents in the next financial year.

Senior citizen’s pension has now increased to $3,500 from last year’s $3,000. The Finance Minister said it will cost an additional $200 million and impact 84,720 senior citizens. Senior citizen pension stood at $1,950 in 2010. In addition, come January 1, 2015, personal allowances for individuals aged 60 and over will be increased from $60,000 to $72,000 for the calculation of individual taxes. This will come at a cost of $53.3 million.

The minimum wage has moved from $12.50 to $15 an hour, up from $9 an hour in 2010. The disability grant will also be increased by $300, allowing 24,100 differently-able recipients to access $1,800 monthly from October 1.

Development of non-petroleum sectors: The Budget was entitled “Empowering Our People through Sustained Economic Growth and Prosperity” providing a landscape that not only focused on social services, but which sought to encourage development in the non-energy sectors. As such, the Budget also placed a spotlight on the creative sector. Sub-headed under manufacturing, Mr Howai announced a 5% increase in the rebate in the production expenditure rebate programme. A move from 15 to 20 per cent, the rebate will be given to companies who use local labour in film, fashion and music. In addition to this, the Minister also announced an increase in the expenditure cap for the programme increasing it from US$3M to US$8M.

For tourism stakeholders, Government plans to expand the Trinidad and Tobago Hotel and Guesthouse Room Stock Upgrade Incentive Programme for a three year period. This will apply to properties between six – 150 rooms, with the maximum limit increased to $750,000. A reimbursement of 25.0 percent of the cost of the upgrade works per guest room is already provided with a maximum reimbursement of $12,000 per room for properties located in Trinidad and $15,000 per room for properties located in Tobago.

Further highlights

– The introduction of a new fund for families of members of the Protective Services who were killed in the line of duty. $1M will be placed in the estate of the deceased

– An increase in traffic fines by 50 percent – for speeding, driving under the influence, driving without insurance, possessing fraudulent motor vehicle certificates, driving with expired driving license; and for individuals producing or selling fraudulent insurance certificates

– An exemption from motor vehicle tax and VAT for hybrid and electric-powered vehicles not older than two years for a period of 5 years for private or commercial use

– Expansion of the existing two percent mortgage programme by increasing qualifying property values from $625,000 to $850,000

The Minister also re-emphaised that the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses programme, which benefits some 67,000 tertiary students, remains secure and sustainable.

All monetary figures are denominated in Trinidad & Tobago dollars
Downloads: Full budget statement

Trinidad & Tobago unveils $64 billion budget for fiscal year 2015

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Category: Business