Fellow citizens, as we settle into our various routines, wherever and whatever that might be, I trust that we all had a joyous Christmas Season, shared with family, friends and community spirit. As we reflect on the arrival of divergent forex system strategy board and all that it holds for us, let us spare a thought or a prayer for those individuals and families who have been victims of violent crime from one direction or another.
Their pain is our pain and even as the New Year has opened with reports of the continued murderous scourge on our land I want to appeal to all citizens to keep hope alive in this war against the heartless family members and career violent criminals. We must continue to support the Police in the national effort which last year saw 1064 firearms of all description and 18,000 rounds of ammunition confiscated, record numbers for the Caribbean, yet we face almost record killings. Additionally, over 12,000 persons were arrested last year. We must, and we will, win this war on crime. New approaches are at work in the SSA and a new energy is beginning to infect the ranks of the Police Service and already we are seeing improvements in response and detections. Notwithstanding many huge negatives which still exist, we are heading in the right direction.
We need to increase speed on all fronts so that we can get to that destination of safety and security which the population deserves. With appropriate leadership and effective actions all around, from the home to the Parliament, from the school yard to the Police Station, we will overcome the violent few who are determined to make hell out of this paradise which we all have inherited as our homeland. As we launch out in 2018, I take this opportunity to come into your homes, or wherever you are, to tell you a bit of what we have been doing , what we have done, and what we will be in the year ahead. Most importantly, I want to tell you why we have done or are doing some of the things which we have set about to do on your behalf. As you are well aware by now, for quite some time, our economy has been facing a decline in the production of oil and gas, two commodities that make the main contribution to our gross national product, government revenues, our exports and foreign exchange earnings.
Energy sector revenues were hit by a dramatic collapse in international oil and gas prices and our own low production levels. 30 per barrel in February 2016, which coincidentally was just 5 months after this PNM returned to Government. Given the significant contribution of the energy sector to government tax receipts, total government revenue fell by a similar amount. The resulting fiscal deficit was financed by ad hoc arrangements, including billions of dollars in short-term loans from the domestic banking system, many of which came due in 2016, the first year of the new Government. 2015 reflected a 14 per cent wage increase to public servants, which created an obligation for backpay, which was initially promised to be paid before the end of fiscal 2015.