Colm gets a fair rating from stakeholders

Econ­o­mist Dr Ronald Ramkissoon says from a short-term per­spec­tive, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert did a fair job with the coun­try’s econ­o­my. He, how­ev­er, not­ed that for cit­i­zens to ex­pe­ri­ence the ben­e­fits from any eco­nom­ic growth more needs to be done.

“To the ex­tent that there is growth – it is pos­i­tive and I think we have to recog­nise that. Un­less we come up with the strat­e­gy to grow by up­wards of three, four per cent – some would say five per cent – we not go­ing to make any fun­da­men­tal change to the lives of peo­ple.”

While he said there is no need for pan­ic with the cur­rent state of the econ­o­my, he said there needs to be a fur­ther in­vest­ment and strate­gis­ing around oth­er ac­tiv­i­ties to gen­er­ate rev­enue. He said these in­vest­ments should cen­tre around the non-en­er­gy sec­tors.

De­spite the econ­o­my now run­ning at an in­creased deficit of $300 mil­lion over the orig­i­nal­ly bud­get­ed $51.77 bil­lion, Ramkissoon de­scribed the re­view as “un­sur­pris­ing.”

“There is noth­ing fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from the fig­ures (pre­sent­ed in the 2019 bud­get) and in terms of what is hap­pen­ing.”

In a re­lease yes­ter­day, the T&T Cham­ber of Com­merce said the fig­ures out­lined in the re­view “presents some hope for the wider pri­vate sec­tor in the com­ing months.”

The cham­ber was al­so pleased to hear Im­bert’s com­ments on some long out­stand­ing is­sues they have been lob­by­ing for over the years.

Im­bert was com­mend­ed for com­mit­ting to pay con­trac­tors and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Trinidad and To­ba­go Rev­enue Au­thor­i­ty (TTRA). They added that while the tax amnesty was de­signed to help the TTRA’s tran­si­tion, which they be­lieve is long over­due, they cau­tioned that a time­line for tran­si­tion must be es­tab­lished and ad­hered to.

The cham­ber added that oth­er as­pects of the pre­sen­ta­tion (such as the bal­ance of pay­ments) war­rant fur­ther analy­sis.

“These will no doubt be­come ap­par­ent in the course of dis­cus­sions in the pub­lic do­main dur­ing the com­ing days. The var­i­ous ac­tions and poli­cies out­lined should help to spur eco­nom­ic ac­tiv­i­ty and al­low im­prove­ments in the macro-eco­nom­ic en­vi­ron­ment to trick­le down. The cham­ber will con­tin­ue to en­gage Gov­ern­ment on is­sues of im­por­tance for the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty,” the re­lease said.

Speak­ing dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion on CNC3’s “Ease the Squeeze,” which re­viewed the mid-year bud­get, econ­o­mist In­dera Sage­wan said while Im­bert had every right to be hap­py about the econ­o­my’s pos­i­tive growth, she was con­cerned over how he in­tends to sus­tain it.

“It has hap­pened un­der his watch and there­fore he de­serves to take cred­it for that. He did make hard de­ci­sions in the past cou­ple of years. The chal­lenge I have is how do we sus­tain that growth?” Sage­wan said.

She said her con­cerns were based in part be­cause a huge part of the growth rests on the oil and gas sec­tor, which is now chal­lenged due to re­cent re­ports of a short­age of nat­ur­al gas sup­ply by BPTT to At­lantic LNG’s Train 1.

“That im­pacts neg­a­tive­ly Gov­ern­ment’s rev­enue. It im­pacts over­all,” she said.

- Rishard Khan

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