Vice Chairperson Policy,
Advocacy and Projects
Commonwealth Youth Council
Are you one of the thousands of citizens of this country in the prime of their life who earns a good income, but has difficulty making their salary cheque stretch from payday to payday? Are you retiree, living on what used to be considered a good pension, but finding that your income allows you to buy less and less as time goes on? Are you on your first real job, just a few years out of university and just starting to consider the really big decisions in life: like marriage, moving out of your parents’ house or buying a car so that you don’t have to fight up to get a taxi? Or you may be a businessman wondering how the imported product that you buy from China to sell in Sangre Grande or Siparia is going to be impacted by the sharp increase in the number of your fellow citizens who are shopping online?
If anyone of these four examples could be you, you have come to the right place...and at the right time. This is the time for the Sunday Business Guardian—which you are free to call the Sunday BG—because in a few short months, the Clico disaster—which descended on to this country more than five years ago—is going to be completely over. The arbitration panel that has been sitting in London for more than three years on the disposition of the Methanol Holdings asset will eventually produce a decision. Then all of the holders of the Clico executive flexible premium annuities would have been paid. There is no doubt that the Clico disaster has had a profound (if largely unanalysed) impact on the psychology of the average Trinidadian as it has made us even more risk averse in the investment decisions we make.
That caution has been felt at the household level as many people choose to accumulate their income in what is referred to as demand deposit accounts or in income mutual funds, which both allow easy and quick access to money. But, the caution has also been felt at the corporate level, as many local firms have delayed investment decisions, sold off their foreign assets and gone after the low-hanging fruit of retail and real estate development. The cash-is-king mindset has contributed to commercial banks struggling under the weight of about $95 billion in deposits and income mutual funds bursting at the seams with about $35 billion in their coffers.
Much of that $130 billion in deposits and income funds—which is equal to over 80 per cent of T&T’s GDP—earns less than 1.0 per cent. If the rate of inflation averages between 6.0 and 8.0 per cent, that means that the purchasing power of money in a bank or income fund is declining over time at a frightening rate. One of the things that is going to be clear to you—if you decide to make reading this publication a habit—is that we live in a high inflation/low interest rate economy. And the impact of the combination of high inflation and low interest rates on the fortunes of T&T savers can be almost as brutal today as Clico was five years ago.
What can the Government do about the high inflation/low interest rate environment? That is absolutely the wrong question. The right questions would be: what can YOU do about the economic environment in which we live; how can you adjust your lifestyle to protect yourself against the decline in the purchasing power of your dollars? The Sunday BG can assist you in making better financial choices by providing you with facts, data, opinions, insights and perspectives from T&T and around the world. The Sunday BG is different from the Thursday publication because Sunday’s focus will be on investments, financial and retirement planning, asset allocation and wealth management.