Catherine Kumar, CEO of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce yesterday called for "actioning" of the organisation's suggestions for diversifying the economy."We just had a meeting with the Minister of Finance for our national budget recommendations and that discussion) came up again. It's always received positively (suggestions) we wait to see the action," she said."I think there has been a lot of discussion, a lot of talk. A lot has been written on it, but the action to really get it going is not really there. It is not up to government alone, I also accept that the private sector has an integral part to play there. The Government needs to put the infrastruture in place first to make it happen."
Kumar's was commenting on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning that the T&T economy is vulnerable to declines in energy prices and there is need for structural reforms to diversify the economy and improve its growth potential.Kumar said: "Quite frankly, it's nothing new. We've always said we needed diversification going. We recognise that we are heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry, those prices go up and down, based on what is happening internationally and we cannot continue to rely on that.""As the (Central Bank) Governor said, we rely totally on foreign exchange from the energy sector to bring in foreign exchange into the country. The non-energy sector is a net user of foreign exchange and we need to change that direction."
Kumar said the agricultural sector can be used to diversify the economy."We had done a study on diversification and some of the things we can look at. We looked at some areas in agriculture because we need to become more self-sufficient in food. We had tabled some suggestions in that area."We also looked at areas with respect to SMEs and the businesses that is easier for them to get into. if you take the marine industry for instance, that is a very capital intensive industry and it's not going to be easy for SMEs to get into that. We need businesses that can be quick start-ups and can grow very fast."
Tewarie: Seven areas to diversify
Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie said diversification of the T&T economy is actively being executed in seven areas.
He identified them as the following:
-Growth pole development–five of them in different parts of the country where economic zones are being set up. Infrastructure is being prepared, investment is being encouraged, local entrepreneurship being facilitated and clusters being supported.
-The idea 2 innovation (i2i) programme where 103 projects have been funded to proof of concept stage and 50 to 60 more will be funded this year.
-The Centre for Enterprise Development was established to support entrepreneurial development and small and medium enterprise growth.
-An innovation for climate change solutions project has been developed with the World Bank to support new businesses for a green economy.
-Tamana Intech Park established to promote ICT based businesses.
-Significant new investments in the financial sector.