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.