By: Nicholas Morris
The Prime Minister Hon. Kamla Persad Bissessar in an effort to strengthen an economy which her Government saved in 2010 from stagnation (stagnant growth and inflation) during these turbulent economic times began meetings with various stakeholders of the business community.
At the conclusion of the initial set of meetings a great sense of optimism on how budget adjustments will work to preserve economic and social stability emerged. This feeling was spurred on by the Honourable Prime Minister’s commitment and resolve especially in her statements such as “With the best made plans, accelerating development, increased growth and stability, it is the people we depend on to make it happen…Sectors cannot expand, the economy cannot grow, the future cannot be secured unless the policies we implement and the vision we pursue place the people as the drivers of progress”
The members who attended and represented the various Chambers fully endorsed the Prime Minister’s statements and vision while they welcomed the thrust to engage the private sector in Public-Private Partnerships. However they did highlight two issues which are critical to their operations, which are labour and foreign exchange. In response the Honourable Prime Minister asked that both the Minister of Finance and Minister of Trade and Investment work to create a sustainable plan to manage foriegn exchange supply as soon as possible.
In terms of the Labour shortage , the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) and the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) have agreed to partner with the Government to develop a programme to address this issue and provide a workable solution.
She noted that the Government’s first approach includes review of our PSIP and recurrent expenditure with the aim of identifying savings of approximately $4.5 billion.Further savings, the Prime Minister said, will be derived from a lower oil price generating a lower demand on Government for the petroleum subsidy, adjusted possibly to $1.7 billion.
The Prime Minister’s handling of the turbulent economy thus far has not only been one to be applauded but rather one reflective of international standards. Many oil producing nations have been facing tough times due to falling oil prices but they have chosen not to panic and make considerable cuts which may impact the nation’s standard of living. The Prime Minister has stated strongly from the start that social services to the vulnerable must not be impacted and it is not a time promote fear and panic among citizens as this will only make the problem worse.
The People’s Partnership Government has demonstrated responsible fiscal policies that have balanced investment in social programmes and people-centered development, while turning the fragile economy they took charge of in 2010 into the stable and strong one it is today. Although there are continuing risks to the economy, the country also has strong buffers which would help to manage it through this process.
The Peoples Partnership vision for both diversification and divestment was praised as diversification sectors are advancing towards a broader based economy with non-energy revenues growing by $13B since 2010, while the Government continues to push to allow the private sector and the people of Trinidad and Tobago greater ownership of the country’s assets , which the Prime Minister gave a commitment to ensure transparency and accountability in the sale of Government’s assets.
Our economy continues to be on the right footing and with the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister there is no doubt we are in safe hands and in her own words “We have the capacity, we have the will and we have passion to secure our future and we will emerge stronger, together.”