As Chairman of the United National Congress I have been continuously and vehemently urging the Government to address the current Foreign Exchange Crisis. The shortage of Foreign Exchange within our nation’s economic framework has been contributing towards severe repercussions within the Business community as it relates to payment of foreign suppliers. It is quite unsettling and despairing that this unavailability of foreign currency is now threatening National Food Security. According to the Central Bank the US Exchange rate currently stands at $6.60 TTD to $1USD as opposed to $6.37 TTD to $ 1USD when the Peoples Partnership demitted office.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. This is quite contrasting to the emerging situation within the national landscape of Trinidad and Tobago where as a consequence of the shortage or non-availability of Foreign Currency for Suppliers food prices are increasing.
President of the Supermarket Association Dr Yunus Ibrahim has publicly indicated that the incremental increases of goods on grocery shelves had occurred because suppliers were not getting enough currency for the past few months and in some cases, suppliers were forced to approach black market pricing of the dollar which currently stood at a value of $7. In other cases suppliers were buying from a third party distributor who placed markups on the goods.
These increases in food prices as a culmination of both the shortage of foreign exchange as well as Government’s substantial expansion to the Food base now subjected to Value Added Tax (VAT) is proving quite detrimental to the nation’s Food Security.
It is the role and responsibility of Government to protect the welfare of its citizens while also sustaining a healthy regulated economy for the businesses that operate within its framework. However it is quite unfortunate that both Government and its appointed Economic Advisory Board have remained silent on any solutions or plans to alleviate this situation.
One month ago I sought to have this issue debated in the Parliament but was turned down. Barring the willingness to debate and discuss this economic hindrance, once more on behalf of the National Population who continue to experience the negative and unfortunate outcomes of this current crisis I call on the Government to address this situation as it poses great danger to the economic and social growth as well as sustainable well being of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Yours in Service