The inability of this government to put in place basic requirements to successfully attract investors, threatens to sabotage the stated intentions of the Government planned Special Economic Zones (SEZ) says MP for Oropouche West Davendranath Tancoo.
MP Tancoo speaking in Parliament yesterday noted that while other countries of the world were able to derive substantial benefits from the establishment of these SEZs, they ensured its success by also putting the relevant infrastructure in place to ensure investor confidence.
MP Tancoo stated that investors look at our ports, crime levels, roads, health care, international ratings by credit agencies, poverty levels and service by public utilities including water supply, to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of a potential investment site and this Government is failing under all of these factors.
What would potential investors discover upon examination of Trinidad and Tobago at present? According to the Oropouche West MP, “under this Rowley Government, the value of output of this country has collapsed by over $30 billion in real terms. It is the reason over 6000 SMEs have closed down., as well as over 112,000 jobs have been lost. With the government’s constant raiding of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, US$2.5 billion in savings has been lost. With a worsening forex crisis and plunging international credit ratings the country has been downgraded since 2015 by every reputable international credit rating agency. Today we are seeing runaway high food prices and a growing inflation rate.” These factors will not encourage any investor.
The success of these economic zones relies on the government fixing these very fundamental problems facing citizens and the country. Instead, the State seems to believe that the country is doing well or that investors will not know the crises raging around us.
There is no linkage between what is being proposed and the realities in the country.
For example, MP Tancoo noted that the Minister of Trade and Industry indicated that agriculture/agro processing was considered a priority area for development in these Economic Zones. Yet over the last 6 years this government has done nothing to protect, stimulate or develop this critical sector. Tancoo noted that in the last two years the Minister of Finance allocated $500 million in the 2021 Budget specifically towards an Agricultural Incentive Programme. That money was not spent yet another $300 million was allocated again in 2022 for the same purpose. How can they be proposing the development of the agricultural sector and agro-processing as a special economic zone when even the productive capacity for agriculture in this country has been compromised due to the neglect of this administration. Farmers in Oropouche West continue to be plagued by flooding, poor drainage and access roads, large scale praedial larceny, as well as difficulties to access the fiscal and tax incentives as documents required to access these facilities have been in limbo for years, waiting on the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands to approve.
Tancoo cautioned that if this government is serious about developing this country’s full economic potential for the benefit of all its citizens, they have a lot more work to do.