Is That Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

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Is it true? Are we really at the end of our economic tailspin? Well, if we are to believe a report in one of our daily newspapers last Friday, there will be documented confirmation of this soon. The International Monetary Fund is expected to release its latest assessment of Trinidad and Tobago’s growth prospects in July and according to its Communications Director Jerry Rice, it’s expected to be positive. Believe it or not, the IMF, in its wisdom,is of the view that our economy had started showing recovery since the latter half of 2017. Yes, 2017.

The Newsday has reported that according to the organisation’sprofessional estimates, T&T returned to positive growth last year, attributed mainly to recovery in the energy sector. But that’s a far cry from the World Economic Outlook by the same IMF in April, that the Finance Minister blasted as being based on inaccurate and unofficial figures. That report stated that this country recorded 0.3 percent growth in 2018 and zero percentgrowth is projected for this year. With that said, we await the next World Economic Outlook in July for the actual figures and what prospects there are for our future prosperity and growth.

That IMF projection though is a far cry from what is happening on the ground here in Trinidad and Tobago. While we have no reason to challenge their accuracy, their figures are based on buoyancy in the energy sector, which unfortunately we are still completely dependent upon. The man on the street however, will paint a completely different picture of what exactly he has been  experiencing over the last 3 years. Businessmen and workers alike, in all sectors of our economy will attest to recurring losses, driven primarily by dwindling sales. Hundreds of businesses have shut their doors because of a lack of foreign exchange to purchase goods and raw materials. The man on the street will in no uncertain terms, describe the hardships experienced in the last few years caring for a family and affording the most basic of necessities.

While we understand that economic recovery could be slow to trickle down especially after a deep recession, we wonder though, what would happen if oil prices were to plunge again before and recovery could be felt by the national community? Are we prepared for such a blow to our economy again? Calls and pleas have come from every corner of the country for diversity away from the energy sector. They believe that if we prepared ourselves for economic survival during this period, we would be unshakable the next time there was upheaval. Have we done that? Are we satisfied that this administration or any other in the past, made the necessary adjustments to put us on a path of stability away from the volatile energy sector? The Finance Minister’s mid-year budget review today should hopefully show in which direction they are taking the country.