Howai’s ‘very positive’outlook for 2014 economy

By Carla Bridglal

Finance Minister Larry Howai has said he has a “very positive” outlook for the economy in 2014.

“Based on normal performance and reasonable expectation we expect next year to see a much stronger return to growth and a much more robust performance,” Howai said Wednesday at a media conference at the Ministry of Finance, Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port of Spain. 

On Wednesday, the Central Bank released its Monetary Policy Report in Debe, announcing a 1.5 per cent overall growth for the economy in 2013, and 2.5 per cent growth for 2014. 

In the third quarter of 2013, the country underwent its largest coordinated energy maintenance effort to date. 

Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran had said the subsequent shortfall in natural gas production, while anticipated, adversely affected both refining activity and output of petrochemicals, generating a decline of four per cent in energy output, and an estimated contraction of 0.5 per cent in real GDP.

“The mere fact you had this big maintenance in September is what really compressed the overall level of growth. The last two years show how vulnerable we are to the energy sector. Large-scale maintenance by one energy company has been able to basically dampen the overall growth process. It means we have to diversify,” Rambarran said.

Howai agreed with Rambarran’s assessment of the energy sector shortfall.  

“The effect of the maintenance work in the energy sector was a little more than anticipated. With such a large contraction in a single quarter for a large part of our economy the effect has been dampening as to what we had projected,” he said.

The non-energy sector, which had at the end of September recorded eight consecutive quarters of growth, has been fairly buoyant and recording growth rates in excess of two per cent; that is what has resulted in slightly better performance—or improved performance up from the 0.3 per cent growth (in 2012), he said.

“Next year will be better because we expect the continued strength of the non-energy sector; the energy sector will be back up to 100 per cent capacity so our expectation will be a much stronger year for the economy. In 2015 we expect, based on some of the investment we see starting to materialise—Mitsubishi for example and increased exploration and production activity, in 2015 we expect to see that increase more to 2.5 to three per cent,” he said. 

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