Economic tidings T&T may celebrate

 The year-end economic tidings prompt for Trinidad and Tobago no extraordinary outpourings of joy. Still, with growth tracked at 1.5 per cent, it appears that the T&T economy is holding its own; that debt is being managed within less than troubling limits; and that reserve balances are kept at solidly sustainable levels. 

The Central Bank had last May projected growth of 2.5 per cent. The Bank since revised its estimates downward, citing production shortfalls in the vital energy industry. 

Such explanations fail to placate independent observers, such as UWI economist Roger Hosein, reviewing the Central Bank’s latest Monetary Policy Report. Something must be wrong, Dr Hosein suggests, if for two consecutive years, the Bank must adjust its estimates downward. 

It is to the credit of the research economist and to The UWI that an unblinking capacity and readiness remain to speak truth to power represented at the commanding heights of Eric Williams Plaza. Dr Hosein thus feels entitled to question whether the latest 1.5 per cent growth projection may not itself be revised downward.

  Central Bankers must know, and the rest of T&T are reassured, that the Bank’s word on economic and financial matters is not necessarily taken as unassailable doctrine. “The margin of error also seems to be widening,” Dr Hosein irreverently observed. “One wonders,” he added, “if there is scope at some point to revisit the macroeconomic model used to forecast growth in the economy.”

In the interest of better-informed national dialogue, the question should not be left unanswered by the Bank. While the specialists dispute and expound, the real world inhabited by T&T people offers no compelling evidence that the economic sky is falling.

In the World Bank’s year-end reporting on Caribbean economic performance, the Bahamas was again found to be the wealthiest regional country. Tourism and financial services boost the Bahamian gross domestic product and employ most of its workers.

The World Bank appropriately acknowledged energy-based T&T’s ranking as one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean and Latin America. Such ranking bespeaks ability to help, and with that, of course, comes responsibility in the context of a Caribbean targeted by the slings and arrows of economic and environmental fortune.

It is worthy of some celebration that the Port of Spain government is accordingly able to respond in a timely and impactful way to the act-of-God devastations suffered in St Lucia, St Vincent, Dominica and Grenada. In such an exercise of sensitive leadership, self-interest can never be ruled out, nor can old acquaintance be forgotten, in that those countries have been beneficial trading partners and allies of T&T.

Happily, too, this Government is able to help its neighbours, without any undue lessening of attention to parts of Trinidad affected by act-of-man hydrocarbon mishaps. And this should be made unmistakably clear.

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