In T&T: WHAT SLUMP? Dookeran blames media for taking Central Bank Governor’s statement on economy ‘out of context’

5 June 2012

Sensationalism or semantics? Either way, T&T’s tendency to “sit on the laurels of the past” is something to overcome.

Don’t use the word “slump” to describe the Trinidad and Tobago economy.

“I say here today … Trinidad and Tobago is not in any slump,” Finance Minister Winston Dookeran thundered yesterday as the piloted the Supplementation of Appropriation Bill in the House of Representatives, Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

The term was used by Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams to describe the Trinidad and Tobago economy.

One week ago the Governor had stated: “We’ve had negative growth for three years. That’s our challenge: how do we get out of that slump. … The economy has been in a slump. We are waiting on the recovery and the recovery is a bit delayed, let’s put it like that.”

Dookeran said based on the information which the Ministry of Finance had there was no such slump. But in complaining about the use of the term, Dookeran blamed the “sensational press” for “taking out of context” the Governor’s statements and “placing strong headlines about recession and slump”.

Dookeran said what Trinidad and Tobago was facing was not dissimilar to what the entire global economy was facing.

He said there has been a revision of growth rates in all the major economies and cited Brazil, China, India, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, Germany, France, Canada and the Eurozone areas to prove his point.

He said Trinidad and Tobago had turned the corner but its projections had to be revised downward from 1.5 per cent to 1 per cent in the light of the slowdown in the energy sector. He said in the context of what was happening worldwide, this country could feel “a sense of comfort”.

“When I saw the reduction in the growth estimates for 2012, from 1.5 to 1 per cent, I decided to try and find out exactly what was causing that (slowdown) in the energy sector. And after meetings with the Ministry of Energy and the energy sector I was told that this was not surprising. In fact, it was the result of falling investments (from) three years ago, that we are now seeing,” he said.

This brought a chorus of laughter from the People’s National Movement bench.

“Don’t insult us, don’t insult our intelligence!” Member for Port of Spain Marlene McDonald shouted, causing House Speaker Wade Mark to rise to his feet and appeal for order.

Dookeran said the decline in hydrocarbons could be traced to the fact that there were limited resource reserves and investments made in 2009. He said investments have picked up in 2011 and 2012 but the results of these investments would take time to materialise. But, he said, the drop in the reinvestment rate has been halted.

In giving an assessment of the economy, Dookeran said there were still “vulnerabiliites” and the country had to adopt strong measures of fiscal discipline, increase productivity and competitiveness and not sit on the laurels of the past.

“There was no such thing as a free lunch and what we spend in one hand, had to be paid for in the other. We are in a difficult position, but we have come a long way,” the minister said.


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