University of the West Indies economist Dr Roger Hosein expressed regret that the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) chose not to attend yesterday’s forum on TT’s economy at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain.
The forum was hosted by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Hosein said the forum provided TT with “a golden opportunity” to set the stage for the country’s economic development. However with 70 per cent of the reforms being discussed requiring the input of labour, Hosein said, “It is really disappointing to me. I had looked forward to a detailed engagement with JTUM here today.”
Hosein agreed with Rowley that TT is in, “very, very challenging times.” Against this background, Hosein said, “The only way we can get out of this situation is if we all pull in the same direction.”
He added there would chaos if all sectors rowed in different directions. Hosein disagreed that TT saw rapid economic growth between 1999 and 2016. He argued that a “re-distribution of wealth from below the ground to above the ground” happened during this period as well as between 1973 to 1982. Hosein was concerned that last year’s growth performance, fiscal deficit and current accounts deficit will be worse than what was recorded in the 1980’s. With energy sector revenue virtually drying up, Hosein said Government may want to consider increasing Value Added Tax (VAT) as a possible immediate source of revenue. He said such an argument could be supported with Government expenditure around $53 billion and non-energy sector revenues at $32 billion. Observing that other commentators have hedged on the topic of devaluation, Hosein said there needs to be, “more deliberate action with the exchange rate moving forward.”
He also said during the boom periods, a “duplicity of handouts and giveaways” were created. Saying no one complained about any of these things. Hosein said the circumstances today required some “hard, tough, appropriate measures” to be taken, without adversely affecting too many people. He said TT’s propensity for imports needed to be curbed and exports which were “rising stars” needed to be identified.