FINANCE MINISTER Colm Imbert said yesterday he was “reasonably confident” that the US$100 million facility available to manufacturers through the Export Import Bank (Eximbank) by the end of the month. Manufacturers, on the other hand, are sceptical.
Imbert told reporters at the post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s that Central Bank Governor, Alvin Hillaire, had assured him that the Eximbank’s licence to trade foreign exchange would be granted, at the latest, early next week.
But while the TT Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) “most definitely” welcomes the announcement, its chief executive officer Ramesh Ramdeen told Newsday yesterday, the group’s concern is if the promise will materialise in the time frame the government says it will.
“This is not the first time we’ve heard the facility will be rolled out so we are keeping our fingers crosses that it will be at the end of the month.”
The TTMA is also wary that the facility, which Imbert had announced in his budget last October as a way to alleviate foreign exchange constraints, will be bureaucratic, cumbersome and difficult to access by the people who need it.
He added the Eximbank has told the TTMA that it is yet to receive instructions on how to release the funds—or any funds, for that matter. Imbert said the government will use the Ministry of Finance’s reserves and will the facility will be available to “approved” manufacturers. He said manufacturers must be in the business of export and the guidelines will be published by the end of next week.
Meanwhile, president of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Ronald Hinds, said while he had no objection to the manufacturers gaining special access to foreign exchange, he had “a huge preference to not do that.”
We should let all the boats rise. That is the more economically sustainable way,” Hinds told the Newsday on Wednesday at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting luncheon, at the Trinidad Hilton in St Ann’s.
What the government should be doing, Hinds said, is making the price of foreign exchange more in line with reality through exchange control liberalisation.
The country already has a system, he said, but it needs to be used as intended.
“If we had a more liberal foreign exchange market, we would not have had to choose a group to specially assist. I am not against them but I feel there is a better way.
“We already have the liberalisation (mechanism) to seamlessly manage the rate with reference to supply and demand. If it worked the way it should work, you wouldn’t have to do this,” he said.