FORMER minister in the ministry of finance Mariano Browne on Friday said the covid19 pandemic provides an opportunity for meaningful consensus to be reached on developing TT's economy.
He made this observation during a virtual meeting hosted by UWI's Trade and Economic Development Unit on the recent Standard and Poors and Moody's reports on TT.
Referring to the Prime Minister's statement that "we are all in this together" in dealing with covid19, and Government's communication to the public about how to treat with the virus, Browne said while all citizens have not adhered to the public health guidelines, most of the population "is prepared to tow the line."
He explained that this is because the Government has been clear in identifying achievable targets to protect public health, and was working towards achieving those targets. Browne said the last government in such a situation was the NAR in 1986. But, he said the NAR squandered the opportunity it had for real development by reverting to partisan politics.
Browne said Government must bring the population into its confidence, in terms of its plans for the economic recovery of TT post-covid19. He said reports show that what everyone needed to understand is "we are all poorer, unless we are doing something tremendously better."
Browne also said most countries in the Western Hemisphere "are going through the same difficulty as we are." To get out of this situation, Browne said the country collectively has to work smarter and work harder. He also said Government should not adopt the political process used by all its predecessors of "delay and things will get better."
He also said, "Assistance would need to be directed to improving the institutional arrangements to improving the ease of doing business at all levels as a start."
Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine said covid19 presents TT "with an opportunity to transform itself."
Ramnarine said the pandemic was an opportunity for local medical and health professionals to demonstrate their calibre. He said tremendous calibre also exists in the energy sector and this should be harnessed as "we step back and re-engineer the economy."
Noting the closure of seven plants at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, over the last five years, Ramnarine opined that for Point Lisas and the wider energy sector to survive, Government will have to consider whether it wants to get a larger slice of a shrinking pie, or a smaller slice of a growing pie, with respect to energy taxation. In this regard, Ramnarine said Government may need to look at the existing fiscal regime for the energy sector. He also suggested a review of the arrangement between the National Gas Company, TTEC and the Trinidad Generation Unlimited.
Recalling the economic crisis in the 1980s, Ramnarine said liquefied natural gas (LNG) was one of the commodities which helped TT climb out of the hole it was in then.
"What is going to pull us out of this hole in 2020?" he asked. Ramnarine believed TT's revenue from the energy sector could be impaired for at least two years, because of covid19 and other developments in the global energy arena. In these circumstances, Ramnarine said cash management is going to be critical.
Economist Dr Roger Hosein said the pandemic provided an opportunity to pursue significant economic diversification and development of the non-energy sector.