Local experts have useful advice too

Finance Minister Colm Imbert - SUREASH CHOLAI
Finance Minister Colm Imbert - SUREASH CHOLAI

ON SATURDAY, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced the Government's willingness to be guided by International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations for the revitalisation of the economy.

Some aspects of the announcement seemed like political grandstanding, a quick rejoinder to an IMF report that warned of serious economic concerns.

Other aspects seemed to signal that the Government would also be accepting advice from a safe distance.

Is Mr Imbert also willing to hear the advice of local economic experts as well?

The Finance Minister said, with no trace of irony in response to IMF suggestions to improve the infrastructure of TT foreign exchange and money markets: "We are welcoming any constructive solutions that will, in the end, improve our citizens' life."

It's not as if Mr Imbert has any shortage of suggestions from local economists about forex and the challenges to the economy. Economists and informed observers have offered up actionable lists for consideration but Mr Imbert either ignores or insults anyone with the temerity to have an opinion on fiscal governance that doesn't align with his directives.

The collapse of the government-appointed Economic Advisory Board was triggered by the departure of chairman Dr Terrence Farrell, who quit after three years of providing advice to Cabinet.

Leaving the job, Dr Farrell noted that few of the board's suggestions had been adopted, despite the delivery of 20 advisory notes to Cabinet and a full report on wholly-owned state enterprises.

Former PNM frontline champion Robert Le Hunte expressed dissatisfaction with the recommendations of the covid19 recovery committee, on which he served as vice-chairman. He quit that job, along with the post of Public Utilities Minister, in May 2020.

The trade union movement departed en masse in March from the National Tripartite Advisory Council established by government in 2016.

Against that background, this new-found willingness to take advice from the IMF sounds like little more than a pappyshow, a gesture of respect to an organisation with the power to make economic life difficult for TT.

The Finance Minister's response to the ongoing foreign exchange crisis has been to inject money into the economy as a buffer, but that's a bandage, not a solution.

The deleterious cycle created by forex shortfalls acts as a disincentive for foreign investment, stifles local businesses that rely for imports for raw materials or inputs, and breeds a secondary market for forex that undermines the economy.

To meet these challenges, the Finance Minister must commit to listening more closely – and demonstrate that he is doing so – to all the professional voices trying to get his attention, not just that of the IMF.


"Local experts have useful advice too"

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