MINISTER of Finance Colm Imbert can be seen as the eternal optimist as he said in his Mid-Year Review of the budget that the economy is not doing too badly.
On May 10, 2023, the finance minister spent a lot of time criticising the experts in their evaluation of the Trinidad and Tobago economic situation.
He spent considerable time pointing out the misinterpretations and the misreporting of the oil and gas prices on which our Budget is calculated.
He insisted that this was important, noting the rapid and unexpected changes in the global energy markets and how it affects the T&T economy.
However, in my humble opinion, he’s not paying attention to citizens who have to bear the consequences of the economic fallout and the financial distress that they have faced over the last three years which has been increased in intensity by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
In my humble opinion, he spent too much time responding and criticizing his attackers and not enough time addressing the grassroots level of distress by our citizens, mainly the increase in food prices and the lack of solutions to counteract the economic downturn.
Remember he came with many belt-tightening courses of action early in his tenure because of the decrease in energy prices but he doesn’t level with the population and come clean with what is really going on. His style is to deflect and cover up the bad news in the face of a possible Local Government Election in the near future, for fear of showing that his administration is performing poorly at their jobs.
Our country’s reliance on global energy pricing has made us vulnerable to the energy climate from geopolitical forces and the climate changes, and this has seen citizens paying too much in food prices at the supermarkets with no help from his administration to address this problem. Citizens are hit hard in their pockets!
All we hear is a set of “old talk” and beating around the bush to tie up the average citizen without proper details on how his economic measures have affected citizens directly. The misinformation and deliberate manipulation of data has not addressed the concerns of the average citizen and how they will survive the inflation which continues to increase. At the end of 2022, we saw 8.7 % and this hits every citizen where it hurts, our pockets. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended in their report that the Government needs to continue to provide support in address the rising cost of living for the low income citizens.
The Mid-Year Review was a chance for the minister of finance to address the concerns of the average citizen and how to counteract the impact of the economic slowdown and deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that still plagues us.
However, he missed his opportunity totally on this, where his presentation did not deal with the issues that impact the average citizen mainly in their pockets and gave no reassurance that we can see any relief in the near future.
Dr Neil Gosine is an insurance executive and president of the Valsayn North Park Association. He is also the treasurer of the UNC and a former chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration, a Master’s in Business Administration MBA, BSC in Mathematics and a BA in Administrative Studies. The views and comments expressed in this column are not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.