By Sue-Ann Wayow
TRINIDAD and Tobago’s forex shortage is a complex issue that demands comprehensive solutions and unwavering political commitment.
This is according to National Transformation Alliance (NTA) political leader Gary Griffith.
In a statement on Tuesday, he said now was the time for decisive action to secure economic stability and long-term growth for Trinidad and Tobago, moving away from dependency on energy-based companies.
Griffith said under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Trinidad and Tobago has witnessed economic decline, deteriorating infrastructure, struggling education and healthcare systems and a surge in crime rates.
He said, “Achieving the necessary transformation for addressing Trinidad and Tobago’s forex shortage will require active participation and buy-in from multiple sectors of society, including civil society and the private sector.
“In the same manner that dialogue and collaboration are crucial for addressing the crime issue, they are also vital for achieving success in this endeavour, because the policy of ‘hoping they will not riot’ simply won’t cut it anymore.”
Comparing consumption versus supply, Griffith said Trinidad and Tobago’s consumption patterns have remained stagnant, demanding more foreign exchange than it earns, even when forex earnings were higher in the past.
The import bill, especially for essentials like food and vehicles, strains forex reserves and the country continues its heavy dependence on imports, straining foreign reserves in the face of decreasing foreign revenue.
Increasing forex earnings was essential as the import bill continues to rise, he said.
Griffith suggests making it easier for companies to do business.
“Eliminating archaic and frustrating rules and regulations that hinder business growth is crucial to attract local and foreign investors. Streamlining bureaucratic processes, reducing red tape, and improving the ease of doing business are vital to attract foreign investments.
“Innovative solutions that eliminate barriers and encourage major non-energy firms to consider Trinidad & Tobago are imperative such as in the case of Tesla and Microsoft.”
With a selected few in control of the allocation of US dollars, creating a monopoly, Griffith said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), crucial for economic growth were left struggling.
These SMEs, striving to stay afloat, may resort to the black market to access forex, driving up the exchange rate for US dollar to alarming levels and the added cost is transferred to consumers, resulting in increased inflation that reduces their purchasing power for all goods and services, he said.
Griffith recommends, “A comprehensive strategy is imperative, covering various sectors such as energy, manufacturing, tourism, economic diversification, national security and crime prevention.”