Wednesday 21 October, 2020

AMCHAM T&T concerned Minister's projections too 'optimistic'

Finance Minister Colm Imbert presents the Mid-Year Budget Review in Parliament June 12, 2020. Photo via Facebook, the Office of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert presents the Mid-Year Budget Review in Parliament June 12, 2020. Photo via Facebook, the Office of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) has expressed concern that contraction of the economy this year is likely to be higher than predicted.

The Chamber’s concern follows the assessment of the economy and projections presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the Mid-Year Budget Review on Friday.

Similar sentiments were shared by the T&T Chamber in an immediate reaction to the Minister’s presentation.

AMCHAM T&T said while Government has managed the impact of COVID-19, it was concerned that the administration has misdiagnosed the situation.

The Chamber said: “The contraction this year is likely to be much larger than the 2.4 percent contraction predicted by the Minister of Finance. In that context growth of five percent in 2021 also seems optimistic.”

AMCHAM T&T made the comment as it took note that natural gas production over the first six months of 2020 was slightly lower than the comparable period in 2019 while gas prices are significantly lower.

Further, it said the closure and idling of several plants on the Pt Lisas Industrial Estate and significantly depressed petrochemical prices combined with significant losses since March will have an extremely significant negative impact on GDP.

The Chamber said: “In this context, we are extremely concerned about the continuing inability to take decisions about the natural gas value chain that will give long-term confidence to the sector at the various points on the value chain.”

Though the Chamber acknowledged that the Minister had a balancing act made worse by the COVID-19 impact, it said support to business has not been comprehensive enough.

It said: “the lack of focus on digital transformation of government services, customs reform and passing references to the improvement of the ease of doing business suggest that, at this point, more specificity is required around the initiatives that will be implemented to return the country to growth.”

Commending Government on its social support, AMCHAM T&T also took note of the Minister’s statement on how many people operating outside of the tax net were in receipt of support.

The Chamber said it is hopeful that Government uses the opportunity to ensure that such people are registered with the BIR and NIB, as previously suggested by AMCHAM T&T.

Further, AMCHAM T&T said it eagerly awaits the presentations of individual Ministers and the final Roadmap to Recovery Committee report.

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