Monday 16 September, 2019

IMF says T&T's economy on growth path

Finance Minister Colm Imbert delivers his contribution to debate on a motion brought by Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert delivers his contribution to debate on a motion brought by Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.

Trinidad and Tobago's economy has turned around and is on a growth path, according to the latest figures provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

Reading from a report from the IMF in the Parliament on Friday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert rejected a motion brought by Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie condemning the Government for recklessness and mismanagement of the country's finances and the economy. 

The IMF update on T&T's economy comes just days ahead of the mid-year budget review which will be presented in Parliament by the Finance Minister next Monday at 1.30 pm. 

It noted that T&T's economy started showing signs of improvement from the second half of 2017 and is estimated to have returned to positive growth in 2018.

Quoting from a publication by the World Bank published in April 2019, Imbert noted estimates for real GDP growth in T&T in 2018 have been revised from -1 percent to .7 percent.

The revision takes into account recently released data of quarterly sectoral GDP, non-energy production in the last quarter of 2018, which indicated a faster pace of economic activity than previously estimated in its updated figures for the 2018 Annual Oil and Gas Production.

Accordingly, the country’s 2018 World Bank forecast has been revised from -.5 to .9 percent.

"So, according to the World Bank, the Trinidad and Tobago economy is not only growing, it is growing at a faster pace than originally anticipated. According to the IMF, the economy started improving in 2017 and returned to growth in 2018."

"So, it’s not Imbert say so, is not PNM say so, it’s not CSO say so. It is the International Monetary Fund say so that the economy started to improve in 2017 and return to growth in 2018," the Finance Minister declared.

In rejecting the motion brought by the Opposition member, Imbert accused the MP of engaging in "mischief" stating that Tewarie placed "complete untruths and fictions on the record". 

In piloting the motion, Tewarie claimed that statistics provided by the country's Central Statistical Office (CSO) for 2018 was at variance with the data put out by the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister.

Knocking the "bogus" statistics provided by the Caroni Central MP, Imbert said the IMF is not at variance with the data coming out of the CSO and is in agreement that the economy has been turning around "in the right direction" since 2018.

"If the member for Caroni Central had bothered to go and secured the data, he would have learnt that in the first quarter of 2018 the economy grew by .9 percent. In the second quarter of 2018 the economy grew by 2.1 percent. The third quarter of 2018 the economy grew by 1.5 percent."

The Finance Minister also took note of the Central Bank's last Monetary Policy Report produced in March which indicated that recovery in the energy sector continued in the final quarter of 2018, with the boost to natural gas output expected to persist into 2019, owing to production from Angellin and other investments, and positive spinoffs on downstream activities which had been adversely affected by natural gas shortages.

Futher, the CSO’s Index of Domestic Production recorded a 26.7 percent year-on-year increase in the non-energy sector in the final quarter of 2018.

While Tewarie claimed that food manufacturing, beverages and tobacco were areas in decline, the Central Bank statistics showed that these were the areas that drove growth in the non-energy sector.

Imbert noted there was general steadiness in the growth of the non-energy sector, with the prices of meat, fruits, and vegetables in decline.

Fourth quarter data for 2018 will be available in a couple of weeks for economic growth at constant prices in T&T from the CSO.

"By any definition, three successive quarters of growth is an economic turnaround," Imbert said.

"If the authorities were preaching doom and gloom, the members opposite would embrace them… but it hurting them that we have had three successive quarters of growth in the first three quarters of 2018," the Minister added.

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