Management of the economy
Thursday, June 21 2012
AS the putting into effect of the long announced plan to reshuffle the Cabinet or to be more precise, the Cabinet reconfiguration, draws nearer the major policy concern and, ipso facto, public concern which appears to surround the reshuffle is that of the management of the Trinidad and Tobago (TT) economy.
It is not only Government spending, but the policies as well which dictate that spending and the expected results of that spending, which are increasingly under public scrutiny. Finance Minister Winston Dookeran, is clearly under pressure to develop the right strategies to assist in getting the economy back on track, even as major world economies continue to be negatively affected by the ongoing international financial crisis.
It follows that if our major export markets such as the United States, Caricom, the United Kingdom and Western Europe are reeling under the global economic downturn, it would be unrealistic for TT to assume that it must do better or else...! Already, and this is, undoubtedly, informing the thinking of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she prepares to announce her reshuffled Cabinet, Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams, has downgraded a previous growth forecast for 2012 from 1.5 per cent to one per cent.
In this context, contrary to claims by Dookeran that the country has “turned the corner”, no tangible evidence of growth is visible. Several of TT’s economists and business leaders have disagreed with Dookeran on his reading of the economy and, understandably, so. However, a question which has to be faced realistically is whether relieving Dookeran of the Finance portfolio and assigning him another ministry would send needlessly wrong signals to potential investors.
In addition, could the genesis of the acquisition of the multibillion dollar loan from the Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) be attributed to Dookeran? Should he be replaced as Minister of Finance would it be that he would be a casualty of the doctrine of collective responsibility? If the People’s Partnership Administration, ostensibly a la John Maynard Keynes, is seeking to stimulate the TT economy by putting into effect large public works programmes which include, for example, the $7.2 billion San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway it should be in a position to explain to the nation’s taxpayers what these benefits are expected to be.
Although the full extent of the loan is not known, even the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway segment, which is equal to approximately 13 per cent of the 2011-2012 National Budget, triggers a feeling of discomfort. Meanwhile, has the appointment of a medical doctor, Delmon Baker, Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) Tobago West MP, as Minister in the Ministry of Finance, had the needed impact of helping Dookeran to craft the strategies necessary for economic growth?
There has been no evidence made available to the public todate to show that it has. Should Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, not be assigned to take some of the load off Dookeran’s shoulders. Should Dookeran be assigned junior finance ministers, who actually have experience in economics, unlike Baker, in much the same way that former Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, had Conrad Enill, Christine Sahadeo and the late Ken Valley, when he was Minister of Finance from 2001 to 2007?
Given the economic crises emerging today in the United States and the European Union (Greece, Spain and Portugal inter alia), there can be no doubt that the Prime Minister appreciates that TT exists in a very grave global economic climate. In the meantime, the rising tide of horrendous crime is clearly the second most vexing issue facing the People’s Partnership Government and the country.
As grave as the crime situation is today, nonetheless it is the economy and how the People’s Partnership Administration manages it and is able to lay an effective groundwork for economic development, including the attracting of overseas capital and the input of domestic capital, which will determine whether or not the People’s Partnership is a one-term Government, reshuffle or not.