Howai: TT faces challenges
By Miranda La Rose Wednesday, June 27 2012
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Well done, Larry: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar congratulates Finance and Economy Minister Larry Howai on his maiden address at the Social Dia...
Determining the appropriate strategy for consuming, saving and investing the country’s energy wealth is a key strategic decision for the nation, newly-appointed Minister of Finance and Economy Larry Howai said in his maiden ministerial address yesterday.
“Revenue projections are challenged,” he said. “We are facing major challenges as we seek to keep an increasing debt to GDP ratio under control while stimulating economic demand.”
Howai spoke at the opening of a two-day workshop on the Social Dialogue Process for Trinidad and Tobago at Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s.
“Truth be told,” he said, “the TT economy contracted by 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, a similar rate of decline as in the previous quarter.”
Real GDP, he said, “declined by 3.3 percent in 2009, was stable in 2010, and declined by 1.4 percent in 2011.”
Crude oil production for the first quarter of 2012, Howai said, “was 13.8 percent lower than for the corresponding period in 2011, while natural gas production for the first quarter of 2012 remains unchanged from the corresponding period in 2011.”
Noting that revenue projections were challenged, he said, depletion of oil and natural gas reserves was projected, due to limited exploration and investment activity in recent years.
In the context of the economic challenges, Howai said the workshop was a welcome initiative as social dialogue goes beyond Government, employment and the labour market to include non- governmental organisations.
Noting that evidence showed a positive link between social dialogue and economic success, he said an analysis on labour market policies in Austria, Denmark, Ireland and The Netherlands concluded that the economic and labour market crises in those countries were overcome by three policy approaches - social dialogue, macro-economic policy, and labour market policy.
TT cannot move forward, he said, without establishing a social dialogue process.The social dialogue process can promote peace in the labour fraternity, social stability to achieve economic and social development, he said, and reduce industrial conflict to promote an acceptable balance between competing sectoral interests and national development goals.
Referring to Barbados as a success story of social dialogue which contributed to the reversal of economic decline and to sustainable development, he said, “it is bound to have beneficial effects on the economy of TT.”
Protocol agreements signed between social partners in Barbados covered an income policy, wage freeze and wage restraint, issues of globalisation, and the creation of an institutional framework for social partnership.
Looking forward to partnering with labour and business, Howai said when he was invited to address the workshop, he initially intended to delegate one of the permanent secretaries to do it on his behalf. He changed his mind when he saw what the workshop was about.
“As Minister of Finance and Economy,” he said, “I am going nowhere without a meaningful dialogue with persons like Ms Catherine Kumar, Michael Annisette, Joseph Remy and others in our economy.”
Kumar, president of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce; Annisette, president general of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) and Remy, of the Federation of Independent Trade Union and Non Governmental Organisations (FITUN), all spoke at the workshop.
The trade union leaders expressed their desire to meet at an early opportunity with Howai to discuss, among other issues, workers salaries.
Congratulating Howai on assuming his new office, Annisette said he was “eagerly looking forward to engage him in some serious dialogue to address some issues that will form part of the social dialogue process.”
As a true trade unionist, he said, there was no better forum than the social dialogue workshop where Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Howai, and other Government ministers were present, “to resolve all outstanding salary negotiations to demonstrate what social dialogue can do.”