Slow down in Trinidad could affect entire region
Stabroek News
January 29, 2002

Dear Editor,

The current hiatus that is plaguing Caricom's most robust economy, Trinidad and Tobago, has far reaching consequences not just for the economy of Trinidad and Tobago but for the entire region. It is estimated that Trinidad and Tobago dominates about 60% of Caricom trade.

A slow down in the T&T economy precipitated by the political gridlock following the December 10th 2001, general election can have ripple effects throughout the Caricom region. The demand for Caricom goods and services in T&T may well decrease as the political crisis deepens. Many Caribbean economies that depend heavily on tourism had already been traumatised by the economic fallout from the September 11th terrorist attack on New York.

There is concern in Trinidad that the unprecedented influx of foreign investment that had been experienced over the last 6 years would begin to diminish as news of the country's political instability reaches the metropoles of Europe and North America.

The banking sector in Trinidad has been voicing its concern, that the country's economy while still healthy can ill afford the economic fallout from this crisis. The latest attempt by the business community to mediate in the crisis was severely criticised by the PNM.

The country is still being run on the 2001/2002 budget which was presented by former UNC Minister of Finance Gerald Yetming and which was presented just 3 days after September 11th 2001. The oil price used for designing that budget was US22 dollars. Since that time oil prices have been at or about US19 dollars. What this means is that a Variation of Appropriation Bill has to be passed by the Parliament, a scenario which may not come to pass given that there is no sign of a convening of Parliament.

There are also opinions from several persons including the well respected former Independent Senator Martin Daly S.C. that the Manning government is illegitimate. The PNM have found themselves in a bind having made several elaborate and expensive promises on the campaign trail, promises which they may well find difficult to keep given the fact that they do not have a majority of seats in the Parliament.

Faced with the difficulty of running a country without a Parliament, the Manning administration has even suggested ruling by executive fiat, something that does not augur well for democratic principles.

Whatever the end result, it is hoped that Trinidad's leaders can sort this matter out. The statement by President Robinson of Trinidad regarding Caricom intervention in the impasse shows how quick we are to run back into our shells and ignore the reality that as a region we are all interlinked.

If the Trinidad economy begins to slow down the impact will be felt right through the region. On this basis alone, Caricom is duty bound to intervene as it has done in Guyana and St Vincent in the past.

The fact of the matter is that Trinidad has always been the "big brother" of the region. This may be why President Robinson took the time to remind Caricom that his office was sovereign.

However if we as a Caribbean people cannot from time to time step into the affairs of a sister nation to lend assistance when needed then what example are we setting for future generations of Caribbean people and leaders? Whatever the outcome of the talks between a Caricom delegation speared by Bahamian PM Hubert Ingraham and Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington, the region will do well to have its most influential economy return to normalcy.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Ramnarine

St Augustine

Trinidad and Tobago