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Tuesday, October 24 2017 @ 05:39 AM AST

Rowley: Shenanigans causing forex woes

Finance Minister gets few instructions from PM

Finance Minister Colm Imbert gets few instructions from his boss, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (in photo at right), the latter told the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) president's dinner at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on Tuesday (Oct. 3) night.

Speaking after TTMA President Christopher Alcazar who flagged foreign exchange as a key issue, Rowley said: "I've heard a lot about foreign exchange. I heard a lot about marketing. I heard a lot about attitudes. I'm glad I'm not the minister of finance. [Audience laughter] I give few instructions to the minister of finance because I don't want to take much of the blame, [more laughter] but I must say that a minister of finance in Trinidad and Tobago today, in pulling all these strands together, delivering a budget as was delivered on (Monday) must have done one hell of a job because I have not heard any person (say) that 'I'm not affected' and 'I'm not involved', and that tells me that the objective is being reached. We're all in this together and the burden has to be shared across the board, and if we do that and recognise that, then we stand a very good chance of choosing the best options available to us."

Rowley said he concurred with TTMA lifetime achievement award recipient Arthur Lok Jack who offered some suggestions to government including exchange rate flexibility.

Rowley said he has heard calls for more 'incentives', but after the Trade Ministry, at his request, published a list of all incentives available to businesses, it was a two-page pull out full of little or un-used incentives. He said: "It seems to me that the biggest incentive is the availability of foreign exchange. That foreign exchange story is not a simple, straighforward story about availability. I think there are some shenanigans going on as well, and we better face up to that," he said.

He went on: "There are some people who are holding onto foreign exchange, expecting a devaluation. That's not going to help us. You might have to wait a lot longer to realise your earnings from the expectation of an instant increase. Or you put it to work, or put it back into the marketplace."

He added: "And for those of you who are earning foreign exchange, it might be useful if you bring the surplus back into Trinidad and Tobago and let's use it, rather than expect that we get into printing."


"I hope that companies like PriceSmart will hold our hands and take us into those markets out there, that we know are out there, and for which we can be entrepreneurs, to have the trade flow the other way, and of course, earn that elusive foreign exchange," Rowley said as he spoke before feature speaker Robert Price, heir and chairman of the board of PriceSmart Inc. During his speech, Price, announced PriceSmart's in-house brand, Members Selection, will now include bottled water, and T&T-based Blue Waters will be the supplier.

Price said visits to his PriceSmart warehouses in Chaguanas and Mausica inspired him to think about more online shopping as he sees it, people will not put up with traffic to shop any more. He said his idea will combine the use of brick and mortar and online shopping.

Saying he wanted to respond to some of what Lok Jack, Rowley and Alcazar said, Price said: "The overlap in the countries where we do business (is that) in almost all of the countries mentioned here (at TTMA dinner), where there is some form of free trade agreement, are countries in which PriceSmart already is well established, so I think for us, we really see a great opportunity to help fulfill the mission that you're trying to seek and to improve the economy of Trinidad and Tobago." Price also said PriceSmart already buys $120 million in products from T&T, and exports about $21 million of that.

Giving a forewarning to networkers during *censored*tails after dinner, Price also felt it important to let the audience know he did not want to be approached with political banter on Trump or the secession of California.

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