TWO economists are predicting a challenging 2021 for Trinidad and Tobago, as the Covid-19 pandemic is still having a major impact on economic growth globally.
Speaking to Express Business on the economic outlook, Dr Indera Sagewan said she does not anticipate positive growth for this year, even though a vaccine is on the horizon.
“The same kind of economic activity that we saw in 2020, will certainly be seen for the first and second quarter of 2021, so it’s against this background I don’t anticipate positive growth.”
Sagewan’s advice to the Government going forward is to pay more attention to revitalising the agriculture sector as she noted comments by the Supermarket Association president Rajiv Diptee about possible shortages of food this year as supply chains have been affected by the ongoing virus.
“The agriculture sector must be rejuvenated in order to meet local demand, so that the supermarkets wouldn’t have to be so dependent on imported goods, and going beyond that, grow things we can potentially export. The employment opportunity in there is significant.”
Another sector, the economist said, that needs to be looked at as well is the yachting industry, which will help bring in foreign exchange that the country is in dire need of at this time.
“The yachting industry is one of the safest aspects of tourism, that we can encourage, as the smaller islands have been allowing the foreign yachts to enter their borders and quarantine in yachts. So the owners would have food and fuel in US currency which will be a good revenue earner for T&T.”
With the increase of taxes and import duty on electric and hybrid cars, and small engine CNG vehicles, which took effect from January 1, 2021, Sagewan noted that the consumer is going to have to dig deeper in their pockets as the dealers would not be prepared to absorb all of the increase.
Also weighing in on the outlook, economist Dr Marlene Attzs said the pandemic is going to continue to have an economic impact on the livelihoods of people for some time to come.
“There is likely to be some micro-economic fallout that would be realised in 2021, coming out of the impact of Covid. We will continue to see depressed oil prices, because of the global circumstances and that of course is going to have a direct knock-on effect on T&T’s sources of revenues.”
Attzs said citizens would continue to experience challenges with the availability of foreign exchange, which will also impact on businesses that use US dollars frequently.
“It is going to be a challenging year, in terms of its micro-economic circumstances and a solution needs be devised in how to deal with unemployment, to deal with potential increases in inflation, particularly if the country has to import food. So the challenges are going to come from multiple sources.”
On the handling of Covid, Attzs said the main priority now is the managing of the numbers, and thus far the health sector has been doing a good job.