Colm Imbert

lending assistance: Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert and executive president of CAF, Mr Sergio Díaz-Granados sign one of two loan agreements totalling US$160 million to support the Government’s digital economy drive and to finance drainage works efforts in Port of Spain and the Caroni, Caparo, South Oropouche and North Oropouche basins. Observing the signings were Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, Dr Amery Browne, left, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, CAF’s regional manager for the Caribbean, Dr Stacy Richards Kennedy and CAF’s corporate vice president strategic programming Christian Asinelli. —Photo courtesy the Office of the Prime Minister

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert signed two loan agreements with the CAF (Development Bank of Latin America), which provide funding for a technical assistance project on flood prevention as well as to boost digital transformation.

The signings took place at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Tuesday.

Imbert and executive president of CAF, Sergio Díaz-Granados signed the agreements for:

—A US$120 million loan to support the Government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the digital economy, and society by delivering more efficient services to citizens and fostering digital inclusion;

—A US$40 million loan to finance drainage works in the Caroni, Caparo, South Oropouche and North Oropouche basins, as well as in Port of Spain;

—Imbert also signed an Immunities and Privileges Agreement designed to facilitate the operations of CAF’s regional office.

—As part of a collaboration with The University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus principal, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine signed an agreement with CAF for a US$10 million grant.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was also present to witness the signings, and posted it on his Facebook yesterday.

Trade facilitation

Speaking at the CAF flagship report “RED 2021” at the Central Bank Auditorium on Tuesday, the finance minister said increasing trade facilitation is critical to the region at all levels.

He indicated that this country’s trade performance has improved, moving from a visible trade balance of $12.5 billion (US$1.84 billion) in 2017 to $19.3 billion (US$2.84 billion) in 2021.

Imbert said that with the escalation in commodity prices in 2022, the latest data shows a projected increase in T&T’s balance of trade in 2022 to $36 billion (US$5.3 billion), an increase of 86 per cent.

However, he said the results from trade agreements have been modest, as highlighted in the RED 2021.

“Over the period 2017 to 2021, for example, Trinidad and Tobago’s trade balance with the Dominican Republic decreased by 44 per cent, moving from US$71.8 million in 2017 to US$40.0 million in 2021.

“Similarly, the country’s trade balance with Costa Rica, over the same period, maintained a negative trade balance with exports increasing marginally by 1.8 per cent per cent from approximately US$10.1 million in 2017 to US$10.2 million in 2021. As previously mentioned, these are the two countries with which Caricom has free trade agreements,” the minister explained.

Imbert said that the advantages of trade facilitation experienced by the business community are vast and trickle down to the citizenry in several, if not all cases.

“Through trade facilitation, the business community profits from lower trade-related costs and reduced delays in the delivery of their raw materials, which allows them to better serve their consumers by providing goods on time and at a more economical cost. There is also enhanced competitiveness which forces businesses to maintain and provide goods of the highest quality,” he remarked.

He also pointed out that trade facilitation helps strengthen national security systems of countries, which is especially important in small island states, which have experienced rising crime rates due to cracks in outdated customs processes and systems.

“To add, countries whose trade processes allow for swift and feasible import and export of production inputs and finished goods, respectively, are more attractive locations for foreign firms seeking to invest; thereby increasing foreign exchange inflows, which is an impetus to export growth in a country. This also further improves economic development in countries as local consumers can be offered an array of high quality, reasonably priced goods and services,” Imbert emphasised.

CAF also launched its regional office for the Caribbean, in Port-of-Spain, after the presentation of the trade facilitation report.

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