Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 28th 2014 Contents SBG6 NEWS
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt SEPTEMBER 28 • 2014
In the 2015 budget, Finance Minister
Larry Howai announced economic
incentives for several industries in an
effort to create further stimulus in
the non-energy sector. Further, he
reported that this sector made higher
contributions to GDP than the energy
sector over the past year.
But the issue of diversification remains trou-
blesome. The Sunday BG spoke to diversifi-
cation stakeholders: Richard Young, chairman
of the Economic Development Board, and
Indera Sagewan Alli, economist and head of
the Caribbean Centre for Competitiveness, to
see where progress has been made in the area
of diversification, what are the problems pre-
venting it and how much further we have to
go in this area.
This against the backdrop of the IMF staff
report for 2014 Article IV consultation, which
deemed T&T deficient in several areas nec-
essary for successful economic diversification,
including levels of innovation.
The growth pole concept
Young, said the growth poles were five geo-
graphical areas targeted for economic growth.
"Those areas are what are referred to as
growth poles, four of them in Trinidad, one
of them in Tobago. The ones in Trinidad, of
course, are East Port-of-Spain, the north coast,
central, southwest and Tobago. These are the
five areas we would like to see increased eco-
nomic activity in the attempt to diversify away
from the energy resource base of the econ-
Diversification: what has been
In identifying projects the EDB was meeting
with a measure of success so far, Young said
activity has been moving ahead in the agri-
cultural sector and steps are being taken to
resuscitate the cocoa and honey industries.
"In assessing the cocoa industry, it was felt
some restructuring was needed and recom-
mendations were put forward in terms of hav-
ing a new board, dismantling the cocoa board
and having a cocoa development company, so
that we could make the market a little freer
and open. Those recommendations then went
forward to the minister of food production.
It is now their role and their function to exe-
As far as he was aware, Young said he
believed that the Cocoa Development Company
was formed and a board may have been select-
ed. He also said farms were set up and the
hope was that by the end of this year, some
chocolate liqueurs would be produced.
"I have also been chatting over the phone
recently with some people connected with
honey producers. Some of the challenges we
have right now is honey is imported and honey
cannot be imported unless it gets tested. The
worrying thing---according to honey produc-
ers---is you have substances that come in under
the pretext of being honey and it isn t really
honey and it can be dangerous."
Young said there has been a proposal for
the building of a lab for the testing of imported
substances. Regarding the local industry itself,
Young said recommendations were made for
the units dealing with bee keeping at the food
production ministry to be revived.
"It is a fairly simple process and honey is
now fetching a good price," said Young.
The EDB chairman said there has also been
some traction in other industries. He said the
board was facilitating the development of a
bank of energy data. This was in collaboration
with the energy ministry.
He also spoke of the project SiTeK (Solar
Industry Technologies Ltd).
"This is taking sand and making glass out
of it. From that you get the different glass
panels and then from panels and you can
migrate to solar panels. In total, there are four
factories. It s still in a pre-feasibility stage."
Plans for support of the Central s pottery
industry, as well as consultations in the South
West and North Coast on the development
of their respective growth pole areas are also
afoot. Port rationalisation is also on the cards,
and this is another area the IMF report iden-
tified T&T as being weak relative to its state
But the diversification thrust is not without
Politics, special interests and
Young contrasted the advisory role of the
EDB here, with the one being played by similar
organisations in countries like Singapore and
Malaysia. In T&T, the board s role was advi-
"So this framework had already been set
and the original concept of the economic
development board---if you did some assess-
ments compared to the bigger ones at other
parts of the world, Singapore, Malaysia---it is
really supposed to be very powerful board in
the context of it being a think tank."
In its advisory capacity, the EDB is not able
to function with the level of independence
comparable organisations in other countries
Young said, "a government, to really retain
a serious think tank, would really have to give
up a lot of its autonomy, because these think
tank people would be very independent and
I don t know how governments like that."
The EDB head also said a level of political
partisanship becomes evident in projects like
the drive to move Chaguanas from Borough
to city status.
"Of course, in that process, you face a lot
of politics. The council is a bit divided on it."
Following last year s local government elec-
tions, the Chaguanas Borough now has rep-
resentatives from the People s Partnership,
the PNM and the ILP.
Development in the East Port-of-Spain
growth pole is providing its own challenges.
Even though there have been some success is
providing better lighting to treat with crime,
according to the EDB chair, he has not been
getting results with the perennial issues of
parking and traffic in the capital.
"I am having this problem because there
are too many stakeholders. The ODPM wants
this, the police want this and I really can t put
Referring to vending at the Salvatori Building
site: "I really thought we had solved it, but
higher powers than me have decided to give
them another extension."
"I guess he (Dr Moonilal) thought to take
it upon his own to give the extension. We were
never consulted. So that brings the politics
into it. It is sometimes challenging."
Young also mentioned the size of the gov-
ernment and the complex bureaucratic
machinery that has developed between its
"The other challenge is all the other ministers
have their priorities. And the structuring is
the by product of a coalition government. I
The impossible dream?
Source: IMF Staff Report 2014
Continued on Page 7
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