Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 10th 2015 Contents A17
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Oil prices were lower yes-
terday, driven down by poor
Chinese trade data and ex-
pectations about the weekly
US stockpiles report.
West Texas Intermediate
(WTI), which trades slightly
higher than the crudes pro-
duced in T&T, fell 22 cents
to US$45.72 a barrel---less
than a dollar higher than the
US$45 a barrel price on
which the national budget is
pegged. WTI prices had also
dipped on Tuesday.
China said Tuesday its ex-
ports fell 5.5 per cent year-
on-year in August while
imports plunged 13.8 per
cent, led by falling com-
modity prices, adding to
worries about the strength
of the world's number two
economy and top energy
consumer. The slowdown in
Chinese growth, as well as a
slew of other weak indica-
tors, have sent panic
through world markets, as
the country is a key driver of
Close to 43,000 jobs in the construction
sector are at risk because of the billions owed
to local contractors by successive govern-
ments, says Mikey Joseph, president of the
T&T Contractors Association (TTCA).
"We have not been getting data from mem-
bers. Within the last couple years members
have been concerned about victimisation, but
I would hazard a guess that the state debt to
contractors right now is back at $1 billion
plus," he told the T&T Guardian.
Joseph said the situation was sure to worsen
as a result of the looming global downturn
and local contractors were bracing for hard
times based on the negative forecast for the
"Especially reading the reports from the
Central Bank on our state of finances, (at the
weekend) the construction sector, in any reces-
sion or in any economic decline, is the first
to suffer because you can do without buildings.
You can seek minimal maintenance during
that period of no income," he said.
"The sector generates quite a lot of employ-
ment and there is quite a lot of investment
in the construction sector right now in T&T.
Should that occur, it could be disastrous in
terms of unemployment and the loss of build-
ing and the closure of business because what
is on the horizon doesn't seem positive at this
There are about 95 financial members of
the TTCA representing 160 firms and they
employ approximately 86,000 persons.
"In terms of bad payment practices by the
state, that has never stopped. As we speak,
there are contractors that are owed for projects
they completed three years ago. Currently, no
contract carries credit facilities but what you
find is that state enterprises and Government
are not honouring their payment schedules
based on the contracts and indeed contractors
are working and not being paid on time and
in some cases you can't guarantee when."
Joseph said while the TTCA provided mem-
bers with in-house representation, including
writing the state and its agencies seeking
monies owed, the intent is to mediate or coerce
the authority or special purposes agencies to
honour contractual obligations. That is as far
as the associations' remit extends, he said.
At present, said the TTCA head, workers
in the sector might have to seek employment
overseas, while contractors pursue partnerships
on projects in South and Central America.
Local firms were reportedly doing well in these
"T&T contractors have been working
throughout the Caribbean at various times
throughout our history. Generally, what we
have found, for major work our contractors
are preferred in a lot of areas.
"We have the issue though of the Caribbean
region also going through a period of austerity
and that makes it even more difficult, because
(agencies) funding projects tend to prefer local
contractors in order to stimulate the local
economy, although we are part of Caricom,"
"It's almost like a perfect storm for local
contractors at this time, except you can get
into projects where you can do design build
and things like that. Each island has a respon-
sibility for providing for their citizens and part
of the funding through the Inter-American
Development Bank is that the local contractors
should also be encouraged to participate.
"Some members seeing where the economy
is heading have pursued investments in man-
ufacturing, while others have diversified their
businesses to include---but was not limited
43,000 construction jobs at risk
Weak China data drives down oil prices
Mikey Joseph, president of the T&T Contractors Association (TTCA), second right, with his wife
Judy, left, Christopher Garcia, TTCA past president and his wife Linda, right. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
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