Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 30th 2015 Contents A5
Friday, October 30, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The Central Bank has returned to the foreign
exchange distribution system that was in operation
as at March 31, 2014 and has injected US$500 mil-
lion into the system to clear the backlog of demand
for foreign currency in accordance with a special
directive from Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
The Central Bank announced yesterday the change
was made under Section 3 (2) of the Exchange Control
Act and Section 50 of the Central Bank Act, following
consultations between Governor Jwala Rambarran
and Imbert on Monday.
A special directive was subsequently issued to the
Central Bank for the re-establishment of the previous
distribution system with effect from yesterday.
According to the Exchange Control Act, in the
exercise of its powers and the performance of its
duties, the Central Bank "shall conform with any
general or special directions given to it by the Minister
In addition, the Central Bank has consulted with
commercial banks to ascertain the foreign exchange
queues for trade-related purposes on their books ---
after eliminating double counting --- and will make
the special injection of US$500 million today to
immediately clear those queues.
"Central Bank has requested commercial banks
to ensure all legitimate demands for foreign exchange
are met (within a reasonable time), with priority
accorded to trade-related transactions," the bank
Plans to revert to the old foreign exchange dis-
tribution system were announced by Imbert on Octo-
ber 20 when he piloted debate on the 2016 Budget
in the Senate.
However, he first raised the issue in his budget
presentation in the House of Representatives on
October 5 when he said that "rebuilding confidence
in the management of the foreign exchange market
represents a central thrust as we revitalise our national
economy. The current situation is untenable and has
contributed to great uncertainty and capital flight."
Imbert then outlined four requests he intended
to make to the Central Bank:
1) Re-establish the foreign exchange distribution
system which existed prior to 2014;
2) clear the backlog of arrears of foreign exchange
3) ensure that legitimate demands for foreign
exchange are met; and
4) ensure the stability of the exchange rate.
In its statement yesterday, the Central Bank specif-
ically outlined its conformance with items 1, 2 and
3 of the budget speech, but made no explicit or
implicit mention of ensuring the stability of the
In the budget speech, Imbert also said the Gov-
ernment intended "to take the necessary steps to
protect the exchange rate from external pressures,"
adding that was being done in the context of the
Exchange Control Act.
In piloting the budget debate in the Senate, the
For 39 hours, three Couva fisherman
held onto the cover of a cooler, deter-
mined to stay alive after their boat sank
in the Gulf of Paria early Tuesday
With day turning into night, stormy
conditions and search vessels failing to
spot them, 24-year-old Ravi Rampersad
said he never gave up hope.
Rampersad, of Basta Hall, was at the
home of his friend and neighbour, Daril
Seelochan, yesterday as they recounted
the terrifying experience.
"It was a matter of life and death and
I did not give up. When we were in the
water, I told myself that we are not giving
up for anything and I showed them that
we were going to make it. I always knew
we would be rescued," Rampersad said.
Rampersad, Seelochan, 38, and captain
Sherwin Harold, 37, of Carli Bay, left the
Brickfield Fishing Depot around 3 pm
Monday aboard the 27-foot pirogue, Mr
Cola. According to Seelochan, they had
caught close to 100 lbs of carite when
around 1.30 am Tuesday, three large
waves battered the boat, causing it to
take in too much water.
Trying in vain the dip out the water,
the men had to abandon the vessel as
it began sinking. He said with the coolers
tied onto a rope, which was connected
to the boat, they held on for life.
However, the weight of the cooler was
too much and they had to dump the
catch in order to keep the cover as the
pirogue, which was still loaded with two
Yamaha 130 HP engines, sank further.
Shivering from the cold water and
rain beating against them, the men drift-
ed off the coast of Couva until they
reached near La Brea.
Seelochan recalled: "On Tuesday, we
saw the Air Guard chopper circling the
area where the boat was and we were
beating up in the water so they could
see us but they did not.
"We even saw the owner of the boat
searching for us but even he too did not
see us in the water even though we were
a close distance to them.
"We knew when we reached La Brea
on Wednesday morning as we saw a rig
and tried to paddle closer to it but we
could not reach it.
"After we saw a tug boat coming in
our direction and we paddled closer to
be in line with the side of it. There was
a guy on the outside smoking a cigarette
would not have made it."
Becoming emotional with thanks, See-
lochan said the seamen treated them
well, pulling them on board and giving
them dry clothes, blankets, water, coffee
and energy drinks.
La Brea police said they were contacted
by Jason Verriuel around 6 am that
morning, informing them that the vessel,
Titan, had rescued the men.
The vessel took the men to shore
where ambulances took them to the
Point Fortin Area Hospital where they
were treated and discharged.
Seelochan suffered several blows on
his back when the boat was being bat-
tered in the water as well as gas burns
from the engine.
Rampersad had several bruises and
Harold was unharmed but like all three
men, he suffered from dehydration.
"Thank God for Ravi, he kept me
awake, he held onto me and he kept
talking. Our skins were already white
from being in the water so long and we
were cold. There was rain, thunder and
lightning. I started to pray but I saw
death," Seelochan said.
He said he would not return to sea
for a while but Rampersad said he would
go back once he got his own vessel.
Seelochan s mother, Chandra, said
although she was worried when he did
not return home the following day, she
did not give up hope.
Rescued fishermen --- Ravi Rampersad, left, and Daril Seelochan --- recount their
ordeal during an interview at their home in Couva yesterday. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
Rescued fishermen recount ordeal:
Saved by cooler's cover
minister said the supply of foreign exchange was
one of the biggest problems raised in pre-budget
"Going forward, we intend to have an open door
policy with all stakeholder groups in the business
community to ensure we are sufficiently aware of
their operational realities and the challenges that
they face," he said.
On April 1, 2014, the Central Bank switched from
a 20-year-old arrangement for distributing foreign
Under the new arrangement, 12 licensed authorised
dealers were included in the distribution system,
when previously there had been only eight authorised
In addition, the bank began making more use of
an auction system intended to ensure the supply of
foreign exchange could go to where demand was
greatest, based on price.
However, the changes led to difficulties with the
supply, particularly of US currency, with manufac-
turers and major business groups complaining bitterly
and frequently that it was negatively affecting their
The Central Bank has been making frequent US
dollar injections into the system but this failed to
satisfy the demand, as "repeated shortages have
resulted in incentives to hoard foreign exchange," as
the International Monetary Fund said in its 2014
Article IV consultation report, in which it recom-
mended "increased flexibility" in the foreign exchange
T&T s net official reserves currently stand at
US$10.1 billion, equivalent to almost one year s worth
Central Bank returns
to old forex system
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