Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 9th 2015 Contents A21
"Nothing that is loved, is ever lost,
And no-one who has touched a heart
can really pass away.
Twelve years have passed with you alive
in our hearts everyday.
For love is the bond that
keeps us together forever."
Saturday, January 9, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Some citizens are perplexed by the
country s overall reaction to the
announcement of a recession. It
seems folks are confused about what
it s supposed to look like. Admittedly,
it is tough to identify the beast in
an economy propped up by a nanny
This goes back to the central point
of recent columns about the paucity
of accurate and up-to-date statistics.
Without timely data on Christmas
spending, for example, we depend
on unreliable observation.
Malls and retail outlets appeared
crowded and consumers bought
enough fireworks to stage their own
With these as our principal indi-
cators, Trinis are left to assume that
few of us are troubled by all this
Again, in the absence of data, we
can only infer from the photographs
of the first major carnival fetes, that
Fete promoters have undoubtedly
been putting together these affairs
months in advance and they can t
very well be expected to throw their
hands up and say, "Ah well, we ll
just have to cancel..."
And what of the hedonists? Well,
look, as long as people continue to
collect their salaries and have a rea-
sonable expectation their jobs will
be there on Monday morning, they
are not likely to alter their behaviour.
It has been predicted that the real
"slowdown" will occur after Carni-
val. How will we recognise it, given
that spending traditionally slows
after the prolonged orgy of feting
and consumption of Christmas into
The situation is made more com-
plex by a simple principle of modern
commerce. Encouraging the public
to "tighten their belts" seems anti-
thetical to the notion of stimulating
If consumers do indeed hold back
in a significant way, the upshot of
that could be creeping job losses
owed to diminished business rev-
enues. Those job losses would erode
purchasing power, thus accelerating
the pattern of job loss and private
No one will dispute that people
should be more circumspect in the
management of their finances, order-
ing expenditure along the lines of
priority. Additionally every house-
hold, regardless of income, should
save something every month. But
merely telling citizens to "cut back"
isn t particularly helpful, and cer-
tainly doesn t reflect sound economic
policy. Every healthy economy needs
healthy consumer spending.
As the US emerged from the pro-
longed grip of its last recession, there
were regular reports on "signs of
life" in increased consumer spend-
ing. In the US, this is an accepted
indicator of confidence in the econ-
omy. When American consumers
spend, they support jobs in US man-
ufacturing and promote growth in
sectors providing goods and services.
Unfortunately, it doesn t work
quite that way in this country. When
T&T consumers spend, they provide
support for the US and Chinese
economies most notably. Buoyant
consumption patterns trigger vast
outflows of foreign exchange.
One panacea on offer is a dusting
off the old 80s era slogan of "buy
local." That sounds great, but buy
This is an import nation, so if a
consumer decides to shun foreign
junk franchises in favour of estab-
lishments selling "local" cuisine,
foreign exchange is still burnt up.
Think of the beloved roti for a
moment. The channa, potato, even
the dhal in yuh dhal puri roti skin;
The Matouk s brand is about as
Trini as you can get, yet the com-
pany has to import 50 per cent of
its inputs to churn out its trademark
pepper sauce. Similarly, smaller
start-ups trying to market fresh fruit
juices have a devil of a time sourcing
fruits locally to keep up with the
We would all love to support our
farmers markets, but the variety of
local fruits is, in the best of times,
abysmal. Apples and grapes have
become the standard bearers of fruit
consumption. Local fruits, formerly
abundant, appear infrequently as
exotics at market stalls.
This is due, in part, to anaemic
agricultural policy and the failure
of past governments to actively chart
a sustainable course for the sector.
This is why we are buried beneath
a mountain of short crops like
cucumbers and tomatoes. The
labour shortage is a contributory
factor, but then our disdain for farm-
ing was actively cultivated through
pre and post-independence political
Apple orchards in the US, straw-
berry fields in Brazil, grape vineyards
in Spain; these countries practice
agriculture as a business, a principle
we seem incapable of applying to
our maladaptive agri-sector. We just
don t seem to make the leap from
selling fruits "by de heap" to selling
them by the container-load.
Supporting investment in large
scale fruit plantations which can
supply our needs as well as build
an export market seems the way to
go. But I suppose a bamboo-pole
vaulting piper will do for now.
There is little evidence of our
readiness to confront the recession-
ary conditions we seem to have
deferred until after Carnival. Also
deferred are any meaningful meas-
ures to boost local manufacturing
and reduce our reliance on food
imports through aggressive agricul-
We have had more than 20 suc-
cessive years of unimaginative eco-
nomic policy creating our own
recession of enterprise and ingenuity.
Our continued reluctance to embrace
our realities makes the threat that
much more worrying.
A RECESSION DEFERRED
If consumers do indeed hold back in a significant
way, the upshot of that could be creeping job
losses owed to diminished business revenues.
Those job losses would erode purchasing power,
thus accelerating the pattern of job loss and
private sector collapse.
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