Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 10th 2015 Contents SBG4 COVER STORY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JANUARY 10 • 2016
Part IWith the economy
under siege from
falling revenues, the
already signalled its
intention to curb its
spending. In an address to the nation at the
end of last year, Prime Minister Dr Keith Row-
ley said that state enterprises and ministries
have been mandated to cut spending by seven
per cent by the end of this month.
As citizens, various calls have been made
to tighten our belts and do some cost cutting.
But for many in this country, the period from
Boxing Day to Ash Wednesday is Carnival
time and the reality is that the revelry is in
our DNA. Cutting out the cost of Carnival at
a personal level is just not on the cards.
Jane* is one such person. Annually, she goes
to several all-inclusive fetes and plays with
one of the more popular mas bands in Port-
of-Spain. Her costume is in excess of $6,000.
Fete tickets are between $1,200 and $1,500.
Then there is hair and makeup, and because
many of the same people go to the same all-
inclusive fetes that Jane frequents, that means
she has to get a new outfit for each fete.
How does she cover the cost?
Well, Jane said that every year she takes a
loan to the value of $15,000 which she has to
pay monthly to finance her Carnival tastes.
Her friends do the same because "obviously
you don t play mas or go to a fete alone. You
want to have a good time, so we go as a group."
The loan of $15,000 is sometimes not
enough and she dips into salary or savings to
ensure she is well outfitted, because "we have
to get shoes for every outfit. We have to look
Jane and her friends go to five all-inclusive
fetes annually. For one person, that is between
$6,000 and $7,500 depending on the fete they
choose to go to.
They spend about $4,000 on outfits, hair,
makeup and shoes.
The costume costs $6,000. The total bill
for their Carnival revelry costs each one of
them between $16,000 and $17,500.
Granted it s money on loan and they pay
back monthly, but the reality is there are other
bills to pay.
Jane is one of the lucky ones. Her salary is
over $10,000, and she does not pay rent.
But her weekly grocery bill is $900, that
works out to $3,600 a month and sometimes
it is a little more. She is also paying for a car.
She admitted that if her grocery bill increases
because of the new VAT measures she would
have to cut back on some items. But she still
has to work out where those cut backs will
be.Jane said she has friends who are not as
lucky. While Jane s job is secure, she said some
of her friends are afraid they will be laid off
because of the economic downturn.
They also pay rent and are concerned that
their bills will increase. They fear rent could
go up because of the re-introduction of land
and building taxes. They are also worried that
their grocery bills may also go up because
some items that were zero rated may now
incur the 12.5 per cent VAT.
So, how are they planning to cut back?
Jane said they have decided this year to not
play in their regular mas band. They have
chosen, instead, to play in a less-popular band
but there they will be paying a quarter of what
they would normally pay for a costume.
She admitted, "We will not get all the things
we are accustomed to---the drinks and food---
but we don t drink much anyway. The idea
is: we will all be together having a good time."
They still intend to go to one all-inclusive
fete, but will patronise some of the low-end
fetes which don t require a big spend on outfits,
shoes, hair and make-up.
Personal sacrifices will have to be made
during the year. Less spending on new clothes,
shoes, Friday evening limes with friends and
luxury items. But Jane said she is no "big
spender and does not squander" so cutting
back will be easy for her. Her friends also have
some personal choices to make.
Economist Indera Sagewan-Alli told the
GML Enterprise Desk that these tough eco-
nomic times call for significant introspection
and a relook at where we, as citizens, can cut
Your grocery bill, for example, Sagewan-
Alli said: "Replace a lot of things which are
processed and high value adding with things
you can make yourself. Start a kitchen garden,
produce things yourself once you have the
"Also, look at utilities---water and electric-
ity---and how you use them. Cutback where
you can. Look at how many lights you keep
on. The use of air condition units, do you
really need them on all the time?"
Small reductions in bills, the economist
said, will add up.
She is also advising that we may want to
look at our entertainment bill.
"Look at how much you spend on movies,
eating out for the week," she said, "if you have
to dine out you may want to consider spending
the money where it stays in the country, eat
at a local restaurant as opposed to an inter-
Sagewan-Alli also said citizens could con-
sider carpooling. "Spread the cost, you and a
friend or a neighbour could share the cost by
carpooling if you going in the same direction.
Do not do long trips unnecessarily."
She is also advising that you may want to
put off a decision to change your vehicle.
It s really a chicken and egg situation, she
said, because when "demand contracts, the
economic situation could worsen."
Sagewan-Alli advises, "As a nation, we have
a collective responsibility. Business organisa-
tions need to redirect production, reshape the
structure of production and demand to ensure
it is stimulating the economy and keeping the
"Also, the Government needs to be doing
its part to instil confidence but that is not
happening. There are significant opportunities
in times like these. One such opportunity is
growing the agricultural sector because we
cannot continue to import as we have and the
sector cannot do it on its own."
Using Oman as an example, she said that
oil producing nation is formulating a long-
term strategy to reduce its dependence on oil
from 40 per cent to 22 per cent. The plan
involves diversification of the economy. "It is
something we have long spoken about but
continue to fail to do."
In light of the necessity now to feed our-
selves, she said, the State must consider how
to stimulate the agriculture sector, "whether
by mega-farms or small-scale farming coop-
eratives. We need to decide what we need to
produce. What are the products which we can
produce for export? The investment needs to
be of such to ensure long-term sustainabil-
GML Enterprise Desk
Surviving a recession
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