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in the late 80s to early 90s that suggest that
we are in a much better position to weather
this economic storm."
Asked to point out the differences between
the two periods Ram said: "We have a fair
amount of buffers this time. Firstly, we have
much larger foreign exchange reserves today
than in the 1980 s that once managed properly,
offer us some real prospects at curtailing the
effects of declining fiscal revenue.
"Additionally, the Heritage and Stabilisation
Fund represent savings to the country. We
also have a fair amount of private sector savings
as represented by the levels of liquidity in the
banking system. So, all these elements taken
together, represent significant departures from
Ram cautioned though that having these
buffers in place does not guarantee we are
completely divorced from returning to an "80s-
"The Government should really try to get
closer to a balanced budget. If we maintain
fiscal deficits for too long for example, this
could put a serious strain on foreign exchange
reserves and could lead to a drag on economic
growth. So decisions made now will determine
if the 1980s repeats itself."
The T&T-CDB nexus
At its inception in 1969, T&T was one of
the founding member countries of the CDB.
Through the passage of time, T&T has main-
tained a solid---if not unobtrusive---relationship
with the bank. Ram had this to say about the
"T&T has had a very good relationship with
the CDB. In the early years, it would have bor-
rowed from the CDB for infrastructure projects.
The bank also made loans to some state-
owned companies and, most recently, T&T
would have accessed an energy sector poli-
cy-based loan where the bank supported the
implementation and introduction of com-
pressed natural gas (CNG) into the market."
Going further the Barbados-based economist
"T&T is a very important member of the
bank. It contributes to our special development
resources (SDRs) which then allows us to lend
some of these resources at concessional rates
to our lesser developed borrowing member
countries in the Caribbean. So all in all, T&T
because of its large shareholding has a tremen-
dous leadership role in the bank."
As part of its mandate, the CDB, on a rolling
four-year basis, develops "country strategy
papers" for its borrowing member countries
(BMCs). These papers, done in collaboration
with local technocrats, outline the form of
assistance and mode of transmission for this
assistance between the CDB and the respective
BMC that would cover the four-year period.
The last country strategy paper for T&T
covered the period 2011-2014. Currently, a
new paper is being developed for the period
2016-2020. On this, Ram said: "Our last trip
to Trinidad in April centred around discussions
with the new government to help us under-
stand what are the priorities for the Govern-
ment and to see where the CDB could offer
"So we re in the midst of developing the
paper right now and through a couple iter-
ations, we re hoping to have the paper approved
by our board of directors later this year."
Asked to comment on specific discussions
held during the April visit, Ram said, "We had
discussions with quite a few ministries and
other stakeholders, and we also had very fruitful
discussions in Tobago with the Tobago House
of Assembly on some possible projects that
we could be supporting there."
With a multitude of multilateral agencies---
IMF, IDB, World Bank and CDB---providing
"technical assistance" it s easy to conceive
that along the way, some duplication of effort
could take place.
Asked to distinguish the CDB from among
the pack of lending agencies, Ram said: "As
part of the donor community, we (the CDB)
tend to try to work in tandem with rather than
duplicate what the others are doing. The IMF
and others would have strengths in certain
areas like say public financial management,
whereas the CDB would be uniquely competent
in areas such as: social sector development,
education and infrastructure development.
These are areas where the bank has substantial
Focusing on infrastructural development
the London-trained technocrat said: "With
regard to infrastructure projects, in particular,
we ve been very successful at getting large
projects delivered on time, within budget and
with the necessary types of evaluations that
are important in these modern times."
Asked to specify these evaluations, he said,
"Our infrastructure projects are assessed to
treat with the impact of climate change in
the region and, as such, to be resilient to
Ram also stated that matters such as gender
equality, regional integration and public-private
partnerships are areas the bank has a great
deal of specialised knowledge.
T&T was one of the founding mem-
ber countries of the Caribbean Devel-
opment Bank. It is one of the bank's
largest shareholders with ownership
totalling 48,354 shares representing a
17.9 per cent interest in the Bank.
This notwithstanding, the country's
borrowing relationship with the CDB
has been extremely limited over the
past two decades.
In fact, over the period 1970-2015
total loans approved by CDB for T&T
totaled US$200.6 million, while total
disbursements totaled US$190.7 mil-
lion placing the country tenth in terms
of total lending to all borrowing mem-
ber countries over that time period.
In many respects, the country's bor-
rowing patterns from CDB correlate
strongly with the evolution of its
macro economy, in general, and the
health of its public finances, in particu-
lar.Trinidad's borrowings from CDB be-
came relatively significant after the
second oil shock in the early 1980s, as
oil prices plummeted, throwing the
economy into a tail spin. The bulk of
government's credits during these
early years were targeted towards
ramping up agricultural production.
The period of structural adjustment
and negative growth that followed
(alongside negative fiscal balances),
provided the impetus for a sustained
demand for bank assistance.
However, as the economy emerged
from the period of stagnation and
growth became entrenched (sup-
ported by significant oil and gas finds),
T&T looked inward in financing its de-
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CBD updating country plan
PHOTOS: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
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