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Road to economic recovery

A roadmap is a strategic plan outlining a goal or a desired outcome and includes pointers. It is also a tool that articulates the thinking for getting to the goal.

‘Recovery’ in the Roadmap context

  • Economic recovery will be achieved when we re-attain a balanced national T&T budget for ‘X’ years running.

  • Enlist a creditable index (e.g adult literacy rates, housing, jobs, income distribution, more) to mirror quality of life.

  • Accept incoming themes, the epic ideas, the great features. However all strategies inclusion in the roadmap must merge, given Coronavirus and Climate Change are still To-Do’s.

If recovery is to be linked to a timeline then ample production of staple food items has got to be this country’s immediate priority though not to the detriment of ecologies and ecosystems. At the same time but allowing for critical analyses prior to (and during) usage, the harnessing of assets already to hand should be undertaken.

Spanning all is quality and relevant education. Education is both an asset and a priority and covers every field of endeavour. An educated workforce coupled with T&T’s relatively mature connectivity infrastructure will provide a diverse demographic which in turn can enable dependent sectors such as banking, security, manufacturing and education to be competitive.

A caveat

Beyond the immediate production of food, Economy too requires attention and we expect government as well as financiers will seek to drive construction, manufacture and mining. Accepting it must be so, we urge everyone concerned to use the few days left before ‘Life’ opens up for business, to critically think out how every action taken now impacts on Climate. Since indications are our brush this year with the Coronavirus has not yet been favourably resolved it would be wise to lessen stresses on nature. Science shows a warmer climate is an unstable one and in turn can exacerbate respiratory disease. The laymans guide to rebuilding our economy suggests therefore that Green - or emission optimised processes, will help save our own lives going foward.

Another caveat

Economy/Enterprise remains the select vehicle to save our society, to provide personal quality of life. The attraction to dive headfirst into the mix - as it was before the coronavirus pandemic will be strong. Some opportunities though may not show as choices - indeed a few may come across as lost or losing causes. Tourism is one such enterprise. From all indications the hospitality sector; the entire Caribbean’s bread and butter seems to be the building block nobody wants at this time.

Recently a government minister was quoted as saying tourism ought not to be a near term priority for Trinidad and Tobago. That in all likelihood was an error of judgement. One with social ramifications since Tobago is a separate and unique geography, has distinct and different needs and is somewhat limited to what it can contribute to GDP if not for tourism. Indeed if the national economy can be likened to a garden, then manufacturing would be the short crop and tourism the tree.

It takes little (forethought) to see immediately after work resumes, even before the economy kicks in, the Tobago tourism plant will come into its own even with the ‘little’ visitors from Trinidad will bring. The fact of the matter is even as food is being grown, even as manufacturing/construction and other artifices of Economy are being looked at, so too should needs of life be looked after. That’s where the tourism infrastructure factors.

To be generous (to the Tourism Minister) the returns are indeed non-obvious but hotels, apartments and guesthouses fuel the entire supply chain - from farm to phone companies. The tourism service network offers restaurants, watersports. Indeed the sector comprises a host of recreation/relaxation businesses that are in the main fully registered, tax payers.

The take-home here then is obvious. Tobago has a right to try to develop its economy - which can only be tourism. To flip this allegorical coin, Trinidadians going on holiday ought to be provided with the option to spend money locally rather than abroad.

The following table (not exhaustive) highlights several known service and productive sector options. And illustrates relationships that should be re-examined for fit as T&T engages Recovery:




ITEM/SECTOR ¬ PRODUCT ¬ ACTION PROPOSED
Mining
Oil & Gas Review. Consider outright Sale. A knee jerk reaction to go back into an industry where so many of the big players from the biggest economies will cost more than we can afford.
Minerals Revalue. These are finite resources that should be used for the greatest possible long term gain.
Freshwater Support ecosystem protection of watersheds. Use, re-use optimally. Retain.
Fishing Review (stocktake) and revalue the asset. Unfacilitate illegal offshore fishing.
Governance
Workplace Allow work from home where practical
Workday Split the timetable to ease traffic emissions and help with child supervision.
Workforce Split for same reasons as above.
System Lean to Socialism. The freemarket system will fail to the Chinese model.
Review foreign policy embrace CARICOM cross boundary deals where benefical to all stakeholders.
Economy
Liquidity Offer increase in incentives for money outside to come back in.
Taxation Increase taxes on products that are imported despite the availability of a local option.
Green Fund Expand its reach to fund renewable energy start-ups for coalitions that includes Non-profits and For-profits (Social Enterprise class)
Renewable energy Fit solar into agro, manufacturing, tourism, construction
Agriculture Review, Revalue,Green
Manufacturing Review. Make Greener to attract the responsible shopper, to ensure the business is feasible for the longterm
Tourism Green the hotels, airport, port. Support the revaluation of the ecosystem and ecologies that need them - to strengthen the draw of the natural product.
Construction Embrace technologies that support Climate Change resilience.
Waste to Energy Enable. Has potential to support all the above sectors and - assist with our committments to Agenda 2030.
ICTs Continue the discussions to bring datahousing to T&T, using Build Own and Operate partnership model. We/Power and support infrastructure. They/Controller hardware and software (This should readily identify costs and therefore ROI.)
Education
Computing Remove VAT on computers purchased by students. One purchase per 3 year period.
Reward Open source applications in the workplace as it will create job opens for tech support as well as ease money spent on proprietary software.
Fast foward training in IT to enable the highest possible local worker placement in datacenters.

In Sum

Functional agri-systems are a default for any society which survival in mind. Thus the period during and after the pandemic is set to put pressure on the local farmer, the backyard gardener and to an extent not easily quantified - our freshwater reservoirs. Consequently the coming era more than any we’ve faced, require we protect the ecologies and the ecosystems lest gains made become short-lived, costly and or irreparable.

While there is no blueprint for the above for any specific situation or for any particular community, we need to re-visit the Sustainable Development Goals and draw from that toolbox approaches best suited for Trinidad and Tobago. Prior to the Covid19 outbreak local civil society played a key part in bringing awareness of the SDGs to the general public and into Government’s focus. It is imperative these three sectors remain together in consultative mode as the Recovery strategy evolves.

Notes 1 The datacenter option will facilitate future generation ICT which will assist in the Greening of local industry (e.g 5G).

2 The drive to encourage liquidity through printing money or encouraging cash inflow from offshore may see inflation, a return of profligate spending and concomitantly, damage to the natural environment.

3 Social enterprise needs to enter mainstream thinking as it can feature heavily in the Recovery.

4 Social equity (justice), nature’s services, natural capital are important to include in Recovery thinking and action.

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