MSJ disagrees with positive IMF report on economy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah. – File photo

THE Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) on March 14 disagreed with the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article IV report, which said Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing a sustained economic recovery.

In a statement, MSJ political leader David Abdulah said, “The IMF says that things are looking up, but what are the ordinary men and women feeling? Are their lives better?

“The answer to that is a resounding no.”

He added that wages and salaries have not kept up with increased prices of food and fuel.

“So working people are worse off today than they were five years ago. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth is therefore not being translated into betterment for the people.”

Abdulah said in the MSJ’s view, “The few very wealthy are getting a bigger and bigger slice of the pie, and the majority have to do with less.”

Abdulah disagreed with the IMF’s support for government policies such as collecting property tax and the phased reduction of subsidies to assist the most vulnerable in society.

While Abdulah agreed with the IMF on the need for structural reforms of the economy, he said there is a need to ensure that when these reforms are implemented, they do not worsen the inequality of wealth between the rich and poor.

He claimed the current government and all its predecessors have failed to create an economic system in which TT’s natural resources have been used to serve the common good and there is opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity.

In a statement issued by his ministry on March 11, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the IMF onlyreached these conclusions because his ministry and the Government “have exercised fiscal discipline over the last eight years, thus creating the conditions for sustained growth.”

The IMF’s 2024 Article IV visit to Trinidad and Tobago was made from February 28-March 8.

The mission met with a number of stakeholders, government departments, private-sector organisations and state institutions and comprehensively analysed detailed economic data on TT.

In its report, also issued on March 11, the IMF said, “For the first time in a decade, Trinidad and Tobago is undergoing a gradual and sustained economic recovery. Real GDP rebounded in 2022 and is estimated to have further expanded by 2.1 per cent in 2023.”

The IMF attributed this to the strong performance of the non-energy sector, which was partially offset by a contraction in the energy sector.

While the IMF viewed TT’s economic outlook as positive, it did identify some risks.

“In the near term, downside risks stem from external factors affecting energy markets (eg, an abrupt global slowdown) and disappointments in domestic energy production (eg., delays in new projects or unexpected disruptions in current production). In the medium term, the balance of risks is to the upside, stemming from additional new natural gas projects and the implementation of planned structural reforms, which could boost growth.”

The IMF said maintaining fiscal discipline while strengthening TT’s fiscal framework is important.