Ramnarine: Imbert’s optimism shows disconnect from reality

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine. FILE PHOTO –

FORMER energy minister Kevin Ramnarine on Sunday described Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s pronouncements on the state of the economy last week, as further evidence of a major disconnect between the Government and the reality facing many thousands of people.

At the Spotlight on the Economy, held by the Finance Ministry at Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain on Friday, Imbert said TT’s economy was now enjoying a strong recovery following the global fallout caused by the pandemic.

The minister however urged caution as future developments in global events could affect local revenues.

Ramnarine said on Sunday, “It came as no surprise that the Minister sought to paint a glowing picture of the economy under his stewardship.”

But he added, “What was presented at the Hyatt has absolutely no resonance with the man sitting in the red band maxi. The irrefutable fact is the economy has massively declined from 2015 to 2021.”

Ramnarine said in 2015, TT’s real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was $ 187.1 billion.

“By the end of 2021, it was $149.6 billion, that is a 20 per cent decline in GDP since 2014. I am not surprised that this was not a talking point at the Spotlight event.”

Referring to comments Imbert made with respect to energy, Ramnarine said, “It is also interesting that with all the buoyant oil, natural gas and ammonia prices that the country is realising, that our oil and gas revenue in 2022 will not get back to 2015 levels.”

He opined that the answer to this question will present an irrefutable fact.

“Natural gas production, the heart beat of the TT economy, is at a 19-year low. This has compromised our revenue and means that we will not capitalise on the high prices in 2022.”

Ramnarine said, “We must remember that high prices don’t last forever. It is noteworthy that with all the excess revenue in 2022 we are still in a deficit of two billion. The core issue is the production of natural gas and oil.”

Ramnarine also said data from the Central Statistical Office suggests that the economy contracted in 2021 by one per cent. He added that other countries in the world, as captured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) databases at the time, showed growth.

“This contraction in 2021 says something is structurally wrong with the TT economy