US$500m MoU signed by Finance Ministry, US Exim bank

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left US Ambassador Candace Bond, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and president and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) Reta Jo Lewis during an MoU signing to provide up to US$500 million in funding to TT at the ministry’s Port of Spain office on Friday. – Jeff K Mayers

The Ministry of Finance and the US Exim bank on Tuesday have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for financial and technical support for several projects that could amount, in the first instance, to US$500 million.

While the facility covers a wide range of projects, the initial areas are in cyber security, maritime border management, renewable energy, water and sanitation, and national security.

In a media conference held at the Finance Ministry’s offices in Port of Spain, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said the facility would be used to get items for national security but would also be used to benefit small businesses.

“I must say I am very excited. I’m not usually easily excited,” Imbert said.

“In the discussion this morning, apart from the big-ticket items, the areas of initial collaboration which were more or less for national-security-focused items, I also learned that the Exim bank of the US supports small businesses with capital financing.

“It supports businesses in the US who want to export their goods to TT and other countries and it also supports small businesses in countries like TT.”

He said TT had received facilities from the bank before in the form of a one-off loan to the tune of US$27 million, used for communication equipment for one of TT’s law-enforcement agencies.

“Therefore, it is quite a quantum leap for us to move from a US$27 million facility to the availability of US$500 million. I must thank you for this. Clearly this demonstrates that the relationship between TT and the US is only getting better as time goes by.”

The announcement of the loan facility came after the Prime Minister visited the Exim bank at its offices in Washington, DC, in January. Exim chairman Reta Jo Lewis said after Dr Rowley’s visit, the Exim team worked with the finance minister to find ways to support TT and the Caribbean as a whole.

“We believe the signing of this MoU today is just the beginning of a long-overdue relationship between our two countries,” Lewis said. “Exim is an expert when it comes to financing for sovereign entities.”

Responding to questions from the media, Imbert said at a meeting with the Prime Minister and other stakeholders that morning, proposed applications for the facility included use on renewable energy projects, which were led by Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales who spoke on possibilities surrounding wind turbine energy.

“A feasibility study has already been done on this, and it looks as though we have good potential for the generation of electricity using wind turbines in TT. He (Gonzales) made the point that projects of this type take about five years from the time you start to study it to the time the turbines are operational.”

“Renewable energy is one of the priorities that congress has asked us to focus on,” Lewis added. “The Biden Administration has a priority as it relates to renewable energy, efficiency and storage.”

“Not only does Exim have a very strong power team that has all the capabilities in terms of the work that would need to be done here we have great companies who would be interested already.”