UWI economist responds to scathing attack from Imbert: Let’s have a public discussion

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Economist Prof Roger Hosein. FILE PHOTO –

ECONOMIST and senior UWI lecturer Professor Roger Hosein has called fro a public seminar by the Ministry of Finance to discuss the facts surrounding the true state of this country’s economy in the face of the recently published International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Article IV Report on the economy.

His call came on Sunday afternoon, hours after Finance Minister Colm Imbert – in a press release – criticised claims ascribed to Hosein in a Sunday Express story.

Imbert, in the release on Sunday, said that in the face of good news in terms of the TT economy as outlined in the IMF’s report, Hosein “has declared without any rational basis, in an article published in the Express, that the data showed TT having 4.5 per cent reduction in real GDP growth in 2023 compared to 2022.”

In a reaction, Hosein told Newsday he was not about getting involved in bacchanal as he reiterated he specialises in research.

He also called on the Finance Ministry to, “let us have a seminar and elaborate on all the various structural gaps in the economy at this point, for the benefit and improvement of all of the people.”

Hosein explained that on Friday at 6.30 pm, he gave a talk at a conference held by the Mutual Fund Association of TT at the Trinidad Hilton. During that talk, he used data from the IMF’s Concluding Statement which came out in March, as well as information from the IMF’s database for April 2022, and April 2023, “which is easily and readily available online.”

The economist said he did not notice anyone from the Finance Ministry in the audience and believes Imbert depended on the news report, “which in itself had many errors,” as the basis for the angry rebuttal press release on Sunday.

Using the April 2023 database from the IMF’s website, Hosein pointed out:

* In 2016, TT, “to the best of my recollection,” was ranked 190th in in the world in terms of economic growth performance. In 2017, it was ranked 187th and in 2018, it was ranked 183rd. The ranking has since improved.

* Using the IMF’s April 2023 database, and its April 2022 database, “one would see that the IMF’s April 2023 estimate for GDP in 2022 is 4.7 percentage points LESS than the estimate made by the IMF in its April 2022 database – 93.3 compared to 88.6. I used simple index numbers for both series with 2016 as the base year for ease of analysis.”

* The IMF’s April 2022 database put real GDP growth for 2022 as 5.457 per cent and its April 2023 database put real GDP growth for 2022 at 2.48 per cent.

* The IMF’s April 2022 database put real GDP growth for 2023 at 2.96 per cent and its April 2023 database put real GDP growth for 2023 at 3.17 per cent.

“I also pointed out that the economy’s real effective exchange rate (a proxy for external competitiveness) as reflected in the Concluding Statement of March 2023, was about more appreciated than indicated in the March 2022 Article 4 document.

“I also commented on the procyclical relationship between government revenue and government expenditure.”

Hosein said the ministry acknowledged in its Sunday press release that the IMF has a team of strong economists and in this regard therefore, “when the IMF indicates via its database, that in 2028 the T&T economy will only exist at a level of GDP that is about 94% of what it was in 2015, I think we should be concerned.”

He pointed out that at the seminar, he also mentioned the potential adverse impact of an increase in the murder level on the productivity of the economy.

“I mentioned the Venezuelan immigrants and the Rybczynski impact on the economy and the need to register all the Venezuelans.

“I mentioned the decline in the labour force participation rate and the need to understand why that rate is declining and the potential impact on the country’s output.”