THE EDITOR: This is an open letter to Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) president Christopher Alcazar.
I am aware that there is a shortage of foreign exchange and this must be dealt with. But we must understand that manufacturing and other foreign exchange (forex) earners cannot stand alone without major input from non-foreign exchange earners.
The top forex earners in this country are in the energy sector, which cannot exist without massive input from the oil services industry. These service players have to import massive amounts of equipment to keep energy going while not directly earning forex themselves.
The multiple plants at Point Lisas are generally forex earners. But there is also a massive industry of service providers to keep them functioning.
Construction companies and providers of other industrial equipment and services to the manufacturing sector are themselves not forex earners, but without them that sector will grind to a halt.
The construction industry, while not forex earners, is the largest employer of labour in this country.
Nothing can be constructed or built without the supply of massive amounts of equipment on rental or outright sale to this industry.
This brings me to our young and vibrant TT MA president who has brought this issue to the front burner. This needs to be discussed.
However, Vemco Ltd, of which he is a senior executive, is a manufacturer and also an importer of many fancy foods, drinks, wines etc. His allocations may very well go into raw material and wines. His company also owns a variety of foreign fast food franchises. There are vast monthly franchise fees to be submitted to the US in US dollars.
This is a complex system to manage. Both late Venezuela president Hugo Chavez and current president Nicolas Maduro have destroyed that country trying to implement same. The president of the largest furniture retailers in this country complained about a shortage of forex. This and the other large foreign warehouse distributors use huge amounts of forex.
Imbert has a tough call to make.
However, we cannot go back to the future.
David Salinger Maraval