The challenge surrounding converting Trinidad and Tobago dollars to Eastern Caribbean dollars. (iWN photo)

By Wesley Gibbings

Trinidad and Tobago Guardian

Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves has argued that Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) foreign currency crunch is “impoverishing” Vincentians.

Gonsalves used the “high-level” session of a consultation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in Guyana as an opportunity to lay into T&T for continued currency difficulties experienced by Vincentian agricultural traders.

Exports to T&T, the prime minister claimed, have declined from EC$20 million annually to EC$10 million. He said, by contrast, his country currently purchases more than EC$150 million in T&T products annually.

Gonsalves argued that despite such a trade deficit, traders were not being paid in foreign currency they could take home, and many have had to open accounts in T&T banks.

Some, he said, have attempted to take T&T goods back to St Vincent in order to benefit from their trade in Eastern Caribbean dollars.

This situation, he said, was “impoverishing” Vincentians, many of whom are from his rural constituency. By contrast, he said, the Barbados government has made arrangements via its Central Bank to have agricultural traders access foreign currency.

A working paper prepared by the CARICOM Secretariat for the consultations references difficulties with achieving the free convertibility of currencies — the ability, for example, to use T&T dollars in other CARICOM countries.

“In the last few years,” the paper says, “the issue of currency convertibility has re-emerged as difficulties with foreign exchange availability being experienced by one member state have begun to impact trade with other member states.”

Gonsalves also cited continued difficulty with accessing compensation for losses sustained by investors from his country following the collapse of CL Financial. This situation, he said, has led to the creation of a new class of “genteel poor”.

The SVG prime minister also expressed pessimism about the fate of the CSME, important components of which he did not consider to be realistically achievable. He spoke of the problem of the free convertibility of currency and the free movement of CARICOM nationals.

There are some components of the single market he said should be “kept as aspirational” but could not realistically be pursued. He said, to cite one example, there were over 200,000 unemployed Jamaicans.

He called on the consultation to consider the possibility of these Jamaicans flooding the job markets of the smaller CARICOM island states.

Former Jamaica prime minister, Bruce Golding, who spoke after Gonsalves, said for the CSME “it is a time for reckoning”. Golding recently chaired a national commission in Jamaica examining prospects for the island remaining a part of the CSME.

“The plain truth,” Golding said, “is that the CSME is stuck on a hill” — a situation which required a decision on whether to continue going forward with the project or to make an about turn.

Several proposals for addressing the issue remain pending within the CARICOM system.

Gonsalves is not optimistic.

“This will not happen in my lifetime,” he said.

22 replies on “Trinidad’s forex squeeze impoverishing Vincies — Gonsalves”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    This Prime Minister seems obsessed with the free movement of Labour.

    First he expressed a near paranoid aversion to allowing the exiled Garifuna to return to their ancestral homeland, contradicting both the spirit of the CARICOM slavery reparations movement and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which we agree to adhere.

    Now he expresses fear that 200,000 unemployed Jamaicans will invade our homeland.

    Still, he is all for the migration of as many Vincentians as possible so that they can send money back to support their hungry families, a developmental strategy that says loud and clear that the economic situation in SVG is hopeless.

    What true leader would ever want to empty his country of its people?

    1. Not all the people David just the rich and middle class. He wants to keep the peasants because they are so ignorant he can control them with a few pieces of lumber some tin and a bag or two of cement.

      1. Out of all the important narratives that can be taken from this article this is the only one you two can come up with, I wonder why… Hmm smh

  2. Elma Gabriel says:

    I stand to be corrected? Is it a concurrent that this topic has come to attention following the hype of the Trump, Canada, and Mexico trade confusion? Is this a beginning to dismantling of unification between closes allies in this world? Is the Trump administration creating a trade war worldwide? This confirms that the best of leaders today are just followers, the main reason that our world are in disarray.

    Then you wish to know why Global leader’s discussion on legalizing a marijuana industry has also taken such priority. Greed and selfishness are the motive of the best of our leaders; they have unfortunately all succumbed to the low life and rickety mentality of Trump, one who rips up important memos after he’s done with the topic to endure there are NO PAPER TRAILS.

    The man (Trump) is clearly manipulating our world by narrow-mindedness. Clearly should not be trusted as his leadership approach is a stabbing in the back concept. Mark my word; Kim Jong-un is not going to fall for Trumps’ maneuvers.

    1. C. ben-David says:

      The truth is that CARICOM has been a dysfunctional organization since it was formed in 1973. The vision statement of CARCOM says that it is, “A Caribbean Community that is integrated, inclusive and resilient.”

      In fact, it is the furthest thing from being a community, in any sense of the term because it is disintegrated, exclusive, and inflexible.

      This has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Nothing.

      1. Ben that’s because it’s undermined and sabotage by some of its own ppl., supported by guess who the USA.whem you look at some of the more stable and influential economy in the CARICOM, who do you think rules and control their economy….. Food for thought

      2. Elma Gabriel says:

        C.ben-David, you said that this subject “has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Nothing”.
        Okay, so how do you justify this topic today? “SVG FEELS SQUEEZE OF US SANCTION AGAINST VENEZUELA”. When I stated that “the best of leaders today are just followers” it was not just as assumption vented pass my brain, the capitalist regime was implemented through human greed and selfish motives so, as the world become more intelligent, leaders encounter greater challenges and are unable to function effectively.
        Therefore, the bigotry and trickery leadership approach restrict and dismantles what used to be unification between closes allies in this world. Internationally, the masses including the best of today’s leaders are hoping for a REAL LEADER. The reality is that the most promising source of ideas may come from those we least expect, example who are the real founder of the marijuana industry?

  3. Many of these countries have little or nothing to offer to the more economically advance countries in CSME, hence their reluctance to push forward with any meaningful agendas.
    Didn’t did try this decades ago?
    “one from ten leaves zero”

  4. Caricom was long before Donald Trump and have nothing to do with what’s taking place in the region. Remember the Federation when Jamaica did not get on board or maybe you can say abondon ship, Eric Williams said “One from 10 leaves 0” in other words he killed it when in fact the Federation could have gone forward without Jamaica. The truth is the Caribbean islands and it’s “Leaders” continue to practice island tribalism. And more so don’t have visions for anything only wait for others to lead and they follow .”Monkey see Monkey do”.

      1. Putting lipstick on a pig still makes it a pig right…… Well Trump being the president continues the USA agendas and dominant policies.

  5. This situation was quite foreseeable to which the Gonsalves administration was thoroughly forewarned. Yet brushing aside the very prudent warnings that they were given, it nevertheless proceeded with its policy of “increased duty” on imports from Trinidad. Constraining and hamstringing what was indeed a simple business arrangement.

    Traffickers had always relied on those Trinidadian importation as a way of repatriating both their capital and their earnings from Trinidad and had indeed warned Ralph Gonsalves and his administration of how fragile their business was, and for the administration to desist from adding even further burdens to their livelihood, but hungry for more and more Taxes, the Gonsalves administration listened only to their bigwigs and ignored the traffickers judicious warnings.

    Now that the situation has gone from bad to worse, heaping ruining on both the Traffickers and their suppliers, Gonsalves there speaks of Vincentian impoverishment.

    What a joke! He is as much to blame for the Vincentian impoverishment as any other through his high Tax regime policy. It is high time both he and his Crony Capitalist regime, learn and understand that every action has consequences.

    However, I doubt that he and his administration will ever learn, being the “Tax junkies” that they are, hooked on other people’s money and unable to properly run an economy, an economy even as small as the SVG economy!

    Talk has always been cheap but ruined businesses and livelihoods are rather expensive for those on the receiving end of Gonsalves High Tax Policy!

  6. Varsha Abigail Ramkissoon says:

    Im sorry,

    A bit confused here on the dynamics between Trinidad & Tobago with St Vincent. What seems to be the issue?

    Was St Vincent one of the lesser Antilles directly impacted by the hurricanes of last Fall? If so….then maybe they need more assistance to recover to their feet?

    I highly doubt that Trinidad & Tobago will be off any assistance to their neighbouring island counterparts. I am and was a Trinidad & Tobago citizen and I find most of those belonging there to be stuck in a very rudemetric mindset.

    I hope this gets resovled and assistance and love thy neighbours comes into place.

    Peace, love and unity.

  7. What most of you are forgetting is that ALBA calls for integration eventually as well. Seeing as that means being integrated with Venezuela and Cuba, the Comrade probably prefers ALBA. All the rest is empty words and worthless rhetoric.

    1. Good point but I think it is more like keeping all the options open — government policy as often enunciated by the Comrade that he wants to be friends with everybody, even if “everybody” doesn’t include Great Britain, America, or Israel, among othetr nations.

  8. Andy Woodley says:

    Well AI, it doesn’t surpise me. That’s why when you jokingly declared you wanted to try your hand with politics in SVG, right away I said it was a great move. You have the dept in philosophy. I was impressed by your response to a commenter on the forum who sparred with you on intellectual matters. You did blew me away with you response. I never saw you so heated before; to me, you prevailed in the end, though. So SVG, to have someone with this ranking, you are lucky. Make use of this privilege.

    1. Thank you sir for the encouragement….. I do believe I know what debate you’re speaking of, yes I was heated and that person tried to use their intellectual academical knowledge to intimidate me but failed.
      As far as politics, it’s my dream to see independent thinkers and pure genuine good hearted ppl lead our society but I would be naive to think that’s possible without interference or political lobbyists.
      Sometimes we can be of greater use and influence at the bottom of the pile. I rather be the teacher than the principal.

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