While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given this country some good marks for Government’s management of the economy to date, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has basically warned citizens not to get too excited as the Government has taken no decision to make any adjustments to domestic fuel prices.
This as international oil prices continue to fluctuate.
He made this comment during a virtual news conference on Monday to deal with the concluding statement of the International Monetary Fund’s(IMF) 2023 Article IV mission to Trinidad and Tobago, released on March 16.
Imbert said the IMF’s assessments are not necessarily a hint of what will come in the Mid-Year Review of the 2022/2023 budget between the end of April and early May.
He said, “One has to look at them over a suitable period of time. You could be at US$100 (per barrel) today and next week, you could be at US$75 (per barrel).”
West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil were trading at U$72.82 and US$78 per barrel respectively on Monday.
The current fuel prices are $7.75, $6.97 and $4,41 per litre for premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel respectively.
Imbert said, “We are monitoring the price of oil to see how it affects the fuel subsidy and we will make an appropriate decision at an appropriate time.”
The IMF welcomed Government’s decision to “partially liberalize fuel prices as it will improve the efficiency and the sustainability of the public accounts.” The IMF also said it was important for Government “to continue providing targeted and temporary support to alleviate the rising living costs among the most vulnerable.”
Imbert will report on income and expenditure, economic trends, TT’s fiscal outlook and other matters such as the establishment of the TT Revenue Authority. He advised the population to wait for the review to get information on these and other matters.
The finance minister said 17 of the 20 points raised by the IMF about Government’s management of the economy were “overwhelmingly positive.” The other three points were comments and advice from the IMF.
He said it was important for him to provide full details about the IMF’s Article IV concluding statement because there has been misinformation in the public domain about it since it was released on March 16.
In point 12, the IMF mission said a more efficient foreign exchange infrastructure in T&T would help eliminate foreign exchange shortfalls that have been experienced here since 2013.
“IMF staff encourages the authorities to remove all restrictions on current international transactions, while providing sufficient foreign exchange to meet demand for all current international transactions,” said the mission from the world’s lender of last resort.
Imbert said T&T is not now in an IMF programme and has not been in one since 1991 “and it is unlikely that we will ever get into an IMF programme, at least not under this government.”
The fact that T&T is not now in an IMF programme, Imbert said, means “we don’t have to agree with anything that the IMF advises us to do, and we don’t agree with this,” (removing all restrictions on current international transactions).
Imbert said, “For seven years, this Government has resisted any calls from any sector to devalue or float the TT dollar, because we believe that is going to send hundreds of thousands of people into poverty. We believe it would cause hyperinflation and we believe that it will do tremendous damage.
“So, when the IMF says that they encourage the authorities to remove all restrictions on current international transactions, we are not doing that.”