Economist Dr Roger Hosein

Rishard Khan

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It is not yet the time to look into restarting the economy according to economist Dr Roger Hosein as he believes now is the time to place more emphasis on protecting lives than livelihoods.

Speaking in the Parliament Wednesday during the Mid-Year Budget Review, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar called for a reopening of the economy and restarting some sectors deemed non-essential amid the outbreak.

While Dr Hosein agrees that the economy is currently reeling from the pandemic, the safety of citizens come first.

“The first thing that the government of Trinidad and Tobago has to do is to protect lives,” he said.

“In the medium term, which will be within three to four months I hope given the amount of vaccines we seem to have been able to procure, the economy will start to open up.”

The country is currently in the middle of its largest and most deadly surge of infections. Health officials have only recently stated that the epidemiology of the outbreak suggests it’s beginning to plateau. On Wednesday the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Division’s technical director Dr Avery Hinds said cases appeared to be decreasing with roughly a 10 per cent reduction in figures from last week as compared to the week prior.

When contacted, internal medicine specialist and host of CNC3’s Ask the Doctor programme, Dr Joel Teelucksingh said it was still too soon to hazard a prediction on the timing of any economic restart.

“We’re still seeing a surge. We’re still seeing quite a number of persons who are diagnosed and the death rate has more or less remained unchecked throughout the nation. So I would think perhaps the next week or two would be useful just to see the state of affairs in the country in terms of the infection rate before actually thinking about an immediate resumption,” he said.

But when the time comes for the economy’s reopening, Dr Hosein urged that the goal should not be to bring it back to pre-pandemic activity.

“The restart of the economy is a beautiful opportunity to recalibrate all the nonsense in terms of the structure that occurred in the time period between 2000 and 2020 when the use of transfers of subsidies and the spending out of all the energy rent led the economy to be in the form of a terrible structure,” he said.

“We now have a golden opportunity to reset the economy…I hope that policymakers take this into consideration.”