Former Minister of Trade and Industry and former Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Mariano Browne, warns that low gas production combined with major declines in prices and a changing energy environment are proving to be and will continue to be a major challenge in any recovery in the energy sector.
According to Mariano Browne, the national economy has been in depression for roughly six years, primarily because of misfortunes in the energy sector, in terms of global pricing volatility and national production shortfalls.
Browne told Guardian Media there is still a long way to go in the energy sector.
“We know that climate change is an issue. We know that gas is a cleaner burning fuel, but what we’re also seeing is that renewables also have been growing substantially. So, there are some threats on the horizon to market share,” he explained. “We’re seeing the volatility of the gas price coming down to the end of the year, as well. So, you can’t just hang your hat on the energy sector for recovery.”
“Some areas in the non-energy export sector have done well, but not enough, and that’s where a lot more focus has to be geared, going forward,” he added.
The former minister observes that the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped matters.
“We’ve also had the supply imbalances that have come as a result of COVID. If people aren’t going to work, production levels in different factories in different areas around the world will have dropped off, and we’ve seen it,” he points out.
“That’s one of the reasons why inflation has come to the fore, partly because of changing demand conditions as a result of COVID, as well as the fact that there have been what we can consider to be bottlenecks in supply, which have caused prices to rise,” Browne said.
The former minister warns the current period is a difficult one not only for Trinidad and Tobago, but the entire world. He is concerned that the debt-to-GDP ratio is hitting the 90-percentile range, and that the country cannot continue to run budgetary deficits.
Mariano Browne suggests the two national watchwords guiding everyone in the new year should be PRUDENCE and RESILIENCE. He says while there will be some economic growth, 2022 will be a challenging year for everyone, and managing the COVID-19 threat will be a critical factor.
Mariano Browne was guest on CNC3’s The Morning Brew show, on Friday 31 December 2021.