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Members of the public walk along Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain in June.

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Two out of three households in T&T had their finances adversely affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was among the findings of the 2022 National Financial Literacy Survey released by the Central Bank yesterday.

During a webinar, Financial Services Ombudsman Dominic Stoddard gave some insights on how widespread the impact of the pandemic had been on the finances of the members of the public.

“Two of three households earnings were negatively affected by the pandemic. So we had 39 per cent of the population being affected by reduced earnings during the pandemic, 24 percent had temporary job losses, 20 percent permanent job losses,” Stoddard explained.

He added that 45 per cent of its respondents were unaffected but over a quarter of population—27 per cent—found themselves in debt beyond what they felt could comfortably manage.

Stoddard also revealed that a significant chunk of the population had been victim of fraud, with one in five respondents getting caught in ponzi or pyramid schemes.

“In our survey it was reported that 35 per cent of adult respondents fell victim to financial fraud. Nineteen per cent have reported that they have participated in what turned out to be a pyramid scheme and 43 per cent have never experienced financial fraud,” Stoddard also noted.

The survey revealed about 20 per cent of the population remained unbanked while the age range 18 to 24 was the most challenged in terms of financial literacy.

And regarding the country’s economic situation Central Bank Governor Dr Alvin Hilaire described it as “challenging and uncertain.”

Hilaire outlined that so far, T&T’s inflationary situation has been externally generated but he advised that this has to be carefully monitored.

He said there is also the global high interest rates and a threat of a global recession which have added to the complication.

“People are saying interest rates are going up; this will choke-off demand, it will choke-off investment, it will lead to other shocks so we have to be aware of that,” Hilaire further advised.

Focusing on education, the Central Bank Governor said this is particularly important for T&T in the many areas.

According to Hilaire, the need for education goes much deeper, especially in terms of dealing with “inequality” which may have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Those who are more disadvantaged tend to have less access to WiFi, computers and so forth, so I do think that inequality has actually become worse to some extent because of the educational deficit that many people are facing.

“We have to look at that because that is our future,” Hilaire emphasised.

He however, said thankfully T&T is at the endemic phase of the pandemic which has “brutalised” the world for quite some time.

And because of this, the governor said certain opportunities have been created including advances in digitisation and efficient processes.

Noting that T&T is not singular regarding these challenges, Hilaire recommended that people “keep a dragon eye” on their finances and be vigilant when spending their money.