FLASHBACK: Cook Noelia Rodriguez prepare a meal at the Las 3 Papas Best Food Restaurant, while Jorge Crespo looks on.

n ↓Should Venezuelans return home

it would hurt the economy.

n ↓Need for greater data on the community.

n ↓Warning that labour market should not over rely on migrant workers.

As the new year approaches, the government will have to make a decision on whether to extend the stay of registered Venezuelans in the country and one local economist is warning that any exodus of Venezuelan from T&T would significantly hurt the economy.

In an interview with the Business Guardian, UWI lecturer and economist, Dr Roger Hosein contended if the government decides that they have to leave, then the country will return to an economy where we struggle for workers in the non-tradable sector in particular, and even in some aspects of the non-booming tradable sector.

Hosein indicated that he does not think the government would be able to take such a step at this point in time because the T&T economy needs the Venezuelan immigrants that have found themselves here.

According to Hosein, in making a decision on whether to extend the stay of the registered Venezuelan immigrants, the government would have to consider the benefits versus the costs.

He articulated that the costs relates to their use of the country’s basic healthcare system, water network and other public goods. Hosein added: “There will also be spill over costs as I am sure that there is some degree of prostitution taking place and other social consequences.”

However, the economist said that the benefits in turn would be the value they bring. He argued that if the Venezuelan community has helped to change the worker productivity, the worker ethic, and increase the level of output in the T&T economy “then we have to take those sets of value added and compare them with the cost and I’m sure that it would be positive.”

Overall, Hosein argued that the contribution of the Venezuelans would be net positive. However, he said the process to track the registered Venezuelans in the country needs to be properly managed.

He stated: “It remains very difficult when we are not sure of the number of Venezuelans who are actually registered in relation to the number who are not.”

Hosein said that this would also require that the country provides a system by which it can better monitor and police its borders—this is to ensure that further challenges are not posed to the immigration process if the number of Venezuelans in the country increase via illegal transit as a result of porous borders.

Also advocating for greater data mechanism and systems to effectively manage the Venezuelan community is Leigh-Ann Bonair, a consultant at the International Organization for Migration (IOM)—an agency charged with promoting the benefits of orderly and safe migration based on the respect of human rights.

Speaking at a recent virtual event hosted by UWI’s Department of Trade and Economic Development Unit, Bonair said: “ If we are to engage the migrants effectively, definitely data on their demographics, their skill levels, their educational levels, would be needed to ensure that their engagements are fruitful, productive and beneficial to both the migrants and the country as well.”

Bonair revealed that in July 2019 the IOM launched the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) exercise which was geared towards monitoring the displaced populations amongst the Venezuelan migrants.

She noted that the exercise was conducted immediately after the government registration exercise, which enabled legal employment opportunities for Venezuelan migrants.

According to Bonair, the DTM was a snapshot of the demographic profiles, characteristics, vulnerabilities and socio-economic status of the Venezuelan migrants.

After surveying 2,166 respondents, Bonair highlighted that the exercise discovered that the majority of respondents were single and between the ages of 20 to 34 years old and that 42 per cent of the interviewees had obtained secondary level education, while 17 per cent had completed tertiary level education.

According to Bonair, the integration of the Venezuelan migrants into the labour must not be done in a way where it disregards the local labour market.

She added: “We also need to operate in a manner that is cognisant of the fact that should things change in Venezuela, we are not reliant on this supply of labour for any of our industries or economic activities. We need to ensure that we do not become over reliant on this source of labour.”

Bonair articulated that things must be done strategically so that should things change in a sudden moment with regard to socio-political environment in Venezuela, T&T would not be in a very difficult situation.