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The cost of closing T&T’s digital infrastructure gap has been estimated at US$85 million, the Inter American Development Bank has stated in its latest Caribbean Quarterly Economic Bulletin.

“It is estimated that closing the gap would yield a significant increase in GDP estimated at 9.3 per cent, a 5.5 per cent increase in productivity, and 20,189 new jobs,” the IDB stated.

According to the IDB T&T faces a challenging growth and development outlook derived from longstanding structural issues that have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The IDB stated that these challenges can be summarised into three categories: (i) declining competitiveness and a less supportive business climate, (ii) human capital constraints that affect productivity, and (iii) institutions and governance in need of strengthening.

A development gap analysis indicates that there is room for improvement in transportation, governance, business environment, tourism, environmental performance, innovation, digital adoption and education, the IDB stated.

The IDB said that T&T experienced a large economic contraction in 2020.

“Real GDP declined by 7.4 per cent in 2020 and is expected to decline by 0.9 per cent in 2021. The ongoing COVID-19 shock has adversely impacted economic growth through lower gas and oil output and prices, and a partial lockdown of the domestic economy,” it stated.

The IDB stated that a gradual economic recovery is expected over the medium term, supported mostly by improvements in commodity prices.

“However, pandemic headwinds in T&T’s trading partners and a scarred domestic private sector could affect the pace of economic recovery. T&T has made good progress in digital infrastructure, but there is room for improvement,” it stated.

A review of some key indicators related to digital infrastructure shows that the country performs better than the Latin America and Caribbean region on average but needs to invest more to reach Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standards.

“Investments should also focus on improving access to and the reliability of electricity, cybersecurity protection, ICT, and telecommunications infrastructure, especially in rural areas,” it stated.