While dealing with the potential threat of the coronavirus from a health perspective remains the main priority, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is concerned about the potential financial fallout should the virus linger longer than expected.
“We are a nation that has a very significant reliance on the external markets and the external economy,” said the Prime Minister, who said while certain protocols have been put in place as safeguards should the coronavirus arrive in T&T, he continued to look at the impact the virus had on neighbouring economies which could affect our own.
“There are some bigger issues here for us. As we look at the effect that this threat of the virus is having on the international trading community, we in Trinidad and Tobago have serious exposure,” Dr Rowley said at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
“For example, we’ve seen the record collapse of the stock exchange. Don’t think we are not involved in that. The performance of our Heritage Fund is directly impacted by the performance of the stock exchange because that is where that investment largely lies. If the stock exchange is doing well then our earnings are doing well. If the exchange is doing badly for whatever reason, then we have concerns there.”
Rowley, who addressed the press briefing before leaving to attend a funeral in his constituency, said the virus could hinder T&T trade and manufacturing sectors.
“We also are trading in products for which the demand is of interest to us because if the demand is not there then the prices of those products that we trade in would fall,” he said.
Some concern was also attached to the performance of the energy sector.
“Yesterday I was looking at the performance in the gas and oil sector and there are some serious developments there largely driven by concerns that the Chinese economy may not be as robust as it was predicted to be,” Rowley said.
While he is hopeful the country can avoid any cases of the virus coming to our shores, he said given the wide diaspora this country has worldwide, there is the possibility that returning nationals will come from affected countries.
“Given the connections that we have and the businesses that we do around the world, it is quite likely that somewhere along the way we could be exposed to persons who are infected being in our border or coming to us as nationals who have every right to return to Trinidad and Tobago.
“We cannot deny access to nationals of Trinidad and Tobago if they choose to return to Trinidad and Tobago and we have certain protocols in place.”