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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asked us to stop hoarding US dollars. What is less clear is where these US dollars we are supposed to be hoarding are coming from.
If from the official foreign currency system, via the Central Bank and its authorised agents, it must be easy for the Government to spot where it is being hoarded. If not, it’s likely to be unlawful and, if the
Government is aware of activities with illegally obtained hard currency, it should be bringing those responsible to justice.
The problem is that these calls hide the real problem we face. The fact is, for as long as the economy remains unbalanced and confidence remains low, there will be continued pressure on foreign currency. It doesn’t matter if you are a big financial player or a pensioner planning to visit a relative in Miami; when the expectation is that the economy won’t get better soon, we cling on to what feels safer, like US dollars.
This newspaper does not envy the Government’s position. Given the state of our economy, our dollar is overvalued in relation to major international currencies. But letting the TT dollar float freely against them right now would be a challenge, as we risk seeing a sharp devaluation - effectively the market putting ourselves in our place - with a traumatic economic impact.
The dilemma for the Government is that, by preserving the exchange rate, is does little to deal with the international trade imbalance, as it remains relatively cheap to import goods and relatively expensive to export them.
We are lucky that our currency is not on the radar of investors who bet on devaluations. But luck is not good enough. The Budget proposed last week fell short when it comes to dealing with the root causes of our foreign exchange woes. Generic talk about hoarders isn’t a solution either.
There is no doubt that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s approach to tackling the independence referendum last week in Catalonia backfired. Even if the referendum was considered illegal by Spain’ courts, it was wrong to use such a level of violence to try and stop it from happening.
The events over the weekend were a lot more encouraging, with pro-unity marches in Madrid and in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.
Europe’s history is complex, with its boundaries changing considerably every century. It shouldn’t be surprising to see more changes in our lifetime.
Before they head their way, though, a moment of pause is important. Pro-independence leaders tend to gloss over the challenges and the disadvantages of going alone. And, as like any divorce, it is easy to forget the good things of a relationship when the focus is on the bad things.
We hope the two sides will see sense. For Spain’s future and also for a much needed time of global stability; we can all do without a hostile independence bid by Catalonia.
One of our pages on Sunday carried the beaming picture of Trini-born Judaline Cassidy. A truly inspirational story: the girl from Diego Martin has been smashing stereotypes and breaking new grounds since she started working as a plumber in the US.
She went on to be the first black woman allowed into her Plumbers’ Union and one of the few women to reach a position of leadership in the organisation. Not small feats and an inspirational story of someone who refused to turn the word ‘no’ into ‘yes’ every single time.