THA Minority councillor Petal Daniel-Benoit says the Tobago economy appears to be at a standstill.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday at the PNM Tobago Council headquarters in Scarborough, Daniel-Benoit said the stagnation was particularly evident in the construction sector.
“There is little to no activity. Look around the island, not much is taking place,” she said.
Daniel-Benoit said many contractors were still owed money by the THA while others were “not receiving engagement or contracts as they would have done in the past.
“As a result of that they would have had to reduce their level of staffing significantly.”
She claimed businessmen, generally, were experiencing hardship, some from the effects of the covid19 pandemic.
“There are challenges in terms of profitability.”
On the labour front, she claimed there has been reduced consumer confidence in the economy.
“Generally, the spending from individuals has taken a deep dive and when you compare the spending in the past to currently, you are seeing a drastic reduction in spending by the consumer.
“We are also seeing where individuals and businesses are not investing and that could be as a result of limited disposable income.
“There seems to be a waiting-approach and therefore the level of uncertainty in the economy is evident.”
Daniel-Benoit said the Farley Augustine-led THA administration was yet to outline strategies to address the issue of rising food prices on the island.
She said, “In the past you would have seen increase in prices of approximately two per cent. However, when you look at the figures currently, those rising prices are approaching double digits.
“We also see and feel the effects of the rising process when we all face the supermarkets. And while all of us are experiencing rising prices, what we are not hearing are the strategies that this administration intends to implement to deal with these issues.”
Financial institutions, Daniel-Benoit claimed, are also expressing loss of confidence in the economy.
This, she claimed, is being felt in the level of delinquency on loans.
“There have been reports from the financial institutions of an increase in the level of delinquency in loans. So in the past, under the People’s National Movement administration, you would have seen a delinquency rate of one per cent. Currently that delinquency rate has moved to 38 per cent.”
Daniel-Benoit believes some of the effects of what Tobagonians are experiencing can be attributed to the direct policy measures of the THA.
She said unemployment continues to be a major challenge.
“We have seen where hundreds of THA employees, through the shutting down of certain departments, through the non-renewal of contracts, have been placed on the breadline.”