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Imbert hits back at ‘royal mess’ comments

Published: 
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Colm Imbert

Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday slammed criticism by Economic Advisory Development Board chairman Dr Terrence Farrell concerning Government’s decision to give foreign exchange priority to manufacturers.

In his mid-year review last week, Imbert said he would request the Central Bank to give priority to manufacturing/trade whenever the Central Bank intervenes in the foreign exchange disbursement to commercial banks.

Yesterday in the Senate, Imbert said he’d noted the “hue and cry and noise” resulting from his statements. He noted Farrell had said Government shouldn’t be telling commercial banks what to do, that Government was introducing exchange controls and banks should resist this and that Government was returning to the old ECO system, causing a “royal mess.”

Imbert who noted other commentators “who can’t think for themselves” piggybacking on comments, added, “I’m really getting tired of this.”

He produced a March 2009 Central Bank document concerning foreign exchange market operations which stated that intervention funds were to be used to settle trade-related requests from the public.

He said Central Bank for the last eight years had therefore had been telling banks how to handle the foreign exchange it injects into the system. Imbert stressed it is Government funds—earned from the oil sector—that the Central Bank injects into the system.

He also noted a November 2010 Central Bank document which sought the same foreign exchange priority for manufacturers, after queues were noted.

Imbert added, “So I’m doing something that has been done in this country for more than 10 years. So for this (what’s being done) is new or strange and will weaken the economy and lead to a ‘royal mess’ doesn’t make sense. I find the commentary is just escalating (but) I want to put that matter to rest.”

Imbert, who noted the oil price had risen slightly to US$49 per barrel, said T&T lost US$2.5 billion in foreign exchange inflows when the price dropped.