A World in Flux

Change is a one syllable word that generates optimism in some people, but consternation and resistance in others. The response, of course, depends on the situation and the individual’s personal outlook. But when embraced, we often find that change is in fact good. We live in a time when it seems like everything in the world is changing and in many cases, rapidly. Over the last ten years, advances in technology have transformed, among other things, the way we communicate, work, conduct commercial activity and entertain ourselves. Further, as technology evolved, many businesses found themselves facing competition from non-traditional sources and as such, have had to take steps (some drastic) to adapt. For instance, the various social media platforms have caused telecommunication service providers the world over to adjust their business models. Another example is how the ability to stream audio and video content has shifted the balance of power from service providers to consumers in the entertainment industry. While these changes have helped to improve our quality of life, they have also disrupted several industries, causing profits to fall and workers to be retrenched.

The global political environment is also in the middle of notable change, with populism and nationalism on the rise in several countries, some of which have been longstanding flag bearers for free trade and an international community. The advance of these philosophies has already started to affect international trade and could ultimately restrain global economic growth. What can I say about Brexit that has not already been ventilated? Given that the British Prime Minister is finding it difficult to sell the deal with the E.U. to her countrymen, the way forward remains unclear, with the March 2019 deadline fast approaching.

The enormous boost shale reserves provided to U.S. oil and gas output was a major turning point on the global energy market, as it precipitated the plummet of energy prices which started in late 2014. It also meant that T&T lost a major gas export market.

Here in this beautiful country we call sweet T&T, it seems like we woke up one morning to find that Guyana is the new energy hotspot in the Caribbean, with ExxonMobil announcing 10 oil finds over the last couple of years in that country. T&T has also been stung by the collapse of oil prices, which started in late 2014. Unfortunately, for us, this was also accompanied by the fall in gas production and the continued slide of oil output. Needless to say, the impact on government fiscal accounts was drastic, as the related plunge in revenue caused public debt to increase from 39.9 percent of GDP in 2014 to 60.9 percent in 2018. Additionally, government’s fiscal deficit deteriorated, peaking at 8.4 percent of GDP in 2017. In response, government has had to prioritize its expenditure and started the process of public sector reform. Accordingly, government has taken steps to review programmes such as GATE and has also moved to restructure PETROTRIN, the largest state enterprise. The management of TSTT also took steps to restructure that organization, retrenching over 500 employees in the process. The company cited reduced profitability driven partly by rising competition from non-traditional sources as the main reason for the move. With platforms like WhatsApp providing free messaging and calling services, the competitive landscape has changed dramatically for TSTT.

These are just some of the major changes affecting our daily lives. If they seem daunting or if you wish things would settle down to what they used to be, then you need to fasten your seatbelt, because much more change is on the way, both in the international and domestic environments. In this regard, we must answer one question, namely, how do we thrive in an environment of constant change? I will address this issue in a later post. Until then, I will like to end this note the way I should have begun, by wishing you and your loved ones a happy, safe, successful and peaceful 2019.

Go to top