Thursday 3rd August 2006


Manufacturing sector worrying Enill

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Conrad Enill

By Curtis Williams

The decline in the local manufacturing sector is one of the major worries facing Government as it prepares the budget for the next fiscal year.

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Conrad Enill told the Business Guardian that he has begun accepting submissions from interest groups for the 2006/2007 budget.

He said, “One of the major issues facing Government is that of the decline of the manufacturing sector and how do we ensure that the manufacturing sector ceases to decline and instead expands.”

Enill said there was a recent study done by the World Bank on the competitiveness of T&T’s manufacturing sector which revealed that the sector was operating at near capacity and something needed to be done to increase capacity.

“What that study demonstrated to us was that there was little room for expansion. The manufacturing sector is changing in T&T with some manufacturers choosing to move away from being manufacturers to become distributors. So we have to deal with that,” Enill said.

The minister added, “There is no doubt that local manufacturers continue to control the region but they need to find more markets and we are trying to help them with market access. But one of the things we also recognise is that there is a need for a new wave of manufacturers because at the end of the day that is the best bet to ensure that the country’s economy continues to perform well.”

Enill said Government was hopeful that the establishment of metals and plastics industries would ensure that a new wave of manufacturers emerges.

Crucial to the development of these new manufacturers will be the construction of the aluminium smelters and an ethylene complex.

President of the T&T Manufacturers’ Association Paul Quesnel agrees with Enill’s observation of the shift from manufacturing to distribution and about the ill effects that would have on the economy.

He said apart from greater market access, Government has to fix the regulatory bodies.

“We need to fix our Plant Quarantine, our Bureau of Standards our Food and Drugs Administration. All have to be properly equipped and staffed. Most of these agencies do not have proper equipment and staff,” Quesnel said.

He said none of the agencies were IT ready. He explained that standards had to be world class standards and there needed to be a standardised regime of standards for Caricom goods.

Quesnel said regional institutions must be properly staffed and funded so that everybody in the region has the same standards.

He added that Customs was also a major problem with a lack of implementation of the Asycuda world system.

He said, “The Asycuda system has not been implemented yet and that is of vital importance. We need to be trading under information that is common with specific numbers and through the Asycuda system we can have a database on Caricom partners import and can access that information to form good business judgements.”

Quesnel said he supported Government’s attempts to build metals and plastics industries but felt timing would be crucial to ensure that manufacturers take advantage of the opportunities.

“In manufacturing a major part of cost is packing costs and if we are able to produce for ourselves and for the world at large packaging material be it polyethylene, or film will give ourselves a competitive advantage,” Quesnel said.

He said this was based on an assumption that the primary cost to the manufacturer would be less than they can import the labels for.

T&T had to ensure that it doesn’t put the cart before the horse so that local manufacturers form companies “before the bulk of the stuff is exported,” Quesnel warned

He said manufacturers must set up companies to use the raw materials produced locally and he hoped they would be ready to step forward.






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