Central Bank head reveals big names, big sums

Topping the list, he said, is PriceSmart, the popular American- owned membership shopping chain, which he said is the biggest consumer of foreign exchange in the retail and distribution sector in the country.

He made these disclosures yesterday during the Bank’s Fifth Monetary Policy Forum at the Hyatt Regency, Portof- Spain. The forum was co-hosted by the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA).

PriceSmart has four branches: Chaguanas; Port-of-Spain; Mausica and San Fernando.

The company declined comment on the disclosure yesterday.

Addressing the long-standing complaints by business people and members of the public about foreign exchange shortages which have lasted more than a year, Rambarran said some of the businesses complaining the loudest were in fact among the biggest consumers of US dollars.

He said the retail and distribution sector is the heaviest consumer of foreign exchange and had swallowed up almost US$4.5 billion, or nearly a third of all the foreign exchange sold over the last three years.

He listed the biggest users as: PriceSmart with US$507 million in the last three years; Courts — US$198 million; Smith Robertson and Company — US$169 million; AS Bryden — US$153 million and Massy Distribution US$136 million. Rambarran said the manufacturing sector is the second largest user of foreign exchange, and the major players were: Nestle — US$194 million; West Indian Tobacco Company Limited (WITCO) — US$129 million; Carib Brewery — US$107 million; National Flour Mills — US$102 million; Caribbean Bottlers Limited (Coca Cola) — US$94 million, all over the last three years.

Rambarran said the increasing popularity of online shopping was another culprit, with purchases being paid for by credit cards.

“Commercial banks must make payments to the Visa and Mastercard, before satisfying any other source of foreign exchange demand.” He said car dealerships were the next large consumer of foreign exchange, listing the major users over the last three years as: Southern Sales — US$275 million; Massy Motors — US$251 million; Toyota — US$245 million; Diamond Motors — US$59 million and Lifestyle Motors at US$36 million. The Central Bank Governor said the Telecommunications sector was the fifth largest consumer of foreign exchange. They used up close to US$900 million between 2013 — 2015. Rambaran said the major users were: TSTT — US$294 million; Digicel — US$263 million; Columbus Communications — US$250 million.

WHY NAME NAMES? DOMA President Gregory Aboud later expressed concern at the public exposure of the companies and sums of US currency used over the past three years. He said he had security concerns with the information being made public.

Aboud said while the forum was discussing the problem in which the country finds itself, there was not much talk about solutions.

He said there were solutions one of which is agriculture.

Aboud said infrastructure was another issue which needed to be discussed, pointing out that it is easier and quicker to fly from Barbados to Trinidad than to get from Chaguaramas to Port-of- Spain.

He said there are several policies which DOMA hopes are discussed and developed in a new climate of co-operation between the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, the business community, and other stakeholders in the economy.


"Central Bank head reveals big names, big sums"

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