Boost Exports and Forex

February 23rd, 2023    |   Related To: EXIMBANK (Export – Import Bank of Trinidad & Tobago Ltd.)

Navin Dookeran, Chief Executive Officer, Export-Import Bank of Trinidad & Tobago Ltd. (EXIMBANK)
Navin Dookeran


Navin Dookeran
Chief Executive Officer, Export-Import Bank of Trinidad & Tobago Ltd. (EXIMBANK)

In 2023, EXIMBANK CEO Navin Dookeran wants to see exporters exporting more… and importers becoming exporters. That is the economic vaccine the country needs, he told ‘Who’s Who’. The foreign exchange supply issue, while slightly improved from 2020, has not been resolved. For Dookeran, the solution is straightforward – increase Forex earnings.

The EXIMBANK is ready to partner with the commercial banking sector to support T&T’s exporters in their drive to penetrate more markets in 2023. The organisation is particularly interested in helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grow because “they are key to T&T’s long-term national economic growth,” Dookeran said.

The supply chain disruptions currently impacting global trade have created a great opportunity for T&T as nearshoring is deployed as a strategy to address those disruptions, he said, but to take advantage of this, manufacturers need to focus on improving productivity and competitiveness by:

  • investing in planned machinery upgrades;
  • adoption and deployment of technology; and
  • having a reinvigorated focus on global marketing.

It is also an opportunity for importers to consider exporting to solve the tight foreign exchange situation. “Our importers have very good, long-term supplier relationships and they buy in volumes that allow them good prices,” he noted.

Another advantage available is T&T’s well-capitalised banking sector and available liquidity to provide the capital funds for investment at a reasonable cost. The constraint is not on the liquidity side, Dookeran added. What is tricky is finding the right comfortable risk appetite that would allow the banks to invest in the SME sector. The EXIMBANK can play a role here, he said. “There is room for further risk-sharing strategies that would allow the banks to mitigate their risks while enabling increased private sector investment in SMEs, for example, via collateral backing programmes,” he said.

Financial literacy programmes are also needed to help SMEs develop their financial readiness and have proper financial statements and record-keeping, without which the banks cannot do any risk analysis and credit analysis, Dookeran said.

Looking at how the banking and financial sector will change and progress, Dookeran said that digital banking was a global megatrend and fintechs were an opportunity for T&T banks to broaden both their reach and their offerings. “Many developed markets as well as some developing markets in Africa have already moved towards having the majority of their payments done via electronic means.” However, T&T is still a very cash-based economy. The priority is to move to electronic payments in the public sector, he said. He also suggested that the banking sector could push and drive consumer behaviour towards cashless. Pointing out that banks were currently using the electronic payments infrastructure set up by the Central Bank, Dookeran also suggested increasing the availability of these electronic fund transfer services to the micro and small business sector. Digital banking is an area of opportunity, but banks have to convince people of its value, he concluded.

By Kay Baldeosingh-Arjune