Acting Prime Minister and Finance Minister Colm Imbert said yesterday that even though cyberattacks and hacking have reared their head again, the government’s cashless and digital agenda must press on.
Imbert made the comments at the annual International Finance and Accounting Conference hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICATT) at the Hyatt Regency.
While he did not expand on the cyberattack issue, which saw the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) being hacked last month, Imbert indicated the digital agenda must progress or else the country will be left behind compared to other countries.
“Our overall ambition is to make as many citizens as possible and businesses knowledgeable and comfortable with digital banking and digital payment solutions to keep pace with the rest of the world,” the finance minister said.
On the issue of the financial inclusion landscape, Imbert identified that in this area there is still a lot of work to be done, as the statistics reveal that 72 per cent of businesses do not have a business bank account, 88 per cent of businesses do not accept digital payments, and 55 per cent of individuals do not now have the knowledge to use mobile or web online banking.
This digital divide remains a concern, as not all citizens have equal access to the benefits of digital transformation.
He said that in fiscal 2024, 14 more new e-services on the Single Electronic Window platform are expected to be launched.
“Our e-government initiatives, together with increased online banking, and digital communication tools have streamlined processes, reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies and transaction costs. This, in turn, has boosted our competitiveness on a global scale.
“And despite the problems caused by cyberattacks, we can’t stop now. We must simply install better cyber protection, maintain greater safeguards and far better systems for dealing with issues and informing the public when problems occur,” Imbert revealed.
The acting prime minister noted that over the last 10 years, global energy prices continue to display extreme volatility, which creates significant challenges for the economy of this country.
Further, he said when the Israel-Hamas war began one month ago, people who are not students of the factors that affect oil prices here and abroad, predicted that oil would quickly cross US$100 per barrel.
Yet, Imbert indicated that yesterday morning, the price of oil was around US$75 a barrel, after crossing US$90 a barrel at the end of September, while natural gas prices remain depressed.
“The reasons for this include slowing demand for consumer goods in the US, uncertainty over growth in China, and oversupply of oil by the major producers, wiping out the upward pressure on prices caused by the two wars. But it is such an uncertain environment that oil may cross US$90 again in a few months,” he explained.
In the meantime, Imbert said while the oil giants fight, his ministry has work to get on.
He added that the government has been engaged in a series of reforms that seek to strengthen the overall economic management.
“These reforms are geared to creating a sustainable economic environment that would accommodate the generation of employment and opportunities for business development.”