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A time of "tremendous opportunity".

This is how Prime Minister Patrick Manning sees the ongoing internationalfinancial crisis less than six months after he told taxpayers they need totighten their belts as his administration undertook $5.3 billion inbudgetary cutbacks because of the global economic downturn.

In doing so, however, Manning noted that even before the global economicdownturn began, more than 40 per cent of those living in the region were"concerned about becoming unemployed".

"It is therefore very easy to imagine how that fear has multiplied duringthe last six months," Manning said.

Manning offered a more upbeat view of the international financial crisis,which is posing challenges to major economies such as the United States andsmaller ones such as that of this country, during his keynote address atthe joint opening ceremony of the Fifth Summit of the Americas PrivateSector and Youth Fora yesterday.

"I see this, however, not only as a time of crisis, but more so as a timeof tremendous opportunity," Manning said.

The event took place aboard the Caribbean Princess, one of the two cruiseships docked at the Waterfront in downtown Port of Spain serving asfloating hotels for the Summit.

Manning said that while the impact of the threatening recession varies fromcountry to country, "some of us are better equipped to respond to thechallenge".

"For one country the drop in oil prices is welcome. Not in Trinidad andTobago. For another, it represents a loss of revenue. The problem is,however, that the world has become so interdependent that no country isinsulated from negative economic developments in any other part of theworld," Manning said.

He made his comments as he told those representing Latin American andCaribbean business and youth organisations that their contribution to theSummit "is critical, as the world is facing waves of economic crises thatare without parallel in our history".

Manning pointed out that this Summit is the first that is offering aseparate forum for youth and said they "have earned that place".

"In many areas of endeavour, youth have been the pioneers, thetrendsetters. In music, art, fashion, sport, you are the creators of thenew," Manning said.