AMCHAM T&T's WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE 2021
SPONSOR REMARKS by Wendy-Fae Thompsonmanaging counsel - Americas, Gulf of Mexico, Canada and Trinidadbp
BP Trinidad and Tobago is honoured to once again support the Amcham Women’s Leadership Conference as we commemorate International Women’s Day. March 8 marked the 110th celebration of International Women’s Day. It’s certainly been a long journey to gender parity and whilst the world has been on this journey for a long time and has achieved great progress there is still so much more to be done to reach gender parity. The 2020 World Economic Forum on gender parity advises that at the current pace it will take us close to 100 years to achieve full gender parity. Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t wait that long.
This Conference is significant to us at BP as we aim to be very intentional on how we continue to develop diverse talent within our population and hopefully be an influence to other companies in Trinidad and Tobago. This Conference therefore is not only intended to provide the opportunity for us as women and men to pause and reflect on our journey to date, but also to refresh the call to action beyond this event to ensure that real progress is made now towards the advancement of women in the workplace.
We are meeting at a time in which there is increased focus on violence against women in our society. Women are still struggling for respect and equality not only in the workplace but in our daily lives. The recent protests in Trinidad as a result of Andrea Bharath’s death and the many feminist groups and movements worldwide that are making their voices heard on racial and other injustices are a testament to the fact that the world is becoming less tolerant of inequality and our stakeholders now not only expect us to be more inclusive but will demand it from us.
No doubt our workplace is a microcosm of the society in which we live. Thus, how society views our women and girls invariably transcends how we are treated at work, at home, in school, by our peers, family and our social institutions.
As I reflect on our journey at BPTT, what is clear is that gender equity ambition requires continued regular focus and attention in order to tackle unconscious and conscious bias, dismantle cultural norms and effectively change mindsets.
We have established women’s networks in almost all the jurisdictions in which we operate aimed at focusing on initiatives geared at addressing gender-bias issues. Through the unrelenting push from these organizations we have not only set targets for more female representation at the recruitment stage, front line, middle and senior levels but also in the boardroom. Our current data shows that we are making steady progress towards our ambition.
I feel proud that we are almost at gender parity on our senior leadership team with 5 females and 6 males and a female president. But what’s absolutely clear is that we still have work to do and we need all hands on deck to fully achieve success. It will require our team leaders to ensure they understand and address the challenges women face in their teams; it will require our senior management to deliberately build out opportunities for training and development for our female population especially in disciplines that have typically been filled by males. It will require our male population seeing themselves as allies in the pursuit of gender equity and accepting that progress towards gender equity is not a zero-sum game and that women advancing in their careers does not equate to men losing their power and influence. It will take you and me to be fired up in all aspects of how we operate within our organizations to really move the dial on progress.
Don’t let today’s event be a kumbaya moment where we commiserate, repeat the same promises and merely share experiences. I choose to challenge each of you that it is your responsibility on where we go next on this journey. The ripple effect that benefits everyone occurs in how we think, how we talk and act in our daily lives both at work and outside the workplace.
Over the next few hours, both the organizational and personal facets to women in leadership will be explored. It is important that we find the right balance I look forward to valuable discussion tempered with actions that will achieve real progress that we can report on next time we meet.
To AMCHAM T&T – congratulations on organizing what I am sure will be an insightful conference.
SPONSOR REMARKS by Anya Schnoor
Executive Vice President Caribbean, Central America & Uruguay, International Banking - Scotiabank
Hello everyone. 2021 is now our 7th year partnering with AMCHAM T&T as the platinum sponsor of the Women’s Leadership Conference. This conference is certainly a great opportunity for us to engage with each other, share ideas and experiences, advocate for the advancement of women, and share best practices pertaining to diversity and inclusion.
Choose to challenge is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. For me, this means challenging norms and calling out gender biases and inequality. We all share this collective responsibility and it is the only way to bring about change and create an inclusive world where everyone feels respected and valued.
As some of you may know, I had the great privilege of working in Trinidad & Tobago between 2012 and 2017, as the then Managing Director of Scotiabank. During my 5 years in the country I grew to admire its people, the rich diversity of its culture, music, and of course food. I so miss Panorama, especially the semi-finals.
During those 5 years I met many young women across the country who were brilliant, ambitious, and hopeful about the future. They saw the struggles that women that came before them had – lack of role models in key industries, and a need for society to have tough conversations about abuse and the stigma of speaking up.
The work continues and I know we still have much to accomplish in the struggle for equality and justice.
When I spoke to AMCHAM in 2014 I was asked then to share some of my views on what it takes to be successful, and what were some of the challenges I’d overcome in my own career. I spoke then about the need to define your own definition of success and not let society or your own doubts about your abilities hold you back from taking a risk with your career. This view has not changed.
When I left Trinidad & Tobago to move to Canada in 2017, I knew then that I was taking another calculated risk with my career. While I was going to still be working for Scotiabank, I was moving to a new country, a new part of the bank, leading a new team. This move created many questions – “Why was the bank promoting someone from the Caribbean”, “What did she know about Canada?”, and “How would she fit in to this country?”. I had my own doubts.
If I was to be completely honest with myself, I never expected to be promoted to the head office of the bank. My own insecurities of growing up in a small town, in a small country, started to creep into my psyche. But then I remembered Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Miss Lou, Calypso Rose, and Jean Pierre, all of whom, charted their own definition of success and let nothing stand in their way.
As one of my heroes Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” So, I embraced this new challenge and made the best of it. I built a new team, challenged the status quo, and learned new things along the way. I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of Canada, its openness to immigrants, and its willingness to take a chance on new ideas, their appreciation for diversity of thought.
So, when I was asked in November of last year to take on a new challenge and help our Caribbean and Central America region recover from the effects of this global pandemic I jumped at the opportunity.
In some way this new role is me coming back full circle to my home and to the people that I love.
The challenge in front of us as we collectively try to navigate the impact in our various countries is not simple or straightforward. But this is where I feel the Caribbean has such untapped potential.
I have always felt its important to build a diverse team around you. Successful leaders are only as good as the people they surround themselves with. If you only surround yourself with people that think and act like you, then you’ll never get the quality and diversity of ideas you need to be truly great.
Leadership is about inspiring others to see your vision and then helping them go after that vision. To come out on the other side of this pandemic, we are going to need that diversity of thought around us. We are going to need an inclusive culture that embraces different views and seeks to challenge the status quo. We are going to need each other.
I encourage therefore our leaders across the region to work collectively together in a truly one region approach to find solutions for the ravages of this terrible pandemic.
In closing I leave you with a few final thoughts. It has become increasingly important to me as I have progressed in my career that I wanted to work for an organization that truly values diversity and equality in the workplace.
I wanted to work for an organization which allows women the choice to make decisions which best suit them.
It is not by chance that the senior management team of Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago is made up of 50% women. Or that as a publicly listed company we have one of the highest percentages of women represented on our board.
As an organization globally, we have made diversity and inclusion a key strategic priority because we believe that for women to achieve success there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we view women and their importance to the success of any organization.
We have had to recognize that the issues which have prevented women from achieving success are real and are not related to whether men or women make better leaders. The issues will not be addressed overnight and indeed they have taken far too long to come to a conclusion.
However, through better understanding and communication and a lot of hard work we can achieve the success we have all been striving for.
It is important we act now. I choose to challenge for this reason. Because a world without diversity of opinion and a world where people can’t feel respected and valued goes against the type of inclusive world, I want to live in.
I really want to thank you for having me here today and for the team for all their hard work in putting this event together. Enjoy the rest of your celebration.
WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE 2021
By AMCHAM T&T President - Patricia Ghany
Topic: Choose To Challenge
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to AMCHAM T&T’s 7th Women's Leadership Conference. Every year, I eagerly look at this event as a reinvigorated call to recommit ourselves to making the world a safer and more equitable place for all women.
Last year, upon the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic we unexpectedly had to cancel our 2020 event. Together we come today virtually amidst so much chaos and disruption, to not only celebrate the amazing achievements of women but also to sound the alarm on the many pressing issues that continue to restrict their advancement in our society.
2020, presented unprecedented challenges which threatened the progress the world has made in women’s empowerment. Long before COVID-19 became our norm, we already knew that women were making less, saving less and those working in the informal sector has less secure jobs. Therefore, the capacity to absorb sudden economic shocks during disruptive periods was always going to disproportionately affect more women than men.
From education and healthcare to job security and childcare, women and girls around the globe have been overly burdened by the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. Here are some sobering statistics:
1. More than one-third of working women say their career is on pause because of the pandemic. Of those who remain in the workforce, 60% say feel like they’re underperforming in areas of their life—which is not terribly surprising considering that, among working moms, 39% say they’ve gotten backlash from their supervisors because caretaking duties have created scheduling conflicts.
2. For the past nine years, the PwC Women at Work index showed incremental progress in the number of women employed in OECD (organization for economic cooperation and development) countries. The 2021 update, however, reveals the index has slipped 2.1 points, down to 2017 levels. “If the OECD is to completely recover from Covid-19 by 2030,” the authors write, “progress towards gender equality needs to be twice its historical rate.”
3. Nearly half—49%—of private company boards do not have a female director, Crunchbase recently reported. (Notably, though not one board among companies on the S&P 500 is all-male.)
4. A report from IBM, out this week, shows a recent contraction in the pipeline of women for executive leadership roles: Between 2019 and 2021, the percent of female middle managers dropped 5% to 23%, while the percent of women at the vice president or director role has slipped from 19% to 15%.
Perhaps this is why some are calling this the “shecession” era with so many women either out of work or having to leave or take reduce paid work citing burnout due to company inflexibility, caring responsibilities and stress brought on by the pandemic. Such impacts risk erasing the already fragile progress that women have made in the labor force over the past decades.
As we navigate our recovery from the pandemic and beyond, we have a unique opportunity to redefine leadership, reconstruct workplaces, and create an equal, inclusive and resilient society for women and girls. Employers will need to look at more flexible working arrangements, gender-blind hiring, mentorship and more childcare support for women returning to work. Therefore, a post-pandemic world needs to see women treated as essential workers regardless of where they work or their positions in the organisation because we know that when women are absent from the workplace, our economies do not grow.
The McKinsey report also estimates that if no action is taken to ensure women’s full participation back into the workplace, global GDP growth could be $1 trillion lower by 2030. We need to ensure that the ‘she-cession’ doesn’t set back 30 years of progress.
This year the theme for International Women's Day has asked us to Choose To Challenge. This is a powerful call-out for everyone to work together towards gender equality. The belief is that a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let’s make some changes:
Let’s choose to challenge workplace inflexibility so that women aren’t punished for attending to child care obligations while trying to do their jobs.
Let’s choose to challenge discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and start rewarding equal pay for equal work.
Let’s choose to challenge sexism and misogyny so that women aren’t subjected to abuse and violence where they are tragically meeting their demise.
Let’s choose to challenge outdated beliefs and perceptions on gender that teaches us that a woman’s place is in the kitchen while men are the breadwinners.
Let’s choose to challenge gender bias and other stereotypes so that we can see women as our equals and men as our allies in the struggle for gender equality.
Let’s choose to challenge the all-boys club to lead with more diversity and include more women in the boardrooms across our nation.
Waiting for 250 years to dismantle the systemic barriers that make women more vulnerable in crisis and their leadership ascent steeper is not an option. We know that when more women are seated at decision making tables, better decisions are made for the benefit of everyone.
These challenges may seem difficult but we simply can’t give up. We must embrace these challenges today to create the changes we want. And that’s exactly what we did at AMCHAM T&T. WE CHOSE TO CHALLENGE. Even in a highly challenging year, we were able to secure gender parity on our board. Today, I am happy to announce that there is now an equal number of men and women sitting on our board serving the interest of the entire business community of T&T.
I am extremely honored to work with these remarkable women: Giselle Thompson, Karri-Anne Hepburn, Caroline Sirju Ramnarine, Greer Quan, Katische Serrette, Andrea Davis and Angelique Parisot-Potter who are all powerhouses of talent, energy and ability. Our goal for gender parity has been strongly supported by our fellow male Board members who are all very unique and enlightened individuals.
Over the past two years, you have also heard me speak about our Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme. I am extremely proud of this programme because, with the assistance from our partners at the IADB, we created a space for young female professionals to have guidance and counsel that will prepare them for the next step in their career paths. And what better way than having senior executives – both male and female – acting as mentors to the next generation of leaders?
Our mentorship cohort increased from seven mentees in 2018 to thirty-nine in 2020. I am delighted to report that our partners at the IADB are once more back on board with us and we are currently seeking applications for both mentors and mentees. So, if you are interested please do not hesitate to get the application forms through our Secretariat.
Over the last month, our nation was plunged into a state of national mourning over the senseless murder of one of our daughters. The horrific killing of Andrea Bharath sparked a collective outcry of anger, pain, and outrage from all citizens. The words of the former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, "the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls" strongly resonates today as we find ourselves at a crisis moment where once more our women and girls are under attack.
AMCHAM T&T has taken up this call-to-action with our recently launched GBV Workshop because we know that not only do we (the business community) need to do more to protect our women but protecting women at the workplace means providing increased opportunities for women to succeed not only in their careers but in their lives. The result of which can improve a woman's economic and social circumstances so that she is allowed to choose her own path to success. What we need is stronger, bolder, and tougher action from the state, law enforcement, the business community, and civil society to treat this burning issue as another deadly pandemic that demands urgent relief and support.
In 2019, we had 19 men attend our Conference. Their presence underscored for me the importance of engaging men in the discussion, not simply as allies, but individuals who are also impacted by their gender. I also appreciated that they chose to join our conversation, learn and ask questions about our experiences, and were authentic when sharing their own perspectives. To fully address gender-based violence we need society to create a space for men to understand that it is acceptable to show expressions of fear, sadness, vulnerability and pain without acts of violence.
As we go forward, we must ask ourselves the question ‘What can I do?’. While there have been cracks in the glass ceiling and tremendous strides, we need a better understanding of what equality looks like and what you can we do as an organization (and as an individual) to help.
It can't just be about government creating the change. The onus lies with each of us, both government, companies, NGOs and society working together to help realize the dream of equality for all.
My journey as President of AMCHAM T&T has been filled with many triumphs and challenges. Over the past two and a half years, I am often asked myself: how can I make a meaningful difference in this role?
Whenever I am faced with this daunting question I usually find comfort in the words of Mother Teresa who once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Change may take a lifetime to occur but it’s often the journey rather than the destination that helps you to be prepared for the change you desire. The path may be long and scary at times. But if you aren’t brave and strong enough to challenge yourself you may never learn the lessons from the journey. And for me, that’s where we create our personal ripples and leave our mark on the world.
That’s the message I want to leave you with today.
Many of you are already on your own journeys and you’re probably already leaving many small ripples that are creating major impacts to many far from where you stand. But where ever you are on that journey, I want you to remember the following:
(1) Challenge the doubts that fuel a sense of inadequacy
The gender confidence gap is real. While not all women lack the confidence to achieve what they want, many do. This is something that even I had to face. And here’s a little secret.. it’s something I still struggle with to this day.
But we must dare ourselves to challenge the negative noises in our head. Those critical voices urging us to think small and play safe. Remember, your attitude will determine your altitude.
(2) Challenge the limits and labels others put on you
We all know that women can be labelled bossy for acting with equal assertiveness to the men beside them. Or that the word ‘ambition’ is negatively correlated for women (but not for men.)
But I believe a challenged world is one where women are equally praised for their assertiveness and their compassion. This is what makes women so powerful. Our ability to be strong and sensitive are our secret weapons that allow us to move mountains, calm storms, and create the change we desire in our world.
As Vice President Kamala Harris said last November:
“Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction. And see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they've never seen it before.”
And finally, I remind you to:
(3) Challenge other women when they disempower themselves.
We need to proactively go out of our way to lift other women up – to challenge how they see themselves, how they speak about themselves, and what they see as possible for themselves.
So, let us all challenge ourselves to own our value more fully, to defy our doubts more often, and to dare to make the difference our difference makes.
In the words of poet Amanda Gorman,
“We will keep fulfilling this path until the world goes still to say, ‘where there’s will, there’s a woman. And where there’s a woman, there is always a way."
As I conclude, I would like to recognize the unwavering commitment of our CEO Nirad Tewarie and the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat for organizing this event and a very special thank you to Kennedy Maraj and Neerala Boodoo for all their hard work and dedication over the past few months. And, thank you to all our sponsors for your continued support over the years.
Remember, together we can all choose to challenge gender bias and inequality everywhere, and create an inclusive world for all!
Speech by President of AMCHAM T&T
Ms. Patricia Ghany
AMCHAM T&T’s Economic Outlook Forum 2021
(Thursday, 28th January 2021)
Strategy in Uncertainty
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s first major event of the year – our Economic Outlook Forum for 2021.
Against the backdrop of significant economic dislocation and previously unthinkable restrictions that now form part of our daily reality, how do we even begin to think about “Strategy in what continues to be a period of intense Uncertainty”?
Uncertainty is something that each of us has felt a lot of during this past year.
By every account, we can say that 2020 brought unparalleled disturbances and disruptions. How is your company’s strategic plan working out?
How do we define the strategy to ensure a healthy 2021? The bad news is that there is no specific strategy... no magic bullet. But there are things we can do to be more resilient.
First, let’s look at the current reality. This pandemic has forced us to close many businesses, to shutdown major sectors of our economy, many have been either furloughed or lost their jobs, and then there is the growing death toll. Now somehow, we are asked to pick up the pieces. And we will. Businesses all over will rise to the challenge but it won’t be easy.
Yet, this is in sharp contrast to the promising news at the start of 2020 which started with our economy finally showing signs of returning to growth after years of steady decline. While we knew we weren’t entirely out of the woods just yet, economic turnaround seemed possible.
Today the situation has changed and the outlook for the future remains unknown and uncertain. But as leaders in business, this is not an unfamiliar path for us. How many times have we had to redirect our strategic plans to meet unexpected challenges? In fact, it is moments like this that distinguish the weak from the strong. Our business community is innovative – despite what detractors say. We forge new paths and while the talkers talk, we do. And that’s what we must do now. We must be bold. Think differently. Think big. And Do.
Today, even with this uncertain outlook, we have an opportunity before us to challenge ourselves to be more bold, more innovative, and even more transformative in the way we conduct our business operations.
No one said it will be easy. In fact, we know full recovery will take some time. But we can’t get there unless we have a clear plan or strategy that will take us beyond the pandemic.
Therefore, what today’s situation requires is the fearless and bold visionary leadership to do the improbable. We can’t play it safe or look to surrender. We must meet the moment.
I am not going to talk today about the many things that Government must do to improve the ease of doing business. It is an accepted fact by Governments past and present, by public servants, by the unions and by the business community that our economy is less competitive today than it was 20 years ago.
Being bolder and more innovative; attracting more investment would be easier if the organs of state were more efficient. Just on Tuesday, no less a person than the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Alvin Hillaire said in an Express article: “one of my biggest issues with T&T, I think, is the way that we do business and the way that we sort of revere bureaucracy, because everything takes a long time, everything. It takes too long. A lot of times, bureaucracy is nonsensical, but we get wedded to it”.
So, there is a lot that Government should do, and these things have been clearly identified before. So now it is up to those in authority to act. What would be useful is a more effective reporting and evaluation framework, ideally as part of the national budget presentation.
But as the private sector, we cannot wait on the Government. We must be bold because regardless of whoever is in office, we have a responsibility to our employees, our customers, our community, our society, our families and yes, to ourselves, to find ways to thrive and grow.
So, boosting our digital economy can help. How many times have we said that digital transformation holds the key to diversification which will lead to long-term growth and sustainability?
Well in a moment of remote work, digital learning and the acceleration of digital adoption happening across many industries, we are finally getting up to speed with the digital age. And while Government must do more and faster in this regard, as the private sector we have to ensure that not only are we identifying and implementing the right technologies, but also that our people are trained to use the new technology effectively.
Investing in technology and in our people is not new to us. Those aren’t bold concepts. But doubling down on training and capital investments in technological capacity in the midst of tight cash flows might well be. Yet we must double down on these things.
COVID-19 may have disrupted a lot of our norms, but it also finally woke us up to the reality that technology is no longer an option but a necessity. Just think of the many opportunities to come out of a fully functioning digitally-enabled economy: faster and more efficient service, new industries built from innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups, creation of new and exciting jobs, and widening the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness.
Therefore, a competitive and progressive T&T depends on a long-term commitment and investment to fully digitize both our public and private sectors.
The results from our Business Survey that we conducted in collaboration with Ernst & Young over the past two months will provide more details on how companies are driving their strategies during these uncertain times and what they require to maintain this into the future.
We know these are challenging times, but we have to remember that what differentiates us from less successful economies are our adaptability, innovation and willingness to explore new opportunities.
Our highly developed energy sector has, at different times, afforded us one of the highest growth rates, highest FDI inflows and highest per capita income in the region. And our manufacturing sector is responsible for providing the region with a significant portion of its consumer products.
So yes, we have achieved great things because of our strategic geographic location, natural resources and highly skilled labor force which means there is no reason why we once more can’t drive growth and sustainable development. Yes, we can. Now is the time to pivot and explore new opportunities even as we face this latest period of uncertainty.
And while certainty will be elusive for several months, the country does need a clear and coherently articulated vaccination plan. With the confirmation of just 25,000 full doses of the vaccine and no clarity around orders of additional doses, T&T is on track to be one of the last countries on the planet for full re-opening. This week we saw the EU being pushed down the schedule for delivery of vaccines due to later confirmation of orders than the UK. We must move swiftly to secure additional doses of the vaccines – moderna, Pfizer, astrazenneca-oxford – and have a plan to ensure that the majority of the population is vaccinated in the shortest possible time, ideally by the middle of the year at latest.
Indeed, as a small and open economy, the rest of the world will likely require vaccinations to enter their countries so, in addition to continued risk to the population and possible moves to limit business activity without widespread vaccination, it is likely that Trinbagonians may go from being stuck abroad to stuck on an island without widespread vaccination.
So, as we seek to build resilience and overcome the challenges over which we have no control, we must be bold. We must seek partnerships as opposed to trying to do everything ourselves – even if that means collaborating with firms who may be the local competition as we go after international business.
We must seek new markets as we attempt to overcome our foreign exchange challenges.
We must diversify within our own businesses. To do this we must take a good look at our business processes to identify intellectual property that we previously overlooked but that we can now commercialize. We must seek to identify unique businesses processes that give us competitive advantages. Massy has done this in the automotive sector and used this to advance in the Colombian market, for example.
What we cannot do is nothing. What we cannot also do is wait – wait for gas production and prices to increase. Even if they do, we can no longer be dependent only on local gas production and advantageous international prices.
As we diversify and grow, so too is our voice amplified with the policymakers. I see thunderstorms ahead but, on my company ship, I am betting on my team and our ability to pivot and execute new strategies. Nationally, I’m betting on all of you, our AMCHAM T&T community, to also pivot, to reinvent yourselves, to dig deep and bounce back stronger.
We have the talent, we have the skills, and we have the people who can help us build that great and prosperous nation we all envision.
One thing this pandemic taught us is that agility and adaptability are essential to survival. We have seen that businesses with inflexible business models and no business continuity plans have either collapsed or barely survived. Conversely, we’ve seen those businesses that were able to pivot, reskill and refocus were able to tread water and even thrive during the pandemic.
We need to ask ourselves, how agile is our business? If 2021 throws us another curveball, will our business survive? Will the “patch” that we used to survive 2020 continue to hold up? Or will one more setback push us under?
I’m not prepared to go under and AMCHAM T&T is here to ensure that you don’t either!
Thank you, everyone!
AMCHAM T&T/IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme 2020
PRESIDENT OF AMCHAM T&T
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and Happy New Year to everyone.
It brings me great pleasure to welcome you today to celebrate the completion of another successful AMCHAM T&T/ IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Program.
I really want to offer my gratitude to our mentees and mentors for making this 3rdMentorship Class the huge success that it was.
I know this past year has been challenging for many of us. So much of what we once knew to be familiar and routine were replaced by new norms and practices that many of us weren’t ready for.
A lot has definitely changed in the last year, but I am happy to see the sheer resilience and commitment that each of you has made towards completing this program in spite of the many disruptions during the past year. You definitely deserve high praise for that.
In her bestselling book, “She Wins, You Win”, Gail Evans, CNN’s first female executive vice president writes “The path to success begins with this single most important rule: Every time a woman succeeds in business, every other woman's chance of succeeding in business increases.”
This is why our Mentorship Programme remains very important to all of us here at AMCHAM T&T and at the IDB. At the launch of this year’s programme, I said to you that if we want gender equality in the workplace and beyond, it is up to women to share knowledge, offer support and guidance, and increase the opportunities for other women if they are in a position to do so.
I continue to believe in this message. If there is one takeaway you have learned from this mentorship, I hope it is this. Because we know, when women commit to supporting each other in the workplace we create the safe spaces women need to shed their fears and doubts, and build trust and confidence in themselves. Once this happens, they are inspired to speak out more, step out of their comfort zones and aspire to senior and leadership roles. Essentially, when women support each other, we are building the next generation of female CEOs and global leaders.
Why is this so important you may ask? Well just look at the story of every woman in the world. It’s a familiar tale of overcoming insurmountable obstacles and barriers to survive and succeed. Whether she is leading a Fortune 500 company or running the household while taking care of the kids, women around the world have had to battle a minefield of inequality, discrimination, and sexism. And sometimes that’s just to get her voice heard.
Certainly, this isn’t the future we want as we hope to transition to a post-COVID-19 world. This pandemic has forced so many to adapt to unfamiliar behavior and explore innovative pivots to stay alive and remain relevant. I expect some things will return to normal but at the same time, there are some things of the past that we must ensure stays in the past.
We should not have to keep talking about a world where gender parity locally has less than 25% female participation at the C-suite level and even less when it comes to representation at the board level.
We should not have to report on women having to fight for equal pay for equal work, losing out on promotions because they made the choice to start a family, or enforcing zero-tolerance policies against sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination.
And we should not have to mourn the tragic loss of yet another woman who falls victim to intimate partner or gender-based violence.
Moving forward we can't just keep talking about these issues with no real change. We must ensure these problems are thrown into the dustbins of history, once and for all. A COVID free world cannot see us continuing to treat women as inferior, unequal, or as property. It’s not even a matter of finding the solution. We know the solution. It’s just a matter of finding the willpower and the humanity to do what we know is right.
I am proud to say at AMCHAM T&T this has really been one of the major pillars of our work and advocacy. I have said it many times before and will say it again. Fighting for equality for us isn’t just a male or female issue but an issue of fairness that just happens to also make good economic sense and is a necessary element towards building a progressive, fully democratic society.
The Women’s Mentorship Programme is just one element of us fulfilling this goal. Today, as I speak to you - our largest cohort of mentees to participate in the programme - I am assured that many see the great value of this initiative and understand why it is we need to support women.
That is why I want to encourage all our mentors and mentees today to continue motivating, continue inspiring and never stop helping your sister who stands in your shadows. Remember she is looking up at you and she is going to need your support to help her overcome her struggles and doubts so that she can realize her dreams and achieve success.
We must know that there is real power in the pack when we stay united. Remember when we raise each other up and channel the power of collaboration, we change the game for all of us!
Earlier, I quoted Gail Evans' message about the path to success. As I close, let me end with another quote from her book. She also says:
“Every time a woman fails in business, every other woman's chance of failure increases.”
So, I want you to remember this the next time you see a younger subordinate struggling or the next time you accept “no” or don’t speak up. As we continue to find a way past this pandemic, I urge you to continue sharing, continue to offer your support and guidance, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. We can only enact sustainable change when we know there is a problem. Nobody wins in silence or when we stand alone.
Before I leave, I want to thank our friends at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for their commitment once again to partner with us on this mentoring programme. We look forward to the continued collaboration on this initiative. I also want to thank my Board of Directors and CEO, Nirad Tewarie for continuing to show strong leadership on this very important issue. And to Miss Rey-Anne Paynter and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work and dedication they have put into this programme. And finally, thank you to our class of mentees and mentors. The success of this programme could not have been imagined without your support and participation. I hope this programme proved to be beneficial to your career goals and in many other ways. So, let's stay connected to change the world.
Thank you so much, and please stay safe everyone.
AMCHAM T&T's 2021 Budget Recommendations vs National Budget 2021
Each year, AMCHAM T&T submits budget and policy recommendations to the Ministry of Finance for consideration for the National Budget. The submission is compilation of the recommendations put forward by you, our members, and the policy positions that we believe will contribute to the recovery and stabilization of the economy, as well as making Trinidad and Tobago a more attractive destination for investment.
We are happy to report that our recommendations have not fallen on deaf ears and our advocacy has been effective. A number of our recommendations to enhance the efficiency and efficacy of the Government and improve the ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago have been incorporated into the 2021 National Budget.
Click here to view the the recommendations submitted by AMCHAM T&T that were adopted in the 2020-2021 National Budget.
AMCHAM T&T HSSE Conference & Exhibition 2020
Dr Philip Mshelbila - CEO of Atlantic
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome.
We are now in the tenth month of a global pandemic that is once in a lifetime. The news continues to be sobering – in fact many of us avoid it. But at the same time, all around us there are inspiring stories of people rising above the challenges.
When I think about the brave response of people in this situation, I am reminded of a quotation by the famous psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who pioneered the theory of the Five Stages of Grief. She said, and I paraphrase: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when adversity comes, their real beauty is revealed by their light from within.”
People have been pressing on through the challenges, because as a famous actor once put it: “Life finds a way.” People have been skillfully navigating the complexities of the new world in which we find ourselves. Our children are learning to master online school. We, their parents, are juggling responsibilities as we turn our homes into offices and schools. We all sanitize our surroundings and wash our hands like never before, and none of us go anywhere without our face masks – the world’s newest and most essential fashion (and I may add, safety) accessory. In fact, in Atlantic, we call the face mask a lifesaving personal protective equipment.
In all these things, everywhere we look, we see on display the courage, creativity, and resilience of our common humanity. It is therefore very fitting that AMCHAM T&T has chosen the theme of “Resilience” for this year’s annual Conference on Health, Safety, Security, and the Environment. This year’s staging is the 24th in the series since it was first established, and for the first time ever, this Conference is being held virtually and online, for obvious reasons.
On behalf of all the sponsors, I welcome all attendees from here at home and those from around the region. We thank you for attending and participating. As we all know, this week will connect us to the latest best practices in HSSE. This information is particularly valuable given the present time and throughout this week, there will be an indispensable transfer of knowledge. We will share in the priceless lessons learned from the experiences of others, which we can take back and implement in our own companies. This will help build our collective capability to rise above the challenging local and global business environment.
Atlantic, like many other companies, continues to navigate through the storm, buffeted by the wind and the waves that seem to assault our very existence. The global LNG business has experienced a contraction, as reduced economic activity around the world has had a knock-on effect on demand for natural gas and LNG. Fortunately, there are signs that global demand for energy is beginning to recover, albeit slowly. Prices remain lower than they were, ushering in a new era of even more targeted cost management and energy efficiency across the industry.
Through it all, there can be no compromise on the safety and reliability of our business. The practice of HSSE and its contribution to business viability and success become even more critical during a global pandemic. At Atlantic, resilience in these times has meant that our business has had to evolve. We have had to discover innovative ways to deliver our targets, to manage risks both prior and new and to keep our people safe and productive.
As part of our proactive risk management, Atlantic has been monitoring the pandemic from the moment the first official announcement was made by the World Health Organization back in December 2019. We developed and then activated our COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan, and three key principles have guided us from the onset. We resolved that we would protect the health and safety of our employees, our number one priority. We committed to sustain safe and reliable operations for as long as possible, and we further charged ourselves to provide care and support where feasible to all our stakeholders, especially in our home community of Point Fortin.
These three principles have been foundational to our experiences ever since. In the months following the implementation of the national lock-down, we have been discovering our collective resilience and building upon it.
I am proud and humbled to report on one aspect of this. Throughout this period, Atlantic has experienced no impact to our production. We have been able to keep to our schedule for maintenance of our Trains. We have delivered four maintenance outages within budget, on time and most importantly, we have delivered them safely. In fact, there is a turnaround maintenance outage being conducted right now on the facility, and it is the only one for which we have had to adjust the original scope, because it was massive and would have required too many people on the site to manage sensible social distancing.
My observation is that our resilience in our operations is anchored on two key success factors, which I would like to speak about very briefly.
The first success factor has been our People. Atlantic’s people – like so many around the world – have demonstrated both their resilience and their adaptability. When we had to manage the number of personnel on site and therefore restricted access to only those employees who are critical to business continuity and plant operations, our people adapted. On-site work arrangements were revised to accommodate social distancing, cocooning, small work teams and other measures which have had implications for plant specific tasks, including the work conducted during maintenance outages. Work arrangements have been reconfigured to reinforce the new level of safety mandated by the current environment.
On the other hand, employees who are not plant-based have adjusted seamlessly to remote working arrangements. We have implemented several initiatives to help them become even more resilient, including psychological support, stipends to help them establish home offices, virtual ergonomic assessments and even a virtual gym.
In return, our employees have offered and continue to offer innovative ideas that have helped us to adapt work processes and businesses practices. These new processes have helped us to enhance safety, efficiency, and productivity in the new normal. This brings me to the second success factor that I would like to talk about and that is our Use of Technology.
A big part of our pandemic response has been powered by technology. We were among the first companies to deploy fixed and handheld thermal scanners at all our locations, conducting thermal scanning of all persons entering our facilities.
In 2018, we had declared Technology to be a strategic enabler for our company and part of our strategy to future-proof our business. Some of the state-of-the-art technology initiatives that we embarked upon at that time have now become the platforms that facilitate remote working and other necessary evolutions of our business.
For example, one platform that we implemented now allows for the quick creation of mobile apps. It was very easy for us to develop a special app to support our aim to control the numbers of persons on site. Employees use the app to request access to our plant and other Atlantic locations. The app routes requests to Atlantic leaders for authorization up to a maximum limit, and in real time helps the Company to monitor numbers across all our locations at any given time.
Another example early in the lockdown period was developed in our marine operations. We aimed to minimize the risk of contact with the crews on LNG tankers that visit our facility from all over the world, including from countries that are pandemic ‘hot spots’. A new process was developed to transfer intrinsically safe tablets between ship and shore, without requiring human contact, and adding another layer of protection around our LNG loading operations.
In other areas of the business, entire processes have shifted to online portals, which employees working from home use to collaborate with site-based personnel. We use virtual software to enable trouble shooting of onsite issues from both local and foreign service providers. In our control room, we now facilitate contactless shift handovers virtually, by use of an alternate simulated control room that is adjacent to the main location. This minimizes physical interaction between our shifts and therefore minimizes risk of transmission. Everywhere in our business, processes have been migrating online, increasing cross-functional collaboration and communication, breaking down silos and helping us keep our commitment to not compromise on the safety and reliability of our business.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Atlantic’s people for your resilience and your innovation. Our business could not be where it is today without you. We know there are still challenges ahead of us, but if there is anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it is that we have resilience and that working together we can overcome challenges and still achieve our ambitions.
It is this outlook that I would like to leave in the minds of all participants in this year’s Conference. Greater challenges may indeed lie before us all, but we have even greater resilience.
I want to thank the team at AMCHAM for creating this opportunity for us to be reminded of the strength, courage and creativity that lies inside us all.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
AMCHAM T&T HSSE CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION 2020
The Honourable Marvin Gonzales
Minister of Public Utilities
Theme: Resilience in the Context of Updates on the Energy Efficiency Policy, Tariff Policy and the Renewable Energy Policy.
It is indeed a pleasure and an honour to share with you some thoughts on Resilience and the building of sustainable energy futures from the perspective of the Public Utilities Sector.
But first, I must commend the American Chamber of Commerce for their willingness to engage with an issue that impacts every aspect and every level of the global community – from households to multi-national corporations, and from remote rural areas to teeming cities.
There can be no doubt that civilization, as we know it, is undergoing a great sea-change on a number of fronts. In the face of these developments, resilience is essential, along with strategic ways of mitigating their impact. One such development – Climate change – requires not just mitigation but systemic change across the board and at all levels, specifically in relation to the ways in which we harness and utilise energy.
For hundreds of years, mankind has had a love affair with fossil fuels. And understandably so! Coal, and then oil and gas, along with their downstream industries, have literally driven the global economy. As in all relationships, however, we have to, at some point, take stock of where we are. And in the case of fossil fuels, it is obvious that we cannot continue to sustain our relationship without doing irreparable damage to ourselves and to the planet that we call home.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, the words efficiency and conservation have been used with increasing frequency over the past few years. Government has realised that despite our unique position as an oil and gas-producing country, the sustainable use of our energy resources is the first step in the journey towards a sustainable and resilient energy future.
And we are not the only ones to come to this realisation. Many countries are individually and collectively taking systematic steps to reimagine and reshape their relationship with fossil fuels. They are actively adopting energy efficient and energy conservation initiatives and attempting to inculcate it into their daily lives. Here are some ways in which they are doing that:
1. In over 21 countries, energy utility obligation programmes have been established, mandating energy companies to adopt energy saving targets within a certain timeframe.
2. In the European Union, India, the United States, China and Australia, grants and tax relief dominate fiscal mechanisms to encourage energy efficiency activities.
3. With regards to buildings, India’s Energy Conservation Building Code mandates that new buildings must illustrate energy savings of 25% to be code-compliant. And the United Kingdom Clean Growth Strategy focuses on measures to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings and industry by a minimum of 20% by 2030.
Even our regional neighbours have joined the global thrust to become more energy efficient. Brazil created a division within its national utility, called PROCEL, expressly for the purpose of focusing on energy efficiency. And in 2002, the country created an incentive program for renewable energy aimed at stimulating the development of wind, biomass and small hydro plants along with energy efficient projects within the country.
Meanwhile Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama have all established laws meant to promote and encourage greater energy efficiency among consumers.
On the local front, government, through the Ministry of Public Utilities and T&TEC is also promoting and facilitating energy conservation and energy efficiency.
In May of last year, Cabinet appointed an Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency (EC&EE) Inter-ministerial Committee, to develop an EC&EE Policy and Action Plan. That Plan, once implemented would lead the way towards reducing Trinidad and Tobago’s energy consumption.
In its fiscal 2020 budget, the Government announced several initiatives in support of the EC&EE Policy and Action Plan, which covers a five-year period. And in fiscal 2021, Government further allocated financial support for 2 more initiatives. I will now outline some of these projects, which are in various phases of implementation.
1. The LED Lightbulb Distribution Programme and T&TEC’s Energy Management Application were launched just last month. The distribution programme involved the procurement and distribution of 1.6Million LED lightbulbs to be distributed to T&TEC’s 400,000 residential customers. While T&TEC’s Energy Management Application will assist households in managing their electricity consumption. Both initiatives are meant to increase public awareness around the issues of electricity conservation while providing consumers with concrete tools and strategies to enact change in their electricity consumption.
2. As announced in the 2020 National Budget, the MPU is facilitating a Level One Energy Audit and Retrofit of Tower C, at the International Waterfront; this project is nearing completion and was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. The newly retrofitted building will improve energy management and reduce electricity consumption at Tower C.
3. The country is also presently in discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS) to promote and use the Caribbean Renewable Energy and Efficiency building construction (CREEBC) codes in new construction. These standards, which will cover both residential and commercial construction, will increase adoption rates of more effectual technologies for renewable energy and energy conservation.
And as Mr. Deryck Omar, CEO of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), noted, their adoption will “go a long way toward allowing [CARICOM member states] … to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate.”
He continued to say that “it also demonstrates the importance of bringing quality measures into the region’s energy sector and the potential benefits that can accrue when that happens.”
4. As important as these measures are, Government understands the importance of long-term planning and implementation. And as such, has mandated the development of an Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan (IRRP) for the electricity sector of Trinidad and Tobago.
That initiative, funded by the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, will guide decision-making on the appropriate electricity mix for Trinidad and Tobago over the next 25 years. The IRRP will be completed by 2022.
5. It should be noted that Government’s position on Utility Scale is 10% RE by 2021and 30% by 2030. To this end, we are currently facilitating the implementation of a 112 MW Utility Scale Solar Project, which will add to the overall energy generation capacity.
6. Other initiatives include:
To facilitate the proper integration of these and other renewable energy sources into the energy mix, a Feed-In Tariff Policy must be developed and implemented.
The Ministry of Public Utilities is currently on an inter-ministerial Committee (chaired by the Ministry of Energy) to implement a Feed- In Tariff Policy to promote the integration of Renewable Energy sources of power into the national electricity grid. That committee will soon be finalising the policy.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Public Utilities is progressing the required legislation to facilitate residential and commercial uptake of RE via the feed-in tariff.
All of these initiatives fall under the umbrella of a wholistic climate change agenda. That agenda, guided by the National Climate Change Policy, sets up the enabling administrative framework for addressing climate change in Trinidad and Tobago, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
The Ministry of Planning and Development, through its Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, is responsible for coordinating the implementation of that policy and agenda.
An important aspect of that agenda was the development of a Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS) in 2015. The CRS informs the reader on the measurement of Carbon Emissions from the business as usual (BAU) scenarios in the power generation, the industrial and the transportation sectors of T&T.
That Carbon Reduction Strategy was used to develop the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of T&T, wherein the country committed to a 15% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, conditional upon leveraging international climate finance. It is noted that the NDC was ratified in 2018 as T&T’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
The Carbon Reduction Strategy also contains projections of carbon emissions up to 2040 for both conservative and optimistic scenarios in the same three sectors.
A suite of mitigation actions was studied and proposed for the reduction of greenhouse gases in those sectors. I have already drawn reference to some of these actions, since they are already being implemented.
Mitigating the effects of climate change is one thing, adapting to it is another. To this end, T&T is using a customized Climate Change Adaptation approach which allows identification of intervention measures in the short to medium term. It also enables the revisiting of these measures based on T&T’s exposure to climate risks.
Climate Change Adaptation Measures currently being implemented by Trinidad and Tobago involve the completion of a climate risk vulnerability and capacity assessment for all sectors in Trinidad and Tobago. This includes:
✔ Incorporating identified climate risks in the various sectors;
✔ mapping of vulnerable areas;
✔ Addressing climate risks activities in the agricultural and water sectors with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and
✔ A pilot project to increase the climate resilience of the Toco Health Centre wherein a solar system is to be installed and an upgrade to the sewer system is to be implemented using a rainwater harvesting system. (This pilot is to ensure that the Centre can operate and offer basic health care in the event of a climate related disaster).
As you can see, from the plans, strategies and initiatives that I have laid out before you, our approach to climate change and its causes is as wide as it is deep. And it encompasses all of the sectors and levels of the national community, including of course, the commercial sector.
We value your support as we move forward with this national thrust.
Our survival and success depend on everyone working together towards the common goal of a resilient national community fuelled by a sustainable energy sector. Together, we can do it!
I thank you for your time and attention and wish you all a successful and productive exhibition.
24th Annual (VIRTUAL) HSSE Conference & Exhibition
Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s 24th Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition.
By now many of you have grown accustomed to our new rules: wearing a mask, sanitizing your hands, and social distancing. This is 2020 and our world has definitely changed. Welcome to our new reality.. our new normal.
I would so like to have been able to greet you all in person rather than not even being able to see you all at all.
But it is what it is. We’re having this Conference in some very difficult and uncertain times. Many have lost a job, a business or a loved one – we have each experienced a lot of pain and heartbreak. The future is uncertain. Even though we’re here, many of our minds are straying elsewhere. Speaking of which, I wonder if my nieces are logged on to their classes?
But how do we pick ourselves up from this state of perpetual despair? That is the question both individuals and nations are confronting these days. And that is the question we hope to answer over the coming week through a series of stimulating leadership sessions with some of the most influential and innovative leaders that are revolutionizing the field of HSSE today. That’s why we chose the theme RESILIENCE this year.
The essence of the human spirit is to survive and thrive. To build back better. We have a chance to do that here in T&T and the Caribbean. I listened to Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s inspirational speech over the weekend, a speech that spoke to the essence and strength of the Caribbean. A belief that not only can the Caribbean recover from the pandemic but that we can be global leaders in tech, manufacturing and services. And why not?
To get there we do have some consolidation to do. We do need to ensure that our people are able to manage mentally; that our plants and businesses can run safely; that our activities do not destroy the environment and that we are resilient to the very real physical and cyber threats that threaten us and our companies every day.
So, even though we are virtual this year, AMCHAM T&T has not dropped the ball when it comes to offering knowledge, sharing industry best-practice advice, and championing cutting edge theories, ideas and concepts that will transform how we look at business operations for a new normal.
So, the question is: how can we adapt to a new normal that is characterized by many as uncertain and highly disruptive?
Answering this question reminds me of the ancient proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is right now”. In other words, we must immediately plant the seeds for short, medium and long-term survival, TODAY, to achieve growth and success. But to do this, will require a strong measure of RESILIENCE in our efforts to move past this pandemic.
The business community is doing its part. Companies large and small are donating devices for online school; assisting with food care packages and supporting employees in this difficult time. For true resilience, we need a strong and enabled private sector. That’s why this year, I want to focus on a few specific issues rather than the traditional, more generic focus on HSSE.
What I would say to my private sector colleagues is that now is not the time to cut back on training or HSE. Remember to ask yourself whether the cost of not training outweighs the cost of having an untrained or undertrained employee in the role. I think we all know the answer. And as an absolute rule – we either do it safely or not at all.
Switching back to my other points, for businesses to be able to bounce back or at least start planning for a recovery, we require predictability. Therefore, it is our view that restrictions to curtail business and individual activity should be linked to specific triggers. This should be clearly communicated in advance and of course, based on science.
What we did in March when we knew little to nothing about the virus, is not completely applicable now. For example, if we, hypothetically, record five straight days of new cases of more than 100, severe lockdowns may be necessary, but if we are at fewer that say 40 a day for five days, a significant re-opening of the economy may be possible and of course, if we drop to fewer than 20 new cases a day, we can join the CARICOM bubble and fully re-open the economy. We should also have clear and reasonable criteria for the re-opening of borders.
Measures like mask wearing, social distancing and no mass gatherings will obviously have to remain in effect until a vaccine is developed and administered to the majority of the population. Individuals will have to take much of the responsibility for ensuring that cases don’t spread through their actions, but continued uncertainty and apparent arbitrary measures are counter-productive.
That’s on the health front. On the environment front, we are facing an imminent environmental disaster of gargantuan proportions in the form of the Nabarima. That floating offshore storage vessel needs to be offloaded. What happens to the oil after, can be worked out but we believe our Government should use every available avenue -including international pressure if necessary – to ensure that the Venezuelan Government and the Italian company ENI, offload the oil and stabalise the Nabarima to protect our environment.
Should a spill occur if the vessel were to sink, the environments of several countries including T&T, Guyana, Suriname and possibly some of the OECS countries would be in grave danger. The effects will be felt for decades and even maritime traffic would be affected. We simply cannot allow this to happen. Our Government must act and let the country – indeed the international community – know what is being done and by when to avert this potential environmental catastrophe.
The final point I will make, is one with which you all are very familiar as safety professionals and leaders. It’s a point about culture and collaboration. For our country to be resilient; to be able to build back stronger, we need a more inclusive, more collaborative culture.
We face many challenges, and many sacrifices will have to be made. The burden will have to be shared, for sure.
But who sacrifices what and why? What is our end goal? Where are we going and how will we know if we’re getting closer to that destination?
Some clear milestones and both short and long term objectives in the context of an overall plan are required. Simultaneously we need meaningful engagement with stakeholders. And stakeholders will sometimes have suggestions that are not apparently supportive of the measures being implemented.
It is said that in assessing the health of a relationship, do not be concerned when there is disagreement and even quarrelling. Rather be concerned when there is silence.
It is precisely because people care; precisely because we want the best outcome for our country that we offer opinions and suggestions for better outcomes.
What is needed now, therefore, is collaboration, dialogue and meaningful engagement. With that, we can build back better. Build back stronger. And together, we will create a better, brighter future for our country.
Before I close, I want to take this opportunity to thank our Title Sponsor, Atlantic for once more partnering with us on our HSSE Conference and Exhibition. Thank you to our Platinum Sponsors: the NGC Group of Companies, BP, Shell, BHP, and Pro Man. And our Gold Sponsor Nu-Iron.
I am grateful to our HSE Committee lead by Chairperson Ms Cindi Nandlal and assisted by her co-vice chairs Balchan Jadoonanan and Travis Gayah for all their hard work. Thank you to the CEO and Board of Directors of AMCHAM T&T for your input and hard work. But really, special thanks must go to Melissa Pierre, our Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work that they have been doing behind the scenes to coordinate our very first VIRTUAL HSSE Conference & Exhibition.
Thank you to all our long list of international and local speakers who will be here with us this week. We thank you for sharing with us this commitment towards promoting HSSE awareness and ensuring that HSSE policies don’t just make good business sense but can also save lives.
And to everyone who will be joining us this week: Thank you for your participation. Everything we do here at AMCHAM T&T is for our members and for the wider public which is why we are always eternally grateful for your support.
Finally, to all our exhibitors who have taken the time to share their products, services, and expertise, we thank you for being a part of this year’s exhibition and I encourage each of you here to visit our VIRTUAL Exhibition. I guarantee you will enjoy it!
We know this year has been very challenging for many, but two things which stand out as truly remarkable for me during this period are:
Those are the seeds we need to keep planting if we hope to meet with success when we confront the next crisis. So please, let's continue to follow the health guidelines to flatten this curve resiliency for a bright and prosperous future for our families, our companies and our nation.
Be safe and have a great conference. Remember to use the chat and connect features of the platform to get the most from the experience. Thank You for your time and attention.
AMCHAM T&T’s ANNUAL POST BUDGET FORUM 2020
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s Annual Post Budget Forum.
I want to begin today by taking you back to our first AMCHAM event for 2020. At our Economic Outlook Forum in January, I reported some sobering statistics concerning how we ended 2019 as it relates to our crime rate, ease of doing business ranking and corruption perception index rating.
Despite these figures there were some positive signs that showed T&T moving in the right direction to once more becoming a resilient economy, even though we knew we had a lot of work to do. The past seven months have not been easy for anyone. So much has either been changed or disrupted. There is no telling how long it will take for us to get past this pandemic, either economically or emotionally. But we cannot afford to lose hope. We must continue to show strength, agility, and resilience in our efforts to bounce back and rebuild what we lost –even better.
We knew this budget wasn’t going to be the quick fix to all our problems. We understood that the Government is facing a herculean task to right this ship and return T&T to a path of growth and prosperity. And we knew our physical and economic survival meant having to put aside our differences and start the process of working together. That’s something we needed to do before the pandemic and especially after a vaccine is discovered.
Against the backdrop of another deficit budget and a projected contraction of the economy, estimated at 6.8 percent for 2020, we still feel optimistic for the future. The budget statement delivered by the Minister of Finance on Monday has outlined some promising initiatives that could set the platform for future growth.
This is where I want to really begin my analysis. Our theme for today’s Post Budget Review is: “Recovery to Transformation”. Given where we are today because of this pandemic, the goal moving forward is really about stimulating the economy, enhancing social development and improving the business environment. How do we accomplish this amidst declining oil and gas prices, and a pandemic that has disrupted supply chains, elevated social unrest, and crippled economies around the world?
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
Improving the Ease of Doing Business is now key. As a pre-requisite of a more attractive business environment, our country’s Economic Recovery Plan must have clear objectives related to improving quality of life and social harmony. We listened attentively to the Minister’s statement and while we reserved clarification on some matters, we were also pleased with some of the measures laid out to improve the ease of doing business in T&T.
As many of you would know, AMCHAM T&T has been leading the conversation around digital transformation. Before COVID, it was our advocacy on this subject through the hosting of the nation’s first-ever Tech conference, and several informative Webinars this year which have magnified the push for the digital transformation of the private and public sector.
Government’s commitment to the digital transformation of the economy in their budget statement is a welcome and positive step that will ensure increased growth and revenue. But we must get it right! Digitizing parts of our public sector cannot just be part of the short-term goal to recovery. We must build a fully digitally based, enabling economy that will not only improve the ease of doing business but secure our nation’s economic future through the creation of new and exciting jobs, boosting of entrepreneurship, and building the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness.
The incentives in the budget through grants for start-up businesses, and tax credits to businesses to invest in tech start-ups or new tech businesses will act as a viable source for revenue, open the job market to many young professionals, and commit our nation’s future to a digitally-based economy where the opportunities seem endless. These are all great initiatives we have championed, and we are proud to see the government move in this direction.
Additionally, government’s commitment to an e-payment gateway for government services, national e-identity, a unique national identification number and the use of virtual courts can all be transformative for both individuals and businesses in all sectors. These are all key steps we have recommended many times before and which we believe will be dependent towards building a digital-based economy that will improve the ease of doing business in T&T. We trust that the Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation will give specific timelines for implementation, inclusive of appropriate and meaningful consultation with stakeholders.
Further commitments to tackle specific impediments to the ease of doing business such as the time taken to get permits, modernization of the Port of Port of Spain and liberalization of the fuel market, which we trust will be done in an orderly and transparent manner, are all welcome.
We look forward to hearing more during the budget debate on the reform and modernization of Customs. Critical in this is a robust and effective risk-based framework that would remove from the examining officer the discretionary power to inspect packages except in very specific circumstances. This will discourage corruption and enhance efficiency.
Further, we strongly recommend the introduction of a diminimis value of USD 400 for imported items and a return to the 2011 system that allowed commercial packages with a value of less than TTD20,000 not requiring a customs entry. These too will improve the ease of doing business and have a minimal impact of government revenue.
Collaboration must be our new watchword if we are to realize this recovery to transformation goal. We cannot fulfil any of these policies if there isn’t greater collaboration by way of meaningful dialogue between all the stakeholders i.e. the state, business sector, labor and civil society. We know we have said this before, but the current situation is demanding that we put aside our differences and work together to ensure all sectors of the economy have a fighting chance against the impact of this pandemic. Often all of us want the same things but would like to take different routes to get to our destination. Through dialogue and the building of trust, we will rebuild better and stronger.
For any of this to happen we must ensure the recovery efforts are centered on a sound legislative agenda that compliments many of these projects. Tax collection will have to be enhanced in order to widen the tax net in order to realize projected revenue.
Now is a time for leadership. Not just in the Government but by all in positions of authority. Therefore we cannot underscore, once again, the importance of the government and the opposition working together particularly at this crucial time to pass critical pieces of legislation to enable more efficient tax collection, the full operationalization of the public procurement legislation, the creation of the National Statistical Institute, passage of the Bail Amendment Bill and overall improvement in the ease of doing business.
Diversifying the energy services sector as a key source for sustainable growth with the plan to develop T&T as a regional hub for energy services, particularly in the emerging markets of Guyana and Suriname will bode well for our longevity in the sector.
However, we urgently need to make critical decisions around the gas value chain to keep investment flowing into the upstream as well plants operating in the mid stream and downstream in the medium term.
As we set to host our 24th Annual HSSE Conference later this month, we are also happy to see government’s re-commitment to the Paris Accord through the implementation of the renewable energy electric power grid which would be the largest solar project in the Caribbean, and the introduction of green petrochemicals. We also hope to see the introduction of feed-in tariffs to allow the true opening up of the sector. We look forward to hearing more about these projects particularly in reference to the creation of sustainable jobs.
Still, while all of this rings positive, AMCHAM T&T remains cautious about the Minister’s revenue projections given that we only managed to raise $32.5B in fiscal 2020 and we are still being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Admittedly, without access to all of the information that the Minister used to calculate his revenue projection, we are somewhat worried that this target is overly ambitious and may force the government to undertake further borrowing or mid-year cuts that could undermine the attempts at recovery and transformation.
In closing, we understand that there are some challenging times that lie ahead for our nation. But we also know that our stable democracy, strategic geographical location, business sophistication, and innovative people will provide the right ingredients to help us weather any storms that we may face.
We look forward to the rest of the discussion today and to working with all of you and the various arms of the government as we seek to make T&T an even better place to do business and to live!
Thank you for your attention.
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