Let me begin by thanking you for coming to AMCHAM T&T’s Annual Post Budget Forum.
As we have done in the past, we use this forum to invite and ignite stimulating conversation to add to the ongoing debate that will emerge from the National Budget presented in the Parliament by the Honourable Minister of Finance. Over the years, AMCHAM T&T has invited experts to present ideas on how we can help drive real change and stimulate economic growth.
After all, we believe a dynamic, private sector economy is the best measure and creator of socio-economic development.
My colleagues and I just came back from an exciting week in Washington DC last week. There we met with senior officials of the National Security Council, the State Department, the Senate, the Congress and other arms of the US Government. That country, our largest trading partner, is set for a massive strategy to promote investment in the Western Hemisphere. Unlike other countries, their strategy will rest on their private sector being able to find opportunities and then accessing some support from government institutions as opposed to the government cutting deals directly.
To make this reality, for example, their Overseas Private Investment Corporation is being re-formed and renamed. Oh, and re-capitalized from 30B USD to 60B USD. Why am I raising this in the context of our national budget? Well, to not be left behind, we must do more to become investor friendly and improve our ease of doing business. We also must have an underlying strategy and the will to make it a reality. So doing away with paper immigration forms is a great start but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We need structural reforms. We need them now. We need them urgently.
I doubt that any of you would disagree that our economy is now in as challenging a place as it has ever been except, maybe, the period of the 80s. I say maybe because high crime, low productivity and political one-upsmanship are bigger problems today than they were then.
It is true that stabilizing the ship of state always would have been a difficult task. Let’s be straightforward, it was not prudent to increase borrowing from 41.7B in 2008 to 84.1B in 2015 during a period of increased revenue. Just as that was not prudent, it is not prudent now to expand the budget by some $3B while revenue remains depressed.
That’s really where I want to start. At the point of strategy and philosophy. The theory that government spending will lift the economy is not supported by the facts. Indeed, the opposite may be true. Continuing to fund non productive sectors of the economy and inefficiencies in various parts of the value chain, only make it harder for productive activities to flourish. I know that may seem like a whole bunch of economic jargon but simply put, by spending money on things that don’t generate revenue and by funding systems that are inefficient, it is harder for income generating activities and initiatives to bear fruit.
So remain concerned about the rising debt and, with some $5B of last year’s revenue coming from one-off sources, we encourage restraint on spending this year unless the revenue assumptions are realized. After all, that’s how we run our businesses, isn’t it? At least those of us who survive the downturns.
To realize the revenue that has been projected, the revenue authority will have to be established and operationalized in an effective manner. In the first instance, we at AMCHAM T&T call on the government and opposition to meaningfully engage on the legislative framework to make this happen and to get it done in a manner that, as far as is possible, insulates the new institution from political interference and protects our rights to privacy. This is not an issue over which either party should be seeking to score cheap political points. We urgently need reform of our tax collection agency.
Secondly, the full and speedy implementation of the procurement legislation with, as the Minister of Finance said, regulations covering the disposal of government land and G2G contracts along with an e-registry of public contracts, will go a long way to fighting corruption and improving the value derived from government spending.
We hope that the announcement about improved efficiency of the justice system – both criminal and civil – will result in action that speeds up the administration of justice. Economic growth requires a fair society for all and both our criminal and civil courts are, in many cases, effectively denying justice by virtue of delaying justice.
We welcome what we see as the government’s commitment to advance the digital transformation of the public sector. Not to boast, but I do feel obliged to remind you that this topic has been one of our cornerstone issues for which AMCHAM T&T has been leading the national debate.
Just this year we hosted our nation’s first ever Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) conference. Our goal with hosting this conference was meant to bolster our market share, support our clients, and build strategic alliances and partnerships. More than this, what we really wanted to show, is that the Tech industry remains a major untapped pillar for a diversified economy especially as we seek to move our nation towards a non-energy base.
We have long said that greater investment in the tech industry can attract both local and foreign investment and increase competitiveness. Government’s efforts towards digital transformation of the public sector, in particular the linking of the birth certificate personal identification number to the death registry with the objective of simplifying pension payments is a small and significant step towards ensuring the ease of doing business. However, we must go further and expand this to a unique national identifier and legal digital identity.
Moreover, a commitment to a national open data policy and making government data available online, across a single, manipulatable platform would be a huge step forward and requires relatively little, if any, expenditure. What about blockchain and crypto-currencies. Where are we with policies around the latter and how are we supporting moves to speed up the adoption of the former?
We welcome the Styrofoam ban and encourage it to be an across the board ban and not just on imported Styrofoam. The move toward energy efficiency in government building as well as reduction of single use plastics there is very much welcomed. While people joke about moving from incandescent to LED lightbulbs, if this is implemented properly, it can be a major step toward energy efficiency, which both reduces environmental impact and frees up gas from T&TEC to be used in other, revenue generating industries.
However, we need to complete the beverage container bill, feed-in tariff legislation to allow individuals to generate renewable power and sell back to the grid and the legislation that would allow energy audits and certification for the implementation of tax relief for green buildings. We look forward to fair and properly enforced water pollution rules in the coming year.
Through twenty-two years of delivering advice and leadership with our annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition, AMCHAM T&T has a long history advocating on issues relating to human health, safety and the environment. Therefore, any policy that places environmental concerns over short-term profits is a policy worth championing. We understand that citizens may not see the immediate benefits of these measures, but we do believe a nation that seeks to adopt policies that will protect our future generations is poised for continued growth and success.
On the issue of VAT refunds, we welcome the government’s acknowledgement that these must be settled. We also appreciate the Minister is seeking creative ways to do so without affecting the Government’s cash flow. We await the details of the proposed bonds as we are unsure if they will assist businesses who need their cash for operations and because the amount he proposed is less than the total amount of refunds owed. Such a solution also does not address interest on the refunds.
Having said all of that, we at AMCHAM T&T believe that T&T is still a good, if challenging place to do business. We believe that we have some advantages, starting with our people, our level of business sophistication and our location, that will never go away. However, we need to deal with our realities and implement sometimes difficult but necessary cross cutting reforms. With an aging population and underfunded pension systems, we absolutely need to act now. We need that migration policy that I always speak about.
We raise these issues because we care. Because we are emotionally and financially invested here and want to deepen that even further. 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.
AMCHAM T&T has sponsored 350 pap smears to the USNS Comfort mission to Trinidad and Tobago. Also responding to our call for donations were our members at the International Game Technology PLC (IGT) who donated 1000 school kits, Yara Trinidad Ltd who contributed 200 first aid kits, bottled water and snacks, and Esau Oilfield Supplies Company Limited who provided logistical assistance with the storage and delivery of these items.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship anchored off the La Brea port in Trinidad on August 30th for an eleven-day visit to provide free medical services to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The hospital ship, which last came to Trinidad in 2007, set up free clinics at locations in Rio Claro, Cedros, Point Fortin, La Brea and Debe where members of the public were given access to medical services ranging from general medicine, paediatrics, dental, optometry, physical therapy, dermatology, chronic disease testing, Women’s Health (including Pap smears), HIV testing, and various vaccinations.
The arrival of the ship was coordinated through the efforts of the U.S. Embassy and is part of the commitment made by the U.S. to increase partner capacity and regional collaboration for medical assistance and disaster relief which remains a continued high priority for the region.
AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie applauds this initiative by the U.S. Embassy saying: “An initiative like this will definitely provide much-needed medical assistance and health care for so many of our most vulnerable citizens where access to health care remains out of reach and out of their pockets. The surgeries and procedures being performed by the staff of the USNS Comfort might be considered lifesaving measures for the people who will be receiving this medical assistance. AMCHAM T&T is delighted to have contributed to this worthy cause.”
The visit of the USNS Comfort is part of the ship’s deployment to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean for a five-month medical assistance mission, as a result of the humanitarian crisis created by the ongoing political and economic instability in Venezuela. The ship anchored off the southern part of Trinidad where there is an additional burden on health facilities as the highest concentration of migrants displaced by the crisis in Venezuela is in the south.
AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our partners at YARA Trinidad Ltd and IGT for their contributions of First Aid kits, bottled water and School kits to this worthy cause, Esau Oilfield Supplies Company Limited for rendering assistance with the collection, storage, and delivery of these items and eZone for assisting with transportation.
SPEECH BY PRESIDENT OF AMCHAM T&T
MS. PATRICIA GHANY
26TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
(Friday, 28th June 2019)
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you all for the trust and confidence placed in re-electing me as your President for another term. I am truly honoured to continue to contribute to the leadership and stewardship of AMCHAM T&T - the Pathway to the Americas.
We live in a complex and fast-changing environment which includes as many challenges as it does opportunities. In these uncertain times, we have to continue to represent our members and help you to do more business. We recognise that we have a key role to play a role in the attraction of investment into T&T. We also have a responsibility to make it easier to do business in T&T and more so, we have a responsibility to make our society better. At present, we are experiencing greater international complexity probably than we have seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thus, there is the need for us to strategically plan how we move forward as a Chamber and continue to represent the needs of our members.
To do this, we at AMCHAM T&T need to be nimble and embrace change. The old ways of doing things may not be completely relevant to the current context. But to move an entire society into a different era, we need leadership and collaboration. Not just leadership from the government – although that is very important – but leadership from the business community, for we too have to change; leadership from the labour movement, for they too need to become relevant again; leadership from the professional class; leadership within communities and personally, we all have to take more individual responsibility for our society.
Two years ago, we called for more bi-partisanship in Parliament. We have seen glimmers of hope but not a real sustained effort at this. The modernization of our state cannot happen in the current hyper-politicized environment. We need to work together. We have to agree on national goals and collaborate. In this vein, to be truthful, both parties can do a better job. The uproar over the amendment to the FOIA was unnecessary.
If the Government had consulted beforehand, I’m sure they would have been congratulated for making the process of attaining public information simpler. But by not consulting, by not collaborating, what should have been something good became almost toxic.
The natural talent and adaptability of our people, our strategic geographical location, well-developed industrial sector, sophisticated financial sector and excellent trade and political relationships with countries such as the U.S. are all positives and unlikely to change. But the reality is that doing business in Trinidad & Tobago is becoming increasingly difficult.
Our counterparts in the Caribbean have recognised the need to shift the way they work and may soon surpass us and beings recognized as the commercial capital of the Caribbean. Jamaica for example, is reducing their debt and improving their ease of doing business, while we are doing the opposite. Guyana is investing in renewables looking to monetize hydrocarbons. While we, after more than 110 years of petroleum, are still scrambling to move toward alternative sources of energy. Barbados has taken our idea to initiate the process of exploring the possibility of making one of their airports a pre-clearance port, while we still cannot seem to even write a letter to the US to start that process.
We have to do better.
Taking advantage of our strong bilateral relationship with US is one way we can do better.
Although both countries have held different policy positions in some instances, we have always managed to have extremely strong and close ties. Evidence of this can be seen from the US side, in the high calibre of the US Ambassadors to Port of Spain. Amb. Roy Austin, Amb. Beatrice Welters and Amb. John Estrada, were all distinguished in their respective fields and had close relationships with the sitting presidents during their time. The same applies to our current Ambassador, Joseph Mondello. We should not take the US’s interest in having diplomatic representation in T&T with direct ties to the White House lightly.
Moreover, updated trade data from the US Department of Commerce this week shows trade in goods alone between our countries increased by 13%, or $650 million USD, bringing the two countries overall trade in goods to $5.8 Billion USD. It is important that we do not forget that over 40% of all TT goods exports went to the United States, giving TT a trade surplus with the US.
By comparison, recently, figures touted by the Chinese Embassy and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs show a mere $730 USD million in trade between China and T&T, a figure which is less than 15% of US-TRINIDAD & TOBAGO trade in goods alone.
US companies such as Citi, Nu Iron, EOG, GE, Myerson, PALIG, Microsoft and so many more continue to provide jobs and are responsible corporate citizens. It is our hope that we can build on this and attract more US investment and build more T&T – US trade in the coming years.
In my first year in office, I laid out three major policy mandates for this Chamber and its membership. I pledged to strengthen our position as an organisation and catalyst, for the sustained economic development of Trinidad and Tobago, by AMCHAM T&T taking the lead in:
1. Working towards Gender Parity
2. Improving the Business Climate and Focussing on Investment
3. And Moving towards Digital/Technological Transformation
On the issue of Gender Parity, I am happy to report that we are walking the talk. Two more competent, well-qualified women have joined our Board this year, bringing our ratio of women to men up to 7 : 9 or 44% on our Board. Not that we want to throw any of the great guys off the Board, but I encourage you to start thinking of additional, competent and qualified candidates who can be nominated next year and help us get up to at least 50 – 50. Our annual Women’s Leadership Event continues to grow and, our Women’s Leadership Mentorship Programme which we run in collaboration with the IDB, is in its second year. This year, our mentees have more than tripled and include several of our AMCHAM T&T employees. Also in collaboration with the IDB, about two months ago, we held a workshop on practical steps for improving gender parity in companies in Trinidad & Tobago.
We will continue to push on this issue to ensure that our organisations are safe and comfortable for all genders. This means addressing violence against women, rewarding equal pay for equal work, securing maternity leave packages, implementing day-care systems and enforcing zero-tolerance policies against sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination. We cannot do this alone however. Thus, I ask you our members and I challenge all individual businesses, to assess whether you have policies and systems to address these and, where you don’t, please consider implementing these policies. We are here to support you with this and can be called upon if needed.
The second point on our agenda was Improving the Business Climate and Focusing on Investment.
At the core of our mission though, is creating the conditions for businesses to grow, for we believe that by providing economic opportunity and economic freedom, we provide social mobility and greater opportunity for all.
Widespread institutional weakness and systemic corruption continue to affect the ease of doing business. The enforcement of contracts is a key weakness in our Global Competitiveness Ranking. It relates to the speed – or lack thereof – of the judicial system. We need to re-think the petty claims court and work harder at speeding up the judicial system not just for business but for all citizens. We applaud the work already being done on the latter through the option for the elimination of jury trials, for example, and encourage continued attention to be paid to the efficiency of the Judiciary.
We are eager for the full proclamation and operationalization of the Public Procurement Legislation. AMCHAM T&T believes the implementation of this law is a key tool in rooting out the ballooning corruption in our state sector, which contributes to crime and affects investment. We are optimistic that the Government will stay true to its word and stay on track to have this legislation proclaimed by the August 2019 promised deadline.
In this vein, we remain vociferous in our call for more to be done to tackle white collar crime. Such crimes are not victimless. In fact they are the most insidious as they “silently’ undermine systems and institutions making it harder and harder for law abiding citizens to get things done efficiently. We look forward to more prosecutions and convictions as a result of Suspicious Activity Reports compiled by the FIU.
A key tool in that will also be the operationalization of a Revenue Authority that is insulated from political interference. We need to widen the tax net so the burden does not inordinately fall on salaried workers and easy-to-target compliant companies. Detecting and prosecuting tax-evaders is also a key tool in fighting white collar crime including money laundering and the financing of illicit activity. Hopefully, a more efficient tax collection system, will also result in less delays in settling VAT and other tax refunds.
And while our focus is on white collar crime at AMCHAM T&T, we cannot ignore the effects of violent crime. We have to do better in tackling this scourge and protecting our vulnerable communities. That is why AMCHAM T&T is proud of the work we are doing – as little as it may be – in working with the Russel Latapy High School and the St James Police Youth Club. Our society is our responsibility and we will not shirk our responsibility.
Linked to the ease of doing business is the utilization of technology in the both the public and private sectors. The reality is that the time for excuses is long past. The government needs to ensure that wherever it interfaces with the public – collection of taxes, provision of passports or birth certificates, payment of court imposed fines, filing of customs declarations etc., there are payment gateways and online windows for full, seamless information transfer.
We strongly recommend the implementation of a single national unique identifier for the state to identify and interact with citizens. This will help streamline both government services and processes and provide an additional tool for the rooting out of corruption. And, it can be done quickly.
The digital transformation age is the very definition of competitiveness. Technology therefore needs to be embraced more by both the public and private sectors. The truth is that our private sector too is lagging behind in technological adaptation. If companies want to survive they are going to have to embrace this reality and recognize that emphasis on the role of human capital, innovation, resilience and agility, are not only the drivers but also the defining features of economic success in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
AMCHAM T&T also believes the Tech industry is a major pillar of a diversified economy. Furthermore, it is a critical component in creating high-value and exciting jobs, that encourage our young people to stay in Trinidad and Tobago even as they work and play in the global value chain. A tech industry can attract both local and foreign investment and increase competitiveness.
We are perfectly positioned to transform these opportunities into growth. AMCHAM T&T recently wrapped up our first annual Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) conference in June 2019. This conference is the catalyst to take advantage of rapid technological shifts and advance our learnings, which will serve to bolster our market share, support our clients, and build strategic alliances and partnerships.
Finally, I want to raise what we consider to be one of the most pressing issues facing our country in the next few years. You all would have heard that our National Insurance System is underfunded. You all would have seen coverage of our most recent migrant crisis. So, let’s take a step back.
The reality is that our population is rapidly aging AND our labour force participation rate is falling. As such we need a comprehensive National Migration Policy and Strategy. We therefore urge the Government to establish an empowered team to consider this and offer our services to assist in this regard. Let me make it clear, we welcome the Government’s move to allow temporary residence and work permits to Venezuelan migrants – it’s a good thing – but we cannot treat that policy as isolated and we cannot wait another ten or eleven months to start thinking about what next. Population planning is key to our country’s long-term growth and stability.
What stands out about the year ahead of us involves our organization – our staff, our board and our members embracing change. The global business environment is changing every day, and we walk a delicate line between preserving some of the tried-and-true traditions and creating new ways to engage our business community that are significantly different than what we’ve done in the past.
In closing, let me take this moment to express my gratitude to our C.E.O. Nirad Tewarie for his loyalty and dutiful commitment he has shown to AMCHAM T&T. Nirad, you have shouldered the burden of the great vision that makes AMCHAM T&T the celebrated and illustrious organisation it has become today and for this, and your strong and passionate leadership, I thank you.
To the staff at AMCHAM T&T, who work so tirelessly to building this organisation and maintaining contact and communication with our members so that we all closely connected and informed, I offer you my most heartfelt gratitude and appreciation.
To the board and committee members, please know your hard work, passion, commitment and dedication is truly and greatly valued. Because of your broad vision and eclectic mix of ideas and dreams, AMCHAM T&T has grown in membership and stature.
And, to our most loyal and faithful members, we would be nothing without you. I thank each and every one of you for the generous support and unflinching loyalty you have shown to this organisation over the past twenty-seven years.
Thank you for your time and attention and I look forward to working with and for you for another year!
13. 05. 2019
AMCHAM T&T CONCERNED ABOUT GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE
AMCHAM T&T believes the focus on expenditure as opposed to results remains a major flaw in our country’s budget reporting process.
We welcome the news presented by the Honourable Minister of Finance from the Central Statistical Office (C.S.O) on the growth figures during the first three quarters of 2018. We look forward to the final growth figures for the year, so we can settle that discussion and focus on further growth generating activities.
While the macro-indicators have stabilized and the economy is indeed growing, our GDP is currently hovering around 2009 levels, so the economy is still in a relatively fragile place, especially since economic growth is so closely tied to increased natural gas production.
Against this backdrop, we are concerned about what appears to be a policy reversal on the part of the Government to start ramping up spending without concurrent increases in income. The Minister of Finance’s announcement that the deficit will be increased by a further half a billion dollars is of concern to us. AMCHAM T&T believes that at this time the focus should be on building and strengthening the economy by using our resources to engage in activities that bring value for money, without increasing the level of public debt.
The Minister has stated that the outstanding parts of the Public Procurement Legislation will be proclaimed in August 2019. We note, however, that previous deadlines have passed without the legislation being proclaimed, as such we remain cautiously optimistic that this deadline will be met in an attempt root out corruption in the state sector.
We welcome both the proposed tax amnesty as well as the commitment to ensure the establishment of the T&T Revenue Authority.
As always, AMCHAM T&T stands ready and willing to work with the Government on improving the business environment underpinned by robust rule of law to create more equitable socio-economic development with greater levels of opportunity for all.
AMCHAM T&T has partnered with CARIRI and the IDB Lab to host a business accelerator programme for tech entrepreneurs.
The accelerator programme is meant to foster growth in the technology sector in Trinidad and Tobago as we recognize that entrepreneurship is a driving force for growth and innovation in any economy.
This programme is part of the wider initiative to create a truly connected tech ecosystem in Trinidad and Tobago that will drive real change and make us more competitive globally.
It is part of AMCHAM T&T’s first annual Tech. Hub. Island Summit (t.h.i.s) which will be held on June 13th and the 14th at the Hyatt Regency, Trinidad.
The accelerator programme is open to individuals and companies who:
The deadline for applications is Friday 26th April 2019, and the programme is free for all applicants and successful candidates.
The top 25 candidates will be selected for interview and out of this ten will be selected for mentoring and training in Financial projections and valuations, Business Model Development, Market Strategy, Development of Sell Sheet and elements of an effective pitch and Pitching Practice. Pitching practice will be done by IDB and their partner CARIRI as part of the Lab Idea Advisory Services Program.
The ten successful candidates will also be selected to attend conference in June, where they will be able to pitch to senior business executives and investors. More information is available at www.techislands.net
The theme of the conference is “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and aims to bring together the public and private sector as we advocate for all companies in all industries to embrace tech and infuse it into their DNA.
On the Industry side, AMCHAM T&T believes that Tech industry is a major pillar of a diversified economy. It is also a critical component in creating high-value and exciting jobs, that encourage our young people to stay in Trinidad and Tobago even as they work and play in the global value chain. A tech industry can attract both local and foreign investment and increase competitiveness.
How is tech changing the world?
Or should that question be, how isn’t tech changing the world?
88% of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are no longer part of the Fortune 500.
According to a Global Web Index report, 16 – 24-year-olds spend over three hours a day on social media.
A PwC study found that, in the immediate future, business execs are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to alleviate menial tasks, like paperwork (82%), scheduling (79%), and timesheets (78%).
Doctors are already producing made-to-order body parts.
Robots are building cars.
Roads and houses are 3D printed.
And how is tech changing T&T? At AMCHAM T&T, we believe that the answer is “not quickly enough”.
Now I’m not saying that good work isn’t being done. But it often happens in pockets, with little collaboration.
We need a truly connected tech ecosystem to drive real change and make us more competitive globally. You see, tech is both an industry and an enabler. Embracing tech and infusing it into your business processes and indeed, into the very DNA of government services, will make our individual businesses and our country more competitive and, I dare say, make our people happier through the delivery of better, higher-quality services from both the public and private sectors.
On the Industry side, the Tech industry can be a major pillar of a diversified economy. It can create high-value, exciting jobs, that encourage our young people to stay in Trinidad and Tobago even as they work and play in the global value chain. A tech industry can attract both local and foreign investment. A meaningful, dynamic tech industry could change the essence of how we live, work and play in T&T.
And though that may seem like a distant dream to some, we at AMCHAM T&T really believe that this can be a reality in the near future. Already the industry is being catalysed by a changing mindset in traditional businesses that realise the careful infusion of tech into their businesses will allow them to reach global markets and leapfrog some traditional growth problems. Already, a small but dynamic group of your entrepreneurs are building their businesses and the foundations of a tech industry through robotics, AI and data analytics companies. In universities, work in the tech space is quite advanced. Hackathons and other competitions to identify tech solutions for social and business problems are becoming more and more popular. The government through organisations such as IgovTT and TT IFC are attempting to introduce elements of e-government. However, if the tech industry is to explode, somebody needs to find a way to bring these groups together. Through this, AMCAHM T&T is hoping to do just that.
Other markets get this. Investors and innovators are committed to growing the tech ecosystem in Africa, resulting in the number of technology hubs across Africa doubling in less than a year. According to Global telecoms industry body GSMA’s Ecosystem Accelerator, a total of 314 tech hubs and incubation centres were recorded in Africa in July 2016. This is an increase of 268% from the centres recorded by the World Bank in 2015.
So what’s the AMCHAM T&T strategy?
1. Collaboration: Our Digital Transformation Committee was formed in December 2017; the Committee includes leaders from inter alia, Massy, IBM, Microsoft, PwC, EY, Citi, First Citizens, DeNovo, Atlantic, Fujitsu, the IDB and government involvement through the likes of the TTIFC, CARIRI and iGovTT.
2. Conversation: 2019 will see us holding a series of TECH talks. Our first TECH talk took place on 18 March 2019 at the Bungalow and featured the U.S.’s Suzy and Ted Teele – Head of Marketing and Communications at Advanced Robotics and Manufacturing (ARM) and CEO of Touchtown respectively – both tech entrepreneurs speaking on lessons learned starting a new technology company.
3. Conference – Let’s get real, none of this will have an impact if there is no tech nexus. So we’re going to be holding Tech Hub Islands Summit (this) annually.
Let’s talk about this – a two-day summit with a mashup of networking, education and tech, taking place from 13 – 14 June at the Hyatt Regency. this is not a Conference about policy and abstract ideas. It’s not about wish-lists and what-ifs. this will give the private sector practical tech suggestions to improve all facets of business, encourage the government to modernise and create a marketplace for the free flow of ideas, giving birth to partnerships and innovation. Our cast of speakers includes IBM Director of Cognitive Service Foundations and Master Investor, Dr Nick Fuller, Co-founder of Vonage and Serial Entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, Head of the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Melon University, Roni Rosenfeld, former Chief Digital Officer of NYC Sree Sreenivasan, Managing Director of Hardware and AlphaLab Gear, one of the US’s top 25 tech accelerators, Ilana Diamond and Google Product Manager in AI and Health, Dr Kwame Johnson. We’re partnering with CARIRI and the IDB to launch an accelerated programme for tech entrepreneurs to pitch to more established companies. We’ve got Republic Bank, Massy Technologies InfoCom, PwC, and United on board as sponsors. And we’ve got topics like The Fourth Industrial Revolution, e-Government is good politics!!! (with three exclamation points), Leadership Panel: Is Your Business Model 4-IR Fit?, Unlocking the Power of Data to Transform Your Business and Man & Machine – The Workforce of the Future.
this is not some one-hit-wonder Conference that we’re having just because we have a history of successful conferences.
this is urgent. And it’s part of a wider vision to build a booming tech industry in T&T.
In 2018, the World Economic Forum introduced a new methodology to its Global Competitiveness Report, integrating the notion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution into the very definition of competitiveness. According to Trading Economics, “It emphasized the role of human capital, innovation, resilience and agility, as not only drivers but also defining features of economic success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
T&T ranked 78th out of 140 countries in that Global Competitiveness Report 2018-2019. We all want to do better.
The good news is – we can. Technological leapfrogging is happening all around us. We don’t have to be stuck where we are. And we don’t have to be afraid. We need to collaborate. We need to converse. And we need this conference to create the change we want to live.
WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
DATE: FRIDAY 15TH MARCH 2019
VENUE: HYATT REGENCY TRINIDAD
SPEECH BY: PATRICIA GHANY, PRESIDENT AMCHAM T&T
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to begin my remarks today with a quote by Melinda Gates author of The Moment of Lift. She says that “a world without sexism would be a world with fewer barrier between girls and the women they dream of becoming. We’d see women leading and shaping all aspects of society – fully empowered as decision makers in their families, their communities, their governments and their workplaces.” As President of AMCHAM T&T, I fervently believe this, and I am here today to share a few things we have done at AMCHAM T&T to ensure this vision of women being fully empowered happen today and into the future.
With that, I say welcome everyone to AMCHAM T&T’s 6th Women’s Leadership Conference. It is indeed an honour to be in this room filled with talented women and forward-thinking men.
Each year International Women’s Day is built upon a theme that sparks awareness, and results in encouraging individuals, business and corporations to take action. This year’s theme #Balance For Better invites all men and women globally, to take concrete steps to help accelerate the achievement of Gender Parity. The focus is not only on taking action but also on being accountable.
Six years ago, AMCHAM T&T decided to launch its first Women in Leadership & Networking series, in recognition of International Women’s Day. After the success of our first event “Sowing The Seeds of Change”, we recognised that as a business organisation we had a role to play in initiating and fostering positive change in society. What began as a seminar aimed at networking has evolved into a forum for bold and candid discussions on inclusiveness, diversity and accountability.
Today’s event is a positive step in this direction as we facilitate dialogue, which is needed, if we are to ensure that women are not only inspired but are also able to live in an environment that are fair and equitable.
More specifically, the aim is for women to be able to exist in environments where they can thrive, be ambitious, gain success and not have the concerns of being negatively labelled, sexually harassed, bullied or have workplace bias, colour, cultural background and pregnancy impact their career progression.
However, even with our great aspirations today, it would seem that gender equality still remains a distant dream.
We have all seen the numbers, yes?
If you have not, let me recap some of them for you.
According to World Bank data, globally, we’re heading in the wrong direction, women’s labour force participation fell from 51.3 percent of women in 1990 to 48.4 percent in 2018.
Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (O.C.E.D) estimates that factors stifling the economic potential of women cost the global economy up to $12 trillion. Yes, 12 trillion with a “t” dollars.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 published by the World Economic Forum indicated that with the current rate of progress it may take another 202 years to close the economic gender gap.
Locally, while there is gender parity up to middle management, at the C-suite level the ratio falls to less than 25% female participation, and the figures are even less when it comes to representation at the Board level.
These and many other statistics show that even though gender parity is good for business and the economy, the pace with which progress is being achieved is not enough to close the gender gap any time soon.
So, I know what you must be asking yourself “What can we do to change this?”
How can we increase accountability in our businesses and personal spheres of influence, so that we can change 202 years to twenty years – or less?
AMCHAM T&T continues to ask these questions, because we believe that equality is not a female issue, but an issue of fairness that happens to also make good economic sense and is a necessary element of a progressive society.
We recognise that the responsibility in achieving equality does not solely lie with the government but requires true collaboration between government, companies, NGO’s society at large if the 50/50 dream is to be realised. All stakeholders will need to step up, acknowledge the role they play in maintaining the status quo and start to implement crucial actions needed to change it.
We also believe that we must walk the talk and begin to live the things for which AMCHAM T&T advocates. In 2017, we partnered with the IDB to introduce the Women In Leadership Mentorship Programme, where we paired female employees from our member companies, with mentors from the IDB global network of professionals. We are happy to report that after a successful first cohort of seven mentees, this year’s group of mentees has increased to twenty-one. That is an increase of 286%, and what I believe is a testament of the value and need for such a programme.
We also decided that this year we would extend the opportunity of mentorship to members of the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat. It was Mother Theresa who said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”. We at AMCHAM T&T cannot be a champion of change without instilling that change into the very fabric of our organisation. We must put action to our words and ensure that we lead by example at all levels in our organisation.
Just a year ago, our then President Mitchell De Silva stated that his wish was to hand over the reins of AMCHAM T&T to a female president.
Thanks to the encouragement and support of Past Presidents, Board and committee members, I was elected the 15th President of AMCHAM T&T three months later.
I stand here knowing that my story is part of a larger story. A story that began when some audacious women- U.S. Ambassador Sally Cowell, Nisha Lau and June Maharaj and others came together to conceptualise an organisation that would alter turn into the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago.
It is on this history that I will continue the work of all the leaders who came before me. This is something I believe we all have in common. Like me, you carry the hopes of your parents, the hopes of the teacher who believed and encouraged you, the hopes of the mentors, bosses and others who continue to push you to achieve your greatest potential. It is the same way AMCHAM T&T continues to push the agenda of our members, and are unafraid to have bold conversations and take a set at the table where we choose to be a symbol of audacity and strength not only for this nation but for the Americas; not only on this issues but any issue around fairness, equity, transparency and accountability.
After this year’s A.G.M, I expect that AMCHAM T&T will be just shy of parity on our Board as we anticipate that seven of 16 Board Members will be female – extremely well-qualified women at that. So, I would like to throw out a challenge to my colleagues in the business community – if your Board comprises fewer than 35% women, commit to adding at least one woman to your Board every year until you achieve at least that ratio. Although I would argue that parity should be your goal. I have been in business for a long time and I assure you that there is no shortage of capable, well-qualified women. If you need references or recommendations, just ask anyone in this room or connect with me as I am happy to help!
I would like to take the time to acknowledge the men in the room. As Emma Watson said in her speech at Davos 2016, “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not an opposing set of ideals.” Bringing men into the conversation in a productive and open-minded way is a crucial step to making progress on issues of gender inequality.
We thank you for your support and your willingness to learn. This is the one place that you are outnumbered, but hopefully this begins to change.
To all the talented and amazing women in this room– do not apologise for your uniqueness, your passion and your ideas. Keep pursuing excellence and continue to speak up not only for yourself but for all. Let us see what happens when we all use our voices and institutions to advocate for gender parity, prosperity and a more equitable future.
In closing, I would like to recognize the commitment of our CEO Nirad Tewarie and the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat to organising this event. A special thank you to Francisca Hector for all her hard work and dedication over the past few months. Thank you to all our sponsors for your continued support over the years.
We hope that the conversations today will inspire each of us to take actions to support and drive economic opportunities for women around the world. As we learn a bit more about the landscape of women’s equity issues, strategies for work-life balance, risk-taking and career mobility. I am confident we will exceed our own expectations if we remain committed and accountable.
NATIONAL YOUTH PRODUCTIVITY FORUM
TUESDAY 12TH MARCH 2019
ARTHUR LOK JACK GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
REMARKS BY PATRICIA GHANY, PRESIDENT AMCHAM T&T
It is my pleasure to address you here this morning as we celebrate the culmination of all the hard work of the teachers and students over the past two months. The National Youth Productivity Forum is a programme that is integral to the fabric of AMCHAM T&T. We believe that creating a better economic future for our country means taking an active role in the development of the youth of our nation. Students, it is our hope that this interaction has challenged you and inspired you. It is our hope that you better understand that in order to be able to speak authoritatively, you must first listen, then consider other points of view and different perspectives to issues. It is only when we see beyond the moment, see beyond just one issue that we can find holistic and long-term solutions. Winning the argument for the sake of winning is never important if, in winning, we know that we undertake action that is neither in our best interest nor the best interest of the various groups to which we belong.
This year, the theme is “Safer schools, toward a more productive Trinidad and Tobago.”
Safety and security are on everyone’s minds. We continue to see headlines in the daily newspaper and social media reports detailing instances of bullying, violence and criminal acts.
In January 2018, Form Five student Jaden Pereira of Signal Hill was beaten and hit with a concrete block by another student. Pereira suffered a fractured skull and had to be airlifted from Tobago to the Port of Spain General Hospital in Trinidad for treatment. He survived. The incident forever etched in our minds as the fracas was recorded and the video posted and circulated via social media.
In February of the same year, a trainee teacher was robbed at gunpoint in the school yard by someone who had entered the school compound. While she was not seriously harmed, one can only imagine the psychological harm inflicted in such an attack.
In January 2019, six female students of Diego Martin North Secondary School were suspended after a video surfaced of them smoking something that appeared to be marijuana, in their school uniform.
The level of indiscipline, bullying and violence that continues to occur in our schools are a legitimate concern for everyone. In times past schools were seen by students as a safe place away from their sometimes-tumultuous home life or crime ridden community. Today those havens have turned into battle grounds.
It would be remiss of me if I were to stand here and not acknowledge that for every report of wrong doing in our schools there are students who continue to go above and beyond to do what is right.
On social media in February 2019 two young men from Tranquility Government Secondary School were photographed helping an elderly man change his tyre in Port-of-Spain.
Students from Chaguanas North Secondary school developed an app to anonymously report bullying. Students indicated that the app was developed from a desire by students to make TT a “safer and better place”.
Students continue to excel in academic, arts, athletics, representing their schools and this country proudly.
How do we then bring balance to a system that appears to be broken and at times chaotic?
How can we move from having a zero-tolerance approach to school violence to having zero incidence?
To answer these questions, we believed that it was important to hear from the persons most affected – the students.
It could be easy to assign blame. The government, business, teachers and unions or even civil society. Each can be charged with not doing enough to promote safer schools.
However, as the students so excellently demonstrated a solution can be found when we all try to work together.
Business leaders also need to take individual responsibility for creating a world that is safer and a better to place to live.
We can choose to start small, simply by choosing to be a good neighbour. Small actions add up to big results. In the wake of the floods in November 2018, we say how small acts of kindness and generosity all added up to make a world of difference to the families who were gravely affected. The business community wasted no time and stepped in to assist.
This year’s theme is meant to ingrain the notion that the seeds which we plant today in the form of ideas and actions influence what we will reap tomorrow.
I would like to take a brief moment to speak to directly to the parents and teachers. As a parent I can testify that the best way to establish student success is to ensure that parents and teachers are allies. Building partnerships between parents and teachers must begin with non-judgmental communication. Teachers must listen to parents and parents need to take the time to understand where teachers are coming from. Far too often parents and teachers both are guilty of dismissing the other’s viewpoint. This leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding. The more dismissed you feel as a parent the less likely you are to actively participate in your child’s school life, as teacher, the more you feel like you are being ignored or misunderstood the more likely you are to stop communication with a parent.
I would like to congratulate this year’s winners, as well as their teachers and parents. We know it is no easy feat to find the time in a world full of commitments, but we hope that you can see for yourself the growth in the students and we look forward to your continued support. I also hope that this experience has made a meaningful and indelible impact on your perspective on how you can impact the world.
I would like to take the time to express my gratitude to Neerala and the team at the Secretariat for their commitment to ensuring that this project happens every year.
To the sponsors we remain ever grateful for your support, as well as the teachers and school administrators who continue to see the value in this programme.
To all students, the future leaders of our great country, one lesson I hope this experience has imparted on you is that you cannot do it alone. This is one of the reasons we have team discussions and not individual debates. It is through collaboration and this team effort that we overcome our greatest challenges. I also encourage you to dream. Dream big and dream loud. Don’t be bogged down by the cynicism of society or your past experiences. Instead, seek to marry your knowledge with those experiences so that you can orchestrate the future you desire.
Before I close. I would like to note that last year we were challenged by Her Excellency to ascertain if the NYPF was having a positive impact on the students. I am happy to say that we accepted the challenge and we are working with our partner UTT to do a tracer study on the almost 1,500 student graduates of the program to date.
For the honour of your attention and for the countless hours you put into preparing for the NYPF, I thank you.
AMCHAM T&T HOLDS DISCUSSIONS WITH U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE AMERICAS
A high-level discussion between United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Dale Eppler and CEO of AMCHAM T&T Nirad Tewarie took place at the Outlook For the Americas Forum hosted by the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA), in February 2019.
One of the main issues discussed at the meeting was the recent passage of the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act in October 2018 in the United States through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC).
This discussion comes after AMCHAM T&T wrote to Trinidad &Tobago’s Ambassador to the Washington Brig Gen (Ret ’d) Anthony Phillips-Spencer requesting T&T lobby to have this country included as an eligible recipient of support under the BUILD ACT and through the USIDFC. According to the Act:
Sec. 101. Statement of Policy: It is the policy of the United States to facilitate market-based private sector development and economic growth in less developed countries through the provision of credit, capital, and other financial support.
Sec. 102. United States International Development Finance Corporation.102 (b) PURPOSE.—The purpose of the Corporation shall be to mobilize and facilitate the participation of private sector capital and skills in the economic development of less developed countries, as described in subsection (c), and countries in transition from nonmarket to market economies, in order to complement the development assistance objectives, and advance the foreign policy interests, of the United States. In carrying out its purpose, the Corporation, utilizing broad criteria, shall take into account in its financing operations the economic and financial soundness and development objectives of projects for which it provides support under title II.
AMCHAM T&T believes that there is need to advocate for T&T’s inclusion in the Act; although T&T is not eligible because it is classified as a high-income country, the socio-economic realities and the levels of private sector development in T&T do not support this categorization. Our exclusion will deny this
country access to capital that can assist in our development. Furthermore, no access can place T&T at an economic disadvantage to other countries who will receive support.
While there is much work still to be done on this, State Department officials indicated that they are aware of the issue and are willing to continue discussions on the matter.
The Outlook For the Americas Forum is an annual event where CEO’s and Board members of AmChams in the Western Hemisphere come together to discuss pressing business and economic issues affecting countries in the Americas. AMCHAM T&T continues to show its reach and impact across the region.
MEDIA RELEASE 10.02.19
AMCHAM T&T SUPPORTS DPP IN REMOVAL OF ACIB FROM ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) joins the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in his call for the removal of responsibility of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) from the office of the Attorney General to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).
The proper functioning of the ACIB is critical in combatting the scourge of white-collar crime and ensuring that Trinidad & Tobago is a jurisdiction in which the rule of law prevails. To achieve this, corruption among public officials and politically-connected rogue elements of the private sector must be rooted out.
We believe that having the ACIB under a political office does not lend to best practices in the thorough investigation and prosecution of corrupt persons. Regardless of the administration, this situation may allow for political interference and compromise of sensitive investigations.
We therefore call on the authorities to review the current policies and procedures related to the ACIB and take the necessary actions to physically and operationally integrate the Bureau into the TTPS.
Moreover, AMCHAM T&T remains unapologetic in our stance against white-collar crime as we believe that its economic and societal impacts can be far costlier than may be perceived. This is evident by Trinidad & Tobago’s less than admirable ranking on the Corruption Perception Index, where the report cites “issues such as bribery, government’s inability to treat with corruption and the unwillingness to report on corruption by citizens” are some of the reasons why we continue to see no improvement in this ranking. Additionally, Trinidad & Tobago’s inclusion in 2017 Global Business Rule of Law and Business Dashboard report showed that Trinidad and Tobago ranked 43rd out of 72 countries across the world
This report measures categories relating to procurement, business regulations and licenses, and judicial impartiality, among many others.
According to AMCHAM T&T President Patricia Ghany, “T&T’s performance in both rankings can be used as tools to measure the country’s attractiveness for investment. AMCHAM T&T is concerned that when we do not take the necessary steps to improve, Trinidad and Tobago may be seen as a less attractive place to do business. In a time when neighboring countries are taking huge steps to improve their attractiveness to investors and creating a more facilitative business environment, we should ensure that we are doing the same. Taking decisive action towards moving the ACIB will show that Trinidad & Tobago is serious about tackling corruption in all aspects of society, thereby inspiring greater confidence that T&T is open for business and that the Government, regardless of party in power, will act fairly and impartially.”
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