AMCHAM T&T’S RESPONSE TO THE 2017-2018 NATIONAL BUDGET
AMCHAM T&T listened with interest to the National Budget 2017/2018 presentation by the Honourable Minister of Finance. We expected this presentation to result in some difficult measures being announced. We appreciate therefore that the Government has some hard decisions to make and has limited options. We are concerned that the Minister focused too heavily on revenue increases through greater taxation of those who are already compliant, and filling the revenue gap through the one off sale of CL Financial assets. Overtaxing of the formal economy is going to have a dampening effect on reinvestment.
We feel the presentation fell short on explaining measures to expand tax collection into the informal and underground economies. In spite of a desire to bring the gaming industry into the tax net to a greater extent, simply increasing taxes while admitting that tax collection in the sector is weak, is unlikely to work.
Most worrying is the potential negative impact on investment of the additional taxes on the upstream energy sector, most significant of which will be the proposed Supplemental Petroleum Tax on gas. We hope that this will only be done after consultation with the industry. In addition, the apparent concentration of additional discretionary power in the Cabinet in terms of the small business grants and housing projects should be carefully considered as it is not in keeping with best practice regarding to transparency.
The commitment to transform the public service and take the hard decisions in this regard was welcomed but we have heard such promises in the past. We now await the specifics.
We do support the establishment of the Revenue Authority which would combine both the BIR and the Customs Department. The implementation of this requires deep and meaningful engagement with all stakeholders. We support the establishment of the semi-autonomous Board to oversee the establishment of this Authority and we urge the inclusion of the Customs functions in the TTBiz Link Platform.
We appreciate the re-commitment to the establishment of the Procurement Regulator and encourage the Government to keep to its commitment in this regard, the most important function of which would be to provide the necessary resources and funding.
We are pleased that the Minister made good on his commitment to adjust the margins for fuel peddlers and dealers and encourage regular reviews since this is a fixed price industry. The increased incentives to the Tourism sector can be useful to stimulate activity in this sector and we encourage even greater policy co-ordination and execution to achieve the stated policy results.
Incentives for the tourism sector seemed to be concentrated on room stock and, while important, other key stakeholders need to be considered in any incentive scheme: tour operators, car rental companies, entertainment etc. These actors are a key component of the tourism industry and we should examine how incentives can be provided to these entities as well.
We will expand on this statement at our Post Budget Analysis Event on Wednesday 4th October at the Trinidad Hilton at which Minister Allyson West will deliver the Feature Address and focus on tax-related matters including the establishment of the Revenue Authority.
“It is a very difficult time for us Trinbagonians, but whatever people can give we would appreciate it. We know that people help in different ways and so we encourage all to give how much they can afford in this relief effort,” Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T
For those wishing to donate can use the link below.
In celebration of AACCLA's 50th Anniversary, the 24 AmChams in Latin America and the Caribbean and all members of the US Chamber of Commerce participated in AACCLA DAY. Each AmCham did volunteer work in their respective countries. The idea behind the initiative is undertake projects that positively impact citizens at the local level, with spillover benefits to the region.
AMCHAM T&T decided to do a number of activities focused on positive youth engagement in T&T. We collaborated with the St. James Police Youth Club and the Russell Latapy Government High School.
The St. James Police Youth Club, like AMCHAM T&T is celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary in 2017.
The PYC’s motto: “Join a club and not a gang” is relevant now, more than even before.
As part of our outreach activities, AMCHAM T&T through its security Committee has adopted the PYC. The PYC supports preventive policing, exposing young people to productive activities in education, sports, culture, spirituality, community service, life skills and employment as alternatives to crime, juvenile delinquency and drugs.
The club also has a resident program for 8-10 young men, between the ages of 12-18 who reside on the premises. The PYC’s vacation camp is free of charge to children and runs from 17th July 2017 to August 31st. It facilitates almost 100 campers ranging in age from 3 years old to 21 years old
Our aim was to expose the children to activities (and possible career paths) that they would not traditionally consider given their background. To expose them to new opportunities and ways of thinking - while still involving the business community
Our areas of focus included
● Arts and Entertainment
● Science and Technology
● Energy sector
● Environmental sustainability
This initiative gave campers a sense of what goes on at the various companies.
The hope is that the activities are not only fun, but also insightful and educates participants on various environmental issues and economic sectors, perhaps presenting possible career choices to the PYC members
Russell Latapy Government High School
AMCHAM T&T is embarking on a new Corporate Social Responsibility initiative involving the form 1 classes of the Russell Latapy Government High School.
This school is among several secondary schools throughout Trinidad that has received negative publicity and faces many challenges that inhibit its students’ abilities to reach their potential.
On Sunday 28th August, AMCHAM T&T met with representatives from partnering organisations -the WAND Foundation, the Pan American Health Organization, UTT, and the Ministry of Health, to discuss the plans going forward to implement a positive program for the students.
Some of the areas in which the program will focus include health & wellness, nutrition, counselling, conflict resolution, and field trips.
Click on the link to view a short video of our AACCLA Day activities.
AMCHAM T&T MAKES A CALL FOR GREATER COLLABORATION AND DIALOGUE
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) would like to address the call made by union leader Ancil Roget to “boycott the 1%” on Friday 4th August 2017. AMCHAM T&T believes the statement is not only unfortunate but counterproductive. In every country where a minority has been persecuted in an attempt to shift power or influence to another group, the result has been economic and social decay.
We believe that statements such as these are very divisive and not in the best interest of the very workers that they are supposed to represent.
We acknowledge that Trade Unions have a very important part to play in protecting and promoting the rights and best interests of their members. This can only be done through dialogue leading to constructive solutions. In that regard, we too would like to see a return to multiparty dialogue in a manner that allows all stakeholders to participate in a meaningful and constructive way. The National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) was that vehicle, but it is not functioning as intended. AMCHAM T&T stands ready to assist and participate in its reformation to facilitate meaningful dialogue and a path forward.
The world is in the midst of an economic crisis, with new political and social disruptions occurring every day. At this time, the country needs leaders – including Trade Union leaders - who are willing to look past all differences and seek solutions to the challenges we face. We believe that this is not the time for pointing fingers, but instead a time of increased collaboration and dialogue. Myopic viewpoints and unreasonable demands that seek to promote specific agendas rather than finding innovative solutions should not be the first course of action.
Opening and Welcome Remarks
Delivered by: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T
Tuesday 27th June 2017
· Jennifer Baptiste- Primus, Minister of Labour and Small and Micro – Enterprise Development
· AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors
· Carolyn Sancho, Executive Director, Occupational Safety and Health Agency
· AMCHAM T&T HSE Committee Members
· Representatives of the Sponsor Companies of AMCHAM T&T’s 21st Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition
· Specially invited guests
· AMCHAM T&T members
· Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning to you all
It is indeed a pleasure to deliver this morning’s opening remarks and welcome you to the Launch of the AMCHAM 21st Annual Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Conference and Exhibition and the National HSE Awards. At AMCHAM T&T, the promotion of excellence in health, safety, security and environmental management remains one of our core tenets. We encourage our members to uphold and aspire to achieve the highest standards in these areas as we believe that the benefits positively impact not only the organization but the wider national community. Many, if not all of you are very familiar with these benefits which include:
· Automatic compliance with relevant legislation;
· Avoidance of uncontrollable costs and business interruptions;
· Efficient use of resources;
· Increased employee morale and productivity and
· Improved reputation and the potential to attract new business.
HSSE excellence, therefore, ensures an organization’s resilience to withstand threats and the sustainability of business success, simply put - “HSSE makes good business sense”. Now in its 21st year, the upcoming Annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition continues to be one of the AMCHAM’s flagship events and an effective vehicle for sharing information, encouraging best practices and elevating National HSSE awareness and standards. It is for this reason that I am very excited to share with you today some of the features of this upcoming event that will be held on November 14th and 15th here at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad.
The chosen theme this year is “People. Systems. Sustainability”. We are confident that this theme is both timely and appropriate, as all three components are necessary for business success. I also think it is important to point out, that the most important of the three component, we have listed first- People. We cannot attain business success, without thinking about our employees. No system would be sustainable unless it takes into account the most important asset of any company, its people. It is against this backdrop that I echo the call made by the AMCHAM T&T’s President earlier this year, for the trade union movement to return to the National Tripartite Advisory Council. It is also important that Government more meaningfully engage business and labour on key national issues. We understand and accept that the government has to lead and take decisions about the present and future of our country. However, the problems our society faces cannot be conquered alone. Anyone who thinks they can is making a grave mistake.
All of us have a role to play. AMCHAM T&T and the business community is willing to play its role. To lend many hands. To get to solutions, we must start with meaningful engagement.
Many of us were uncomfortable with the depiction of our society by the recent Anthony Bourdain production. Far from being portrayed as a happy, integrated, rainbow nation, we came across as a patchwork - segmented, fractured enclave. To some extent that is true, but it is not good for our society. Beyond social dialogue, which is extremely important to assist with the macro environment, we all have to make more of an effort to reach out to people from outside of our communities to better understand their concerns, hopes, dreams, problems and even suggestions for solutions.
So why talk about this here? At AMCHAM T&T we are firm believers in a conscious society underpinned by enlightened self-interest – the understanding that for you to truly succeed, the overall lot of the whole must improve. Wealth and success can never really be enjoyed if we all do not have opportunities, safety, and mobility. Businesses that are more diverse – in terms of race, gender, geography – tend to perform better.
We also have some significant issues to address in our society. One such issue is the behemoth that is Petrotrin. Petrotrin can be described as a systemic risk to our economy in terms of its debt and asset integrity; competitiveness and productivity; income inequality; our full commitment to the CSME; the weakening of institutions; reform of the public service are but a few. To address these risks, Business, Labour and Government must come together. We believe that only with all these groups working together we can reverse some of the negative economic and socio problems which affect our country. AMCHAM T&T remains ready to assist, in any way we can, to facilitate the healing of the relationships between business, labour and Government.
We need to create safer working environments for our employees. We have done a fairly good job of this in the energy and heavy industrial sectors, but much more needs to be done in the contracting sector.
As you will hear this morning, from the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Iain Daniels, of Ely Place Chambers and the One Caribbean Media Group Executive, Corporate Services, Gregory Camejo, the current OSH legislation needs work to meet the needs of our current environment for both the employers and the employees.
The objective of our HSSE Conference and Exhibition is to identify practical applications of HSSE Excellence as tools to achieving sustainable development. The Conference offers a neutral platform to discuss important issues and seeks to bring a diverse audience together. This year we will address issues relevant not only to our CEOs, HSE practitioners, and security experts, but also very relevant to our Occupational nurses, contractors and HR professionals, like:
· COP 21 & Renewables
· Health Roots- Root cause analysis and equipment failure
· Mental Health
· Electronic terrorism
· Leadership and Errors
amongst other topics. As sessions and speakers are confirmed they would be updated on our website and you would receive periodic updates via email. The deadline for the early bird registration ends today, however, Melissa has instructed me to extend it until July 14th an additional two weeks.
For 2017, I am pleased to inform you that we have expanded the Exhibition component of the event. Some 40 organizations will be on show, displaying products and or services for use within the HSSE sectors. For exhibitors, this is an excellent opportunity for marketing and to retain and build a customer base. For the participants and visitors to the exhibition, this is an opportunity to witness the practical application of various products and seek out information directly from suppliers.
The final feature that I would like to share with you today is that of “Excellence in HSE Awards” scheme and ceremony. Held on the afternoon of the first day, the “Excellence in HSE Awards” scheme recognizes and rewards organizations that uphold Health, Safety, and the Environment (HSE) as fundamental business values and excel in both business and HSE performance. The initiative therefore provides an incentive for all companies to improve their performance and encourages winners to maintain their high standards. Encouraging companies to participate in this awards scheme is yet another avenue to promote the implementation of HSSE best practice across all sectors and organizations. I encourage you to seek out additional information over the coming weeks so that your organization may also have a chance at making the winner’s row.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to remind you that this is the only opportunity locally and regionally to attend an HSSE Conference and Exhibition of this scope and quality. The event will bring together professionals from the private and public sectors from the fields of Occupational Health and Safety, Security, Environmental Management as well as Process Safety, Disaster Management and Business Continuity. A wide range of high caliber speakers both local and international will address the six aforementioned focus areas. I am sure you will agree that AMCHAM T&T 21st Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition promises to be an exciting event and is not one that should be missed by any committed stakeholder. Attending this event is an excellent opportunity to share information, gain exposure to HSSE best practices and network with professionals in a field that has the potential to shape the country’s future and achieve meaningful sustainable development.
I encourage all of you to seek out additional information from the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat and consider participating in one of the several activities available. Please become involved and reap the benefits that will accrue not only to you the individual but to your organization and by extension our wider national community.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to seeing you in November!
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago elected its new President at its Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Trinidad Conference on Thursday 11th May 2017. The fourteenth President, Mitchell De Silva is currently the Regional Vice President - Corporate Banking - RBC Merchant Bank (Caribbean) Limited, and has been an active participant in AMCHAM T&T for the past decade.
In his inaugural address he underscored the immediate need for the “Private Sector to take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy.”
He informed the two hundred plus crowd at the AGM, that high on AMCHAM T&T’s advocacy agenda was the intention to “press the Government to adopt fiscal rules.” He maintained that the implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules is a necessary step to follow if the Procurement legislation is to be effective, as the two will work in tandem. He explained that “one, broadly speaking, is designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other is intended to preserve or, one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.”
On the topic of labour, he noted that the “already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve.” To this he advised that both sides should “unclench their fists and extend their hands” and seek instead to bridge the divide. He added:
“I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society. Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that
the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.”
There was also a few changes to the AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors and sees Dominic Rampersad, President Pheonix Park Gas Processors Ltd. as the vacant VP spot. The list of Directors are as follows:
President – Mitchell De Silva, RBC
Vice President - Catalina Herrera, Citi
Vice President - Dominic Rampersad, PPGPL
Secretary - Glenn Hamel-Smith, Hamel-Smith & Co.
Treasurer - Patricia Ghany, Esau Oilfield Supplies Limited
Other Directors to the Board are: Ravi Suryadevara, TRINVALCO; Hugh Howard, Hugh Howard & Associates; Simon Aqui, IBM; Nicholas Galt, TSL; Frances Correia, Microsoft; Sana Ragbir, First Citizens; Giselle Thompson, bpTT; Jason George, United Airlines; Gayle Pazos, Scotiabank; Ravi Bajaj, Chevron and Erojus Joseph, GE Oil & Gas.
Mitchell De Silva, President AMCHAM T&T
I begin my inaugural speech to you by expressing sincere thanks and appreciation to the Board of Directors of AMCHAM T&T and you, the membership, for having the confidence in me to lead this organization. That said it would be remiss of me to not also acknowledge the many persons and experiences within different organizations that have led me to this latest adventure. My parents, wife, family, friends the Fatima Old Boys Association, colleagues across three financial institutions, Citi, Scotia and RBC, all of whom and which afforded me guidance, encouragement and key learnings. I owe you all a deep sense of gratitude and it is my hope that my performance in this office will fully reflect all that you have instilled in me.
I have been actively involved with AMCHAM T&T for quite a few years, with this being my second and longest stint. Over the years I have seen the organization steadfastly represent you the membership on many different fronts, whether it be regional, hemispheric or domestic our voice has been raised and our presence felt. Testimony to that is evidenced by the fact that our very own former President Nicholas Galt, held the post of Chairman for our regional body, AACCLA, and our immediate Past President Ravi Suryadevara now serves on its Board. I highlight this, not only out of pride and admiration for these distinguished gentlemen, but to emphasize the point that the lobby voice of this Chamber has a depth and breadth to it that few, if any, can lay claim to. All of your past Presidents have been persons who excelled in their respective fields, where they served and in most instances continue to serve with distinction.
Priority 1 - Diversity
This brings me to what I view as one of my priorities as I assume the Presidency, as I look back at previous holders of this office, there appears to be only one instance where a woman was at the helm. In keeping with one of the key goals of the United Nations on Sustainable Development, the organisation’s philosophy and indeed, my own personal beliefs, it is my hope that when I demit office that the Board and you the membership will see it fit to transition the leadership of this Chamber to one of the eminently qualified women who serve on our Board. Like the Presidents of the past, the women on our Board are leaders in their respective fields and are capable and competent as any to assume the Presidency. Forgive this seeming digression as it may seem odd to speak of leaving office when I have just assumed it, but I see this as a priority and a natural fit in the context of the Women in Leadership event that we have successfully hosted for a number of years. AMCHAM T&T must be a standard bearer and an exemplar in evidencing the diversity we promote and while we have achieved same at a Board level the time has come for us to take the next step.
Priority 2- Continued advocacy
As I have highlighted above, we will continue to remain relevant in conversations that affect you the membership, that said, and as another critical priority for my time in office I intend to continue the heightened engagement with Government and critical stakeholders in our economy that characterized Ravi’s Presidency. Our views must and will continue to be tethered to logic, sound judgement and reasoned objectivity. It is only with these values will we remain credible in the eyes of those whom we seek to sway as we work on influencing how as a country we navigate these most turbulent times.
Successive credit downgrades, one firmly entrenched in junk status, rampant violent crime, an untenable Fx situation and a widening of the divide between labour and business together with multiple other threats to our country and wellbeing must be boldly tackled and remedied with urgency.
AMCHAM T&T’s push, as part of the Private Sector / Civil Society Group’s initiative, for the operationalizing of Procurement legislation and the bringing into effect and staffing of the office of the Procurement Regulator is one of a series of critical steps that we believe assists in treating with some of the issues mentioned above. This legislation, once appropriately brought into force, has the potential to radically change the expenditure patterns of the State and significantly improve accountability and oversight on Public spend. Achieving this objective should allow for more efficiency and transparency, thereby limiting instances of artificially inflated project costs and questionable disposal of State assets.
Indeed, the passage and implementation of adequate public procurement legislation is critical to reducing a significant portion of white collar crime.
Our unfortunate reality today is that the surge in crime is evident at all levels, from corruption to widespread violence. Talk of the death penalty and a need for swift justice and a reboot of our judicial and penal systems are spoken of daily. The latter points are indeed needed, however seemingly absent from the national conversation is a focus on what brought us to this juncture and what is required to move us back from it. If we agree the view of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, in their book Freakonomics, we would have to concede that the solution to our current problems will not happen overnight. In their analysis of crime riddled New York of the 1970s and 80s and its seeming return to sanity in the 1990s and early 2000s, they do not attribute the resurgence to then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but rather to a series of policies and steps taken in the years and decades before that culminated in the significant reduction in crime levels and criminality. Yes, the leadership at the time was in fact a major contributor to the improvements noted, but it was not solely their doing rather a collaborative effort that took years. We need this type of long term vision and planning in our country, the patience to persevere and the will to have seemingly small changes take root. Let me be clear the need for immediate firm action is necessary, but more arrests and prosecutions will not stem the problem on their own, we need a more holistic approach to an issue that is out of control.
Clearly, the problems that confront us are many and our desire for rapid change and course correction is significant. Years of seeming indifference, buoyed by unprecedented growth in our energy sector, as we all well know, masked the inefficiencies and shortcomings of our institutions, systems and tragically undermined our productivity as a people. The entitlement mentality is pervasive across our society, not only at the level of labour, where a day’s pay is exchanged for three hours of work, but even in the very private sector that we hold in such high esteem. Far too often we as a sector cry out to the Government to solve our problems as opposed to creating the solutions on our own. A difficult task yes, impossible, no. I know this point may be difficult to accept, but in this current crisis the Private Sector must take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy. Again, this will be incremental, as it is foolhardy to believe that we will become the main driver in the short term. In the immediate term however, we must engage the Government in adopting and accepting that its main role in the economy is not that of actor, but rather facilitator. As President of AMCHAM T&T, I recommit the organisation to this process and I appeal to the Government to engage meaningfully as it is only through real collaboration that we can return our country to growth.
As I mentioned previously we see Procurement Legislation and its being brought into effect as an apt example of our efforts to get Government to embrace its role as facilitator. Sadly, we have not achieved complete implementation of the legislation, nor is its roll out occurring as contemplated and advised by the civil society group, nevertheless we continue to press on multiple fronts to have this landmark piece of legislation enacted and operationalized in the best interest of all concerned.
Our efforts will not stop at Procurement as we intend to press the Government to adopt fiscal rules, as many countries have done, Grenada and Jamaica being two regional examples. We see implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules as a necessary step to follow from Procurement as the two will work in tandem. One, broadly speaking, designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other intended to preserve or one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.
Priority 3- Enhanced relationship with labour
In the crisis that we face as country today, the already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve. That is of course, if we both continue to wed ourselves to our seemingly entrenched positions. In my view it is time to change how we engage with labour, as Barack Obama noted in his inaugural speech in 2008,
“…if you unclench your fist, we will extend our hand…” that statement rings true on both sides. If we are true to ourselves we will see that our fists, on key issues, are just as tightly clenched as we view labour’s on matters of importance to us. The question that has vexed and plagued many before me, is how do we bridge the divide. I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society.
Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.
Assuming office in the year that marks AMCHAM T&T’s 25th anniversary as a Chamber, coming in after so many Presidents who have provided invaluable service to the Chamber and by extension to you the membership; at a juncture where our economy is delicately balanced on a razor’s edge; is daunting to say the least. All that said and acknowledged I take up this challenge with full confidence in the capacity that has been built in the Chamber over those many years:
All of these reasons clearly say to me that I am not alone, the support, guidance and counsel that all I have mentioned above will remain and I will rely on them to ensure that I execute on this critical mandate in keeping with those that have gone before me.
In closing permit me to especially recognize our outgoing President, Ravi Suryadevara, those of you who would have had the privilege of interacting with Ravi I am sure, like me are the better for it. Ravi, your commitment, passion and dedication to the Chamber and your values as an individual are not only worthy of praise but emulation; on behalf of the membership and the Board I thank you and more importantly, I salute you.
Dignitaries, members, Media, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.
It is such a pleasure to be here this morning as we acknowledge and congratulate the efforts of everyone who participated in this year’s National Youth Productivity Forum.
As I approach the end of my Presidency at AMCHAM T&T, I have begun to experience a bit of nostalgia. I distinctly remember nine years ago when the Trade and Investment Committee resolved that creating a better economic future for our country meant taking an active role in investing in the youth of our nation. The trigger for this was the Business Future of the Americas Conference hosted by AMCHAM T&T in 2008, where as part of our youth development initiative, students from sixth forms were invited to attend and gain a ‘new’ experience. We decided to create a space where students could express their ideas and be introduced to new concepts and critical thinking skills.
We knew that this interaction would inspire an innovative way of thinking and impart upon students the importance of seeing beyond the moment, seeing beyond just one issue, and instead looking for holistic and long-term solutions. This was the genesis of the National Youth Productivity Forum, the NYPF. To the students of this year’s iteration, I hope you have been challenged and you can now envision a world of possibilities beyond of what you were told existed.
This generation more than any other can relate to the idea put forward by The New York Times, American journalist and three-time Pulitzer winner, Thomas Friedman. He posited that we are living in an era where there are three massive accelerations in tandem:
· Environmental issues, especially global warming (new SDGs)
· Globalization (hyper-interconnectivity), and
· Technology (the great equalizer and disruptor).
He advised that we should focus on these three accelerations if we wanted to be relevant in the future. We at AMCHAM T&T are in agreement with this position.
Technology is integrated into every aspect of our daily lives. Today, it almost seems as though babies are born with a bottle in one hand and a smartphone in the other. We have the obvious examples of the internet of everything and communications, but it is so much more. Medical innovations such as 3-d printing and genetic coding, artificial intelligence, and commercial space travel are amongst the countless other examples that exist. From time to time, I am sure you hear your parents and teachers say “when I was your age we didn’t have all this smart this and smart that…..” or maybe you have heard “kids have it so easy, when I was young we didn’t have google, we had to walk ten miles to the library and try to find an encyclopedia…..” To many it may seem that young people today have it “so much easier”. But do they really?
While technology offers many advantages, it also leads to a certain level of uncertainty. With disruptive technologies, and the rapid rate of innovation, no one can really predict what the future will look like. Moreover, with this is mind I ask this question. “Can we (the older generation), who have not lived with and experienced technology as these young people have, adequately prepare them for a future where technology will play an increase larger role in their daily lives?
This is why we chose this year’s theme – “Re-engineering Education: How our education system needs to be re-engineered to keep up with the modern world and improved productivity.”
I believe that because this generation lives in such an interconnected world, and they have the advantage of understanding the concept of a global community, whether social or business. They can appreciate the idea that a ripple in the pond in one place can have a magnanimous effect thousands of miles away.
These accelerations are not just something we learn about but it is something that we live and we believe that this should be the foundational focus of solving our present challenges, as well as a part in shaping our future.
And whether we accept it or not, the actions of the present adults are shaping the future that you will inherit. Is the education system structured in a way to truly prepare you for the future you will inherit? Are you prepared for the jobs that may or may not exist? And then how will you, in turn, shape the future for the generation that succeeds you?
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. We also realize that the persons most impacted by the school curriculum, the students, do not have a hand in planning it.
Education is the basis of everything; it is up to you to decide the priority it is given in your life. Decide what and who you want to be, and where you will place your focus. Decide to plan, pursue and persist. I must warn you however, that in your pursuit of success you will make mistakes and you will fail. Do not let this deter you as you will also learn that failure is a part of success. There is no successful person, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg who has not experienced failure in some form at some time in their journey.
Another lesson you will learn 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 encourage you to dream. Dream big, but know that there must be action. 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. Let those life experiences teach you the importance tolerance, persistence, and courage as disciplined principles to be maintained at all times, in all that we do.
During my time as President, I sought to build on the great leadership that came before me. I cannot say that this has been an easy journey, but it has definitely been a rewarding one. It is one of the great distinctions in my life that I will cherish. I can truly say that I am a testament that AMCHAM T&T is committed to building and promoting leadership. This is why this program has been so important to us, and we continue to be grateful for the support we have received. To His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, we thank you for being the patron of the program. I must mention how much I admire that each year you take the time to greet and speak with all of the NYPF students. To the Ministers of Education, the Ministry of Education, thank you for continuing to partner with AMCHAM T&T in ensuring this endeavour continues, and continues successfully.
I would also like to thank the corporate entities such as First Citizens, Massy Technologies, UTT and others, whose support enable us to continue with this program.
I would like to congratulate this year’s winners: Belmont Secondary School, who are first-time entrants, Presentation College, Cowen Hamilton Secondary School, Queen’s Royal College, Woodbrook Secondary School and The First Goodwood Scout Group from Tobago. To the teachers and the parents, we offer a heartfelt thank you. 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 as we look ahead to next year. I also hope that this experience has made a meaningful and indelible impact on your perspective on what you that these students can offer the world.
In closing, I would like to take the time to express my gratitude to a variety of persons who has helped me during my term in office at AMCHAM T& - the Board, the Officers of the Board, the CEO, the team at the Secretariat, and our valued members. It has been said that we should never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. This group of people, known as AMCHAM T&T, is committed to service, exhibiting a will to succeed, and to ensure that this organisation excels in any arena we are placed in.
To all students, the future leaders of our great country, as Peter Drucker said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but the future of present decisions”. You are the future in and of our decisions. Make it count.
For the privilege of your attention, I thank you.
In a recent paper analysing data available for 70,000 publicly listed companies worldwide, when it came to Caribbean companies, it reported that an average of 18% of board members and 29% of executives are women. Furthermore, according to the latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, there still remains a gender gap of 22% for executive level positions and a wage equality gender gap of 36% in Trinidad and Tobago. This data coupled with the under-representation of women in certain fields in the country has been the impetus for the creation of a mentorship program targeted at mid to senior-level professional women who hold great potential for leadership.
This mentorship program will seek to pair mentees with senior regional/international professionals within their respective fields. The main objectives of the program will be to: 1) facilitate meaningful professional relationships where both mentors and mentees benefit from mutual knowledge-sharing and engagement; and 2) provide mentees with the necessary guidance in their respective fields that can aid in their career progression to a more senior-level. The program will be done on a phased approach with the first phase being open to a very limited pool of applicants and the program itself will run for six months.
The pilot project will target women in AMCHAM T&T member companies who are involved in the fields of:
Economics (2 persons)
Science and Technology (1 person)
Information and Technology (2 persons)
The application period runs from Thursday 13th April, 2017 to Wednesday 10th May 2017.
To be eligible, the applicants must be an employee of an AMCHAM T&T member company. They must submit a completed Mentee application form, their CV, and two professional recommendations. Prospective mentees must ensure that they have sufficient time needed to fully take advantage of the opportunity during the six month period, as they are expected to actively participate in agreed upon mentoring activities. It is recommended that you meet with your mentor at least once every one or two weeks. However, the frequency and method of communication will be determined by the mentor and mentee.
Candidates will be shortlisted by Thursday 25th May, 2017. The shortlisted candidates will then be required to participate in a brief interview. The final selection will be announced on Monday 12th June 2017.
You can download the application form below, and application should be emailed to email@example.com. For further information please contact 622-4466 ext.228
Mentee Application Form
 Abrahams, Scott, Luca Flabbi and Claudia Piras. 2016. Female Corporate Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean Region: Representation and Firm-Level Outcomes. Working Paper No. IDB-WP-655. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.
 World Economic Forum. 2016. The Global Gender Gap Report: 2016.
“The time is ripe to see more women in leadership positions in the ICT sector.” This was the sentiment expressed by Nuria Simo, Chief Information Officer, and General Manager Department of Information Technology of the IDB, during her visit to AMCHAM T&T, on Thursday 13th April 2017. Following her meeting with senior female ICT executives of AMCHAM T&T’s member companies, the business organisation and the IDB launched their Women in Leadership Mentorship Program. Addressing the group of leading women in the field of Information Technology she led the discussion on the challenges that she and many other women face when navigating the ladder of success. “We need role models for girls and young women to see that it is possible to be successful in senior ICT positions.”
The mentorship program which will be done in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank seeks to pair five (5) mentees with senior regional professionals in the fields of Science, Information Technology, and Economics. The mentors were selected from the IDB’s vast network of professionals.
An organisation which is known for its unapologetic stance on gender parity in the workplace, AMCHAM T&T’s CEO Nirad Tewarie stated that “this initiative is an extension of the theme of our recently concluded Women’s Leadership Seminar held in February #Be Bold For Change. We are ensuring that we make a conscious effort to not only add to the discussion but to be part of the solution.” He also added, “We are fully committed to seeing this through along with our partner the IDB, and it is our hope that this pilot project can serve as a template that other business service organisations can adopt and that we can expand.” Carina Cockburn, Chief of Operations for the local IDB office, echoed this sentiment and reiterated the IDB’s position that promoting gender equality is pivotal to its goal of accelerating the process of economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean
While applicants can only be selected from AMCHAM T&T membership base, it is important to note that AMCHAM T&T’s diverse membership covers all sectors of business.
For more information on the program, please visit here.
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Newtown, Port of Spain
T: (868) 622-0340, 622-4466,
F: (868) 628-9428
Email AMCHAM T&T
P.O. Bag 150, Newtown,
Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago.
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