SPEECH BY: PATRICIA GHANY - PRESIDENT, AMCHAM T&T
EVENT: AMCHAM T&T ECONOMIC OUTLOOK 2019
DATE: TUESDAY 22ND JANUARY 2019
We thank you for coming out today for our annual Economic Outlook event, as we bring you the opportunity to interact with some of our country’s most prominent thought leaders. AMCHAM T&T continues to host forums such as this because we believe that it is important to facilitate open dialogue with our members and the wider Trinidad and Tobago.
Many people, from all walks of life take time out of their business and family time, year after year, to build organisations. We do this because we see it as a way not only of getting – increased knowledge, contacts, relationships – but of giving back. Giving back to a country that has given us so much. A country that is unique. A country that, in our opinion should be the epicenter of hemispheric, if not global trade.
So, we can lament where we are and why our country is persistently under-performing. We can debate whether the glass is half full or half empty. Whether the liquid in it is red or yellow. Or we can acknowledge that the country is under-performing and has been for quite a while. We can look at the glass and accept that the colour of the liquid in it doesn’t matter. Nor does whether it’s more full than empty. We can look at the glass and realise that it can always be re-filled. So too can our country and our economy, become more dynamic if we want it to be. If we make it so.
Each day brings with it the opportunity—and the excuse—to make a new start. With the right mindset, there is substantial optimism to be harvested from the idea that starting afresh is possible, and that new beginnings can create new and successful outcomes.
As we look to the future, we see some of the most dramatic changes in human history—social, technological, and economic—changes that offer unprecedented opportunities – at least if that’s our perspective and if we are willing to act today to secure tomorrow.
The reality is that Trinidad and Tobago is at the centre of these changes- or if we don’t act, the centre of the effects of these changes. Our main economic driver, the gas industry is changing. Once our largest recipient of gas, today the United States is poised to be a major gas exporter. We have to be cognizant of what that means for the future of our petrochemical industry. With Venezuela in virtual chaos, just miles away from us, we have to be mindful of the geo-political and military games being played there. We therefore need to be deliberate and strategic in our responses. With trade wars, walls and barriers as well as moving targets being set by developed world institutions, the only way a small state like Trinidad and Tobago will thrive is if we have a clear plan, be proactive and are both deliberate and nimble in our responses.
In that regard, a quote by the 2018 Nobel prize winner in Economics Paul Romer is instructive. He said, “Growth springs from better recipes, not just more cooking.”
He went on to elaborate by saying:
“Economic growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable. A useful metaphor for production in an economy comes from the kitchen. To create valuable final products, we mix inexpensive ingredients together according to a recipe. The cooking one can do is limited by the supply of ingredients, and most cooking in the economy produces undesirable side effects. If economic growth could be achieved only by doing more and more of the same kind of cooking, we would eventually run out of raw materials and suffer from unacceptable levels of pollution and nuisance. Human history teaches us, however, that economic growth springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking. New recipes generally produce fewer unpleasant side effects and generate more economic value per unit of raw material.”
When we look at this quote in the context of our national economy, we need to ask our leaders, ‘Are we doing more of the same with the hope of getting better results?’ It often feels as if we are. So, what and how can we do things differently?
As we integrate the notion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution into the definition of competitiveness. We recognize that emphasis on the role of human capital, innovation, resilience and agility, are not only the drivers but also defining features of economic success in the 4th Industrial Revolution i.e. today and into the foreseeable future.
Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 105 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. Our rank has deteriorated to 105 in 2018 from 102 in 2017 and from 34th in 2000. Although there were only 75 countries in the survey that year, such a rank would still have put us in the top half of performers.
For us to reverse this dangerous slide the state and our businesses need to modernise. We need to proclaim loudly, not by words but through action, that Trinidad and Tobago is open for business. That our politicians and public service operate efficiently and transparently. That our businesses are dynamic and internationally competitive.
Therefore, in my view, digital transformation is the most critical component that will determine the future relevance of our firms and our economy.
In the World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Work report, they state that:
“As technology develops at an accelerated pace, cognitive abilities and tasks that were once thought to be reserved for humans are increasingly being carried out by machines, causing growing concern about the impact on jobs and the subsequent risks for government, business and people. In addition, globalization, demographics, climate change and geopolitical transformations are already making a significant impact on the work landscape. There is a window of opportunity now for individuals, business and government to understand and proactively manage the transition to a new future.”
Next, technology must be embraced as the growth-driver and game-changer that it is.
Technology is not a single, all-powerful industry. It is now a part of every industry. It will continue to change the way we work, communicate, and live—at a rapidly accelerating pace. Even with these changes, technological advancement is an opportunity, not a threat.
All the recent projects announced by the Honourable Prime Minister are all focused on infrastructure. One key part of infrastructure - and I would posit the most important part for the future is missing. The country’s digital and technology infrastructure.
The reason we talk about digital transformation is because technology is disrupting every industry – from the common example of hotels and taxis to ones you would never think of such as the measuring tape industry.
For Trinidad & Tobago to be competitive as we enter a new decade, we must have a strong digital infrastructure. From the human capital in terms of coding, which must start at the early childhood level and general ICT skills to a robust telecommunications infrastructure and digital government services to facilitate this transformation.
One area of diversification often highlighted is financial services – the future of financial services is Fin Tech – yet we have no discussions on attracting/developing or incubating fin Tech companies nor any discussion on effectively regulating this industry. We must move beyond just back office services and move into the attraction and development of cutting-edge, fintech firms operating in T&T.
The opportunity to take advantage of this disruption is there – are we going to be like other small countries and find a niche for ourselves like Malta which is becoming a global center for coin offerings based on block chain.
Many of the developing countries of the world are all taking advantage of the effect of disruption – which is to level the playing field for all – will Trinidad & Tobago do the same, or will we be left behind while this new wealth is created elsewhere.
To do this effectively we need to drastically and rapidly improve our ease of doing business. Linking digital transformation to improved government services: e-procurement and the drafting of legislation offer two possible quick wins.
Let’s face it, at the very least, the perception of corruption in this country is too high. TSTT has already developed a product that can be utilised for a robust e-tender process and of course there are other solutions. Implementation of such a system will speed projects along and reduce the opportunity for corruption. On the other hand, our legislative process is too slow and cumbersome. Just across the Caribbean Sea in Jamaica, the government has introduced an e-legislative process, to speed the drafting of legislation and allow stakeholders to see the progress and comment on legislation throughout the drafting process.
The implementation of a unique national identifier for every citizen will speed up the process of accessing government services, reduce the opportunity for duplication and easily flag instances of corruption within the system. We can do that quickly and easily. Whether we do these or other things, we must do something to reduce the slide. We must act decisively and implement efficiently.
As we do these things however, we must reduce the deficit. Already it is costing too much to service our debt.
Legacy debt continues to be an issue that we grapple with for successive governments. We continue to borrow to build and borrow to pay. We do acknowledge that there must be some level of borrowing in an economy, but this must be used, as we do in our businesses, to fund growth and revenue generating initiatives not just recurrent expenditure. AMCHAM T&T has continually voiced its concern with the level of borrowing and the ramifications this will have for future generations. Children who will live in a future far more uncertain that the one we live in today, will be burdened by the results of the choices we make today. We noted with trepidation when the 2018-2019 National Budget showed that expenditure would increase by the same rate as the expected revenue while the country would again be running a deficit. With the Minister saying that the Government was comfortable moving toward a 70% debt to GDP ratio.
However, we all know that this ratio will fall if GDP is increased. Therefore, in more ways than one, returning to growth must be the main focus of government policy over the next few years.
In this pursuit we need to attract local and foreign investment. We remain committed to working with the Government to do just that and are confident, with some refocus and a little adjustment, our country can achieve this. AMCHAM T&T will continue to connect with potential partners, mentors, and investors to help take ideas and businesses to the next level. Our continued commitment to you, our members, is to focus on how we can support your growth and be an effective voice on your behalf.
We look forward to hearing from our presenters as they discuss ways to do just that and to working with you all as you strengthen and grow your businesses to contribute to what we all hope is the beginning of an economic and social renaissance in T&T.
Thank you for your time and attention.
As I close, I again refer to Paul Romer who said “Every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new ideas . . . Possibilities do not add up. They multiply”.
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) will host its annual Economic Outlook forum at the Hyatt Regency on Tuesday 22nd January 2019.
A dynamic panel of experts will offer their insights into the current economic climate and strategies to minimize risk. The panel includes:
Professor Gerry C. Brooks
Professor Gerry C. Brooks is Chairman of the NGC Group of Companies. He is the retired group Chief Operating Officer of the regional conglomerate and publicly held group, ANSA McAL. He serves on the Board of NEL and TSTT where he chairs the Investment Committee and the Tenders Committee of NEL and TSTT respectively. He is an Attorney at Law and has served four years unopposed as the Vice President of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. A graduate of the Hugh Wooding Law School and The University of the West Indies, he was awarded the title of “Distinguished Alumnus of the University of the West Indies in 2014 and “Professor in Practice” in 2018. Professor Brooks is a graduate of Columbia University where he obtained an MBA, Dean’s Honour Roll. As a former Deputy Chairman of the Caribbean Court of Justice Trust Fund, he chaired its Finance and Investment Committee for ten years. A regional thought leader, he is the immediate past President of the Family Planning Association, serving the Association for 22 years. He is a Certified Mediator and Chartered Arbitrator. Professor Brooks has been honoured by Rotary International and his Alumni, Queen’s Royal College. He is also a member of the Standing Energy Subcommittee of the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago.
Mr. Ravi Tewari
Mr Tewari is the Group CEO of the Guardian Holding Limited. He has over 20 years experience in the insurance industry, including over 12 years as a senior executive. As an Island Scholar of Fatima College he earned a First Class Honours Degree from the Cass Business School, London. On his return to Trinidad he worked as a pensions and life-insurance consultant at Buck Consultants where he rose to be Head of Consulting. In this capacity he provided comprehensive actuarial services for your life insurance companies spanning Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana.
Ms. Patricia Ghany
Ms. Ghany is the Chief Financial Officer at Esau Oilfield Supplies Co. Ltd., a leading supplier of pipes, valves, pipe fittings and gaskets to the petrochemical and oil and gas sectors in Trinidad & Tobago. Ms. Ghany has over 20 years’ experience in various aspects of the Oil & Gas sector with an emphasis on Procurement, Business Development and Project Management. She is also the current President of AMCHAM T&T.
Mr. Garvin Joefield
Mr. Joefield is the Economist/Manager of Republic Bank Limited’s (RBL) Economic Intelligence Unit. He has a wealth of experience in various aspects of banking, having been employed with RBL for the past seventeen (17) years.
Mr. Gregory Hill
Mr. Hill is the Managing Director of ANSA Merchant Bank. As a career banker he has earned a notable reputation on the regional financial services industry spanning over 25 years, in Investment Banking, Corporate Banking and Banking Regulation.
Women In Leadership Mentorship Program
Applications are open for the second cohort of the AMCHAM T&T/IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Program. We are accepting applications for both mentees and mentors.
This program is part of our commitment in promoting gender parity in Trinidad & Tobago. We believe that diversity and gender balance are integral to innovation and economic growth. We are excited to once again offer this exclusive opportunity to our members.
The program will pair female mentees with senior professionals (both local and international) in the fields of Science, Information Technology, Economics and Occupational Health and Safety.
Only employees of AMCHAM T&T member-companies are eligible to apply.
APPLICATIONS FOR MENTEES
A total of twenty (20) mentees will be chosen.
The application process is as follows:
1. Fill out the online application form. Applications are available at: MENTEE APPLICATION FORM
2. Email a copy of your CV and two letters of professional recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org
APPLICATION FOR MENTORS
We have a limited number of mentors spots still available. If you are interested in becoming a mentor the application process is as follows:
1. Fill out the online application form. Applications are available at: MENTOR APPLICATION FORM
2. Email a copy of your bio to email@example.com
3. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted and will have to undergo a final interview
Deadline for both Mentee and Mentor applications: Thursday 13th December 2018
Applicants must be willing to commit to the mentorship period of six months.
For more information on how you can partner with us on this program, please contact Francisca Hector @ 622-4466 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org
AMCHAM T&T’s H.S.S.E. Conference
Hyatt Regency Port of Spain (P.O.S Ballroom)
Thursday, October 25th, 2018
My wife and I are happy and excited as I begin a new challenge as Ambassador of the United States of America to the beautiful Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. I am also glad that my first public event in the country is with AMCHAM T&T. I understand that the relationship between my embassy and AMCHAM T&T is a strong one, and we are grateful for the partnership.
Since my nomination, I have spoken with many people of Trinidad and Tobago. Quite a few tell me that what the country needs from the United States, more than anything else, is investment—and I completely agree.
Unlike other countries, the United States does not have state-owned enterprises that I can direct to invest in Trinidad and Tobago, and that’s a good thing: For one, firms owned and backed by governments are incompatible to free markets. As we have seen time after time throughout the world, state-owned enterprises invest abroad in ways that are clearly not transparent, clearly not market-driven, and clearly not designed to benefit the people of the countries in which they invest.
Whether in the United States or abroad, the private enterprise that fuels American investment is bound by high ethical and accountability standards. American firms are constantly looking for new investment opportunities. Their decisions are limited only by reasonable projections of reward given the balance of risk.
Although we as a government cannot direct investment your way, what the United States can do is partner with the government and civil society of Trinidad and Tobago to improve the investment climate. Things like corruption, lack of transparency, and needless bureaucracy are all factors that can make potential investment opportunities unattractive, which stifles economic development.
What investors want more than anything else—especially when looking for new markets—are transparency, stability, and predictability. There are many things we can do together in these areas to improve Trinidad and Tobago’s investment environment. Already, the United States is a strong partner in the fight to reduce widespread crime and improve stability—in the last five years alone, the United States has invested nearly 10 million U.S. dollars to build law enforcement and judicial capacity.In addition, we support the government’s work on new procurement legislation and we look forward to its prompt implementation. Transparency in public procurement will foster good faith in the government’s acquisition decisions.
Beyond transparency, stability, and predictability, there are other behaviors that contribute to a climate that is attractive to investment:
I am pleased to see AMCHAM T&T having devoted so much energy over these last two days to these very topics. I congratulate AMCHAM T&T for this very successful twenty-second annual conference dedicated to important health, safety, security, and environmental issues. Progress on these issues in the weeks, months, and years ahead will undoubtedly benefit Trinidad and Tobago and help make the country a place in which more American firms will want to invest.
I look forward to getting to know you, and continuing our work together. We share the same common objective—to see investments from the United States rise in Trinidad and Tobago. Through our joint efforts, I am confident we can achieve this goal.
SPEECH BY: PATRICIA GHANY, PRESIDENT AMCHAM T&T
AMCHAM T&T’s HEALTH, SAFETY, SECURITY & ENVIRONMENT CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION 2018
DATE: WEDNESDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER 2018
VENUE: HYATT REGENCY TRINIDAD
Good Morning Ladies and gentlemen.
Today as we open our 22nd Annual Health, Safety, Security and Environment Conference and Exhibition, we are filled with a sense of pride as we remember the conference’s humble beginnings. For 22 years, the Secretariat has worked closely with the H.S.E Committee to build an expanded conference agenda that is cutting edge and relevant to industry professions. This event has grown beyond our initial expectations, and we are proud to say that this is the largest H.S.S.E Conference and Exhibition in the region.
While we celebrate our accomplishments, we are cognizant of the sobering reality that much more needs to be done in making H.S.E best practice a part of the fabric of our nation. AMCHAM T&T holds steadfast to the philosophy that good H.S.S.E policies make good business sense. Today, however, I move past the profit margins and business indicators to what truly matters; good H.S.S.E practices and policies save lives. This has been illustrated in the past four months as Trinidad and Tobago has been jolted out of a sense of complacency and is forced to consider the “what ifs”.
On Tuesday 21st August, Trinidad and Tobago was rocked by a massive earthquake that lasted for almost one minute, and measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. Our country was stunned and shaken. We had never experienced an earthquake of such magnitude, and there were numerous reports of damage to infrastructure. Trinis checked in with their loved one, thanks their respective deities for life and remarked how lucky we were that God is a Trini. Some lamented on what they thought was a lack of responsiveness by emergency agencies and others continued to post their experiences on social media. Today I ask, how many of us have begun to proactively prepare for a serious geophysical event.
Last weekend the country experienced adverse weather conditions which resulted in catastrophic flooding in east and central Trinidad.
Jaine Mendes-Franco writes: The rains that enveloped Trinidad and Tobago on October 19, 2018 started gently, but their natural softness belied their ferocity. They were persistent, relentless and they got heavier with time. Time, turned out to be the thing that turned bad weather from the energetic Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) into a national disaster.
Persons who experienced the flooding first-hand have said that this is the worst they have ever seen. Flood water, ravaged homes and caused wide spread destruction catching many communities off guard. Major transport arteries such as the Uriah Butler Highway was impassable as flood waters submerged the south bound lane limiting movement in and out of central and south Trinidad. We have all seen the photos in the newspaper and posts on social media of homes and cars submerged in water while families were forced to seek refuge on roofs or balconies awaiting rescue.
I was heartened to see the immediate response by heroic women and men, as well as emergency services and the business community, as they rallied together to help those in need. A true testament that we are a resilient and generous people. AMCHAM T&T as part of the Joint Chambers is collecting contributions to provide flood relief to victims. Today and tomorrow, if you are donating cash, you can do so in the boxes at the Secretariat. If you have other items, we do have drop off points that you can send them to. At moments like these, I recall the words of American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Within us lies patriots hearts an unshakeable will. Here persons forget their grievances, political affiliations, and so-called economic divisions and helped their neighbours, strangers, friends, and even their enemies.
At this very moment there are scores of people trying to pick up the pieces and re-build their lives.
I stand here in a room of business leaders and industry professionals, and I ask:
“What have we learned from these two incidents?”, and more importantly
“How are we going to take action?”
Earlier this month, the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction released a report stating that “economic losses caused by climate-related and geo-physical disasters have soared over the past two decades.” The report which evaluated total disaster-related economic losses and fatalities between 1998 and 2017 found that climate-related and geophysical disasters left approximately 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. Moreover, during this period disaster-hit countries experienced direct economic losses valued at US$ 2,908 billion, but the true economic impact of these incidents are yet to be determined.
If we look beyond the economics – we are not prepared for a full-scale disaster in Trinidad and Tobago. According to the World Disaster Report, there is “an urgent need to move from fatalism to prevention, from response to preparation, from mobilizing resources after the fact to identifying and reducing risk before the fact.”
We must examine where we have fallen short on our commitments to do better for ourselves, our communities and our country. We have to move beyond talking, to taking clear, determined and decisive action towards preparing our businesses and our communities for unforeseen circumstances. At the Conference we have a presentation from Dr. Ivan Pupulidy who would look at Community Preparation- Community Response: and how we can build resilience in a complex world. Yesterday, Ivan toured some of the flood affected areas and we are looking forward to hearing his observations. This year, like years in the past, we have a very exciting agenda- we have sessions on the Environment, Industrial Relations and H.S.E and Safety Leadership
As despair continues to pervade the psyche of those who have suffered losses, and we are grateful there are no reported casualties, it is not just physical health we need to worry about. The psychological toll on adults who are forced to be strong for their families and children who are trying to process the hows and the whys of losing their possessions is a lot to bear. Persons who experience such tragedy typically experience fear, anxiety, sadness or shock. Sometimes, these feelings fade as individuals move on and re-build. Yet, for some these symptoms will continue for weeks or months, turning into more serious psychological issues.
Safety and Security
We equip our homes with steel doors and security cameras to safe guard against intruders coming in, but, how many of us have a plan for getting get out of your house or businesses in case of an emergency. In his most recent book, The Emperor Has No Hard Hat, feature speaker Alan Quilley states that safety excellence isn’t merely avoiding injury or illness, but it is about the performance at work or play without taking unnecessary risks. Are we exposing our employees, families and communities to unnecessary risks?
We can no longer ignore the effect that human activities have on the environment. The indiscriminate disposal of garbage by citizens is inexcusable. Refrigerators, tyres, car parts and others items are being dumped in our water courses, clogging drains and damaging our marine life. Litter fills our streets after football matches, parties or street festivals. We must create a culture of cleanliness, love for the environment and personal accountability. Our afternoon sessions would look at waste management- we would discuss the controversial beverage container Bill and the Styrofoam ban, and seek to forge a common ground where we each would have a true appreciation for each perspective and quite possibly agree on a way forward.
We believe that the impact of culture is important. Moreover, we have included it in this year’s conference theme: Technology. Culture. Results.
Culture is not just about a focus on behaviour and attitudes. Proactive and consistent management of health and safety performance requires great leadership. Leaders must have the foresight and tenacity to continually build a strong health and safety culture that will positively influence everyone.
As a business chamber it is important that we promote business going beyond environmental compliance. Today, I am proud to announce that our H.S.E Committee authored an environmental charter which each of our member company’s CEOs would sign – members who could not attend today, signed the charter before. This charter is one of the ways that AMCHAM T&T is seeking to improve environmental sustainability and encourage other responsible, forward-thinking organizations to do the same.
This conference is another way for AMCHAM T&T to assist in creating a business community and country that is focused on excellence in health, safety and security and the environment.
Before I close I would like to thank our title sponsor Atlantic who continues to partner with us for this important conference. Our platinum sponsors bpTT, The National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago, Yara, Price WaterHouse Coopers, Shell, and BHP. Our Gold sponsor Nu-Iron, Silver sponsor Citibank and airline sponsor United. To the HSE Committee led by Michelle Brooker, and ably assisted by two vice chairs- Cindi Nandlal and Ronald Harripersad thank you for your unwavering commitment.
The exhibitors who have taken the time to share their products, services and expertise we thank you for being a part of this year’s exhibition.
AMCHAM T&T H.S.S.E Conference
October 24, 2018
Sponsors’ Remarks by Dr. Philip Mshelbila, CEO, Atlantic
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Atlantic considers it a great honour to be here once again as the title sponsor for AMCHAM’s annual Conference on Health, Safety, Security and the Environment.
The Conference is celebrating a 22-year milestone this year, and we commend the AMCHAM team for your deep resolve to be national and regional champions for H.S.S.E.
I know I speak on behalf of all of the sponsors when I say that we are all grateful to be working beside you. Over the years, one thing this Conference has taught us is that none of us have all the answers, but when we come together we can learn from each other.
This coming together is especially important when you consider the moment that we have come to in human history. Rapid changes in Technology are driving rapid changes in Culture. Whether we are professionals, companies or countries, we can learn from each other’s stories. We can learn how Technology and Culture are interacting in our individual circumstances, and how this interaction is enabling us to achieve Results.
What has occurred right here in Trinidad and Tobago over the last few days, is an immediate example of how technology can connect us together to help one another to bring about results. It was technology that enabled the good work of the Meteorological Office to predict and advise citizens of what to prepare for. The many agencies under the various Ministries, mobilized into action, using technology to keep us all informed and to be out there on the ground bringing relief to those affected. The citizens rescuing and comforting each other – all of us, connected together, driven by a culture of caring during the crisis. While the physical damage is indeed daunting, we must not let it overshadow the kind of generosity, goodwill and compassion displayed by everyday heroes as a result.
So too, there is a relationship between Technology and the Global Energy Business. I want to share a few specific applications of Technology in the LNG business, and how this is helping to reduce costs from a financial and environmental perspective. I will also reference Technology and Corporate H.S.S.E Culture.
Technology and Global Energy
Rapid advances in technology continue to revolutionize and transform every sphere of modern life. From smartphones to smart homes; from Uber to high speed trains; from global call centres to wireless money transfers – technology is pervasive and in many ways the air that we breathe. My teenage children certainly think so, as they seem to live off their phones and wifi.
It is no surprise then that it is a key driver of the global economy. Many of the largest companies in global business are at their core, technology companies. Amazon and Apple have become the world’s first trillion dollar companies, but in many ways, both companies have evolved far beyond their initial core business and have become technology purveyors. This sort of evolution beckons all of our companies and the challenge is finding the right entry points for the internal transformation of our businesses.
Here’s another consideration: technology requires energy. More and more people and companies are able to afford technology. This creates a virtuous circle: increased access leads to increased demand for technology; which leads to increased demand for energy. In other words, technology is a key driver for the global energy business. The challenge is how we manage that demand so that it’s not about more and more energy, but that it’s about more energy efficiency.
Technology is a driver of energy demand; but it is also an enabler of energy efficiency. Quite rightly, therefore, many agencies are calling for new global regulatory standards that will help to drive improved efficiency in all sorts of technologies. If technology uses energy more efficiently, then we will be able to reduce global energy consumption. At the same time, there is also a pressing requirement on energy companies themselves to become more efficient, whether they are producing oil or natural gas.
The challenge falls squarely in the area of Corporate Responsibility: how do we as energy sector companies leverage technology to become more efficient stewards of the resources we are entrusted with?
Companies that strategically invest in Technology and its potential to evolve their processes and systems, see benefits in their corporate performance. They see incremental gains and sometimes quantum leaps in their productivity, reliability and most important of all, in their H.S.S.E. We could therefore use Technology to help us answer at least three additional questions:
(i) How do we keep our employees and our workplaces safer?
(ii) How do we reduce our environmental impact?
(iii) Moreover, how do we become more energy-efficient?
For every company, the answers will be different and indeed some companies may even have more questions. I am sure that many of my fellow sponsors and other companies participating in this Conference will share their own experiences with Technology over the next two days.
Technology in Atlantic’s Business
In the case of Atlantic, technology is a significant enabler of our business and has always been a big part of what we do. Indeed, technology lies at the core of liquefaction, the fundamental process in our business.
At present new challenges are before us and we anticipate new challenges on the horizon. This requires us to embark on new approaches. Therefore, our primary focus in recent times is to evaluate and implement new technology that helps to future-proof our business.
I have heard it said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. The initiatives that we are currently evaluating and working on are doing just that: they help us equip ourselves today to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
So for example, a future reality that we want to create is one where we have Zero Leaks. We therefore want to deploy the relevant technologies and systems that ensure that zero means zero. This means enhanced vigilance of our piping infrastructure through investment in Infrared Thermography Technology. Special infrared cameras that produce real-time thermographs allow our teams to monitor gas activity inside pipes and vessels. Gas activity is not visible to the naked eye and in some situations may even be below the threshold of gas detectors. Thermal imaging allows us to quickly detect and address fugitive emissions, blocked pipes and even minute flaws in electrical connections.
In fact, just a few months ago, right after the earthquake, infrared thermography came to our rescue. We wanted to be absolutely certain that the earthquake had not caused our plant damage that we could not see. Teams armed with infrared cameras went out across the facility and were able to verify that there was no structural damage or loss of containment. This gave us confidence that we could continue to operate the plant safely and sustain production.
Another future reality that we envision is the wide deployment of Predictive Analytics. This will rest on our existing platform of Business Intelligence tools, which provides us with real-time information on the status of the plant. Right here on our smart phones, we are able to receive information that enables decision making, trending and forecasting.
Wireless sensors attached to equipment in our plant send continuous status updates about our machinery to our Business Intelligence platform and also to our plant control systems. We are currently studying how to employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance our analysis of the incoming data. AI technology could be a big game changer for us, in light of the tremendous advances made in recent years in data mining, predictive technologies and machine learning. AI could help us spot early equipment failures, or opportunities to improve production, reliability and safety.
Another future reality we are working towards is Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. One initiative we are exploring would minimize our plant’s use of one of the refrigerants used in our liquefaction process - ethylene. By capturing ethylene emissions and re-injecting them into the liquefaction process, we not only reduce facility costs and operating expenditure, but much more importantly, we help to lower the levels of our G.H.G emissions. Working in conjunction with our upgraded corporate G.H.G calculator, this particular project will contribute significantly to our wider goal to reduce our carbon footprint.
Technology is going to be a big enabler for the next phase of the Atlantic journey.
Technology and Corporate H.S.S.E Culture
Technology solutions firm Asana, was recently named one of the world’s Great Places to Work. This ranking is based on input from the nominated company’s employees, across a number of KPIs measuring their satisfaction with their company. In response to the news, Anne Binder, who is Asana’s Head of People Operations said: “Culture is what drives our business results.” I am sure that resonates with many of you. Ms. Binder is identifying the importance of culture. It is often overlooked in many a company’s corporate strategy. It is instructive for us to remember that culture has often been cited as one of the things that led to the downfall of Enron, a former giant of global energy.
In light of this, those of us who are leaders are responsible to ensure that both Technology and H.S.S.E hold their rightful place in the culture of our companies. Getting everybody on the same page is not automatic – it takes deliberate strategy and consistent execution. Demonstration of this consistency is an obligation of leadership, for when leaders truly lead, people truly follow.
In terms of technology, we have to build corporate cultures where technology is embraced, not feared. In some companies, this fear is very real, especially where millennials work alongside those from earlier generations. Technology should be seen as a necessary tool that helps us achieve results. But to build that understanding, our people must be reassured that we will build their capability, give them the right tools, offer them the right training and provide the right resources and opportunities whenever there is job displacement.
We should all aim to transform our employees and service providers into ambassadors for the values and practices that enable strong H.S.S.E performance. This will create a wider enabling environment inside and outside our respective fences, where strong H.S.S.E performance can be achieved by everyone.
Such an environment becomes the chief result of Technology and Culture working together. In this era where so much has been made possible, we believe that this particular future reality is well within our grasp. I encourage you all to embrace that journey of leveraging technology and creating the right culture to drive results in your business.
In closing, and on behalf of all the sponsors of this Conference, I want to thank AMCHAM for their visionary outlook and for showing true leadership by example. We all wish the Conference every success over the next two days and we join AMCHAM in inviting everyone to participate in as many of the related activities as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
SPEECH BY NIRAD TEWARIE, CEO AMCHAM T&T
BECOMING A COUNTRY OF ‘WHY NOT?’
EVENT: LAUNCH OF WiPay
DATE: WEDNESDAY 17TH OCTOBER 2018
Almost every internet forum, every WhatsApp conversation, every in-person conversation on T&T and technology seems to return to one central idea: we are behind the rest of the world.
In other countries robots build cars, roads and houses are 3D printed, and block-chain based systems augment online security.
Here, we celebrate when we can pay with Linx at the Licensing Office.
This denigration of T&T is common. It often seems to imply that we’re too far behind; we can’t catch up. But that’s exactly the idea I want to refute; with technology, not only can we catch up, but we can leapfrog other countries.
Technological leapfrogging is happening all around. Let us consider a single example from Africa: millions of people who have never had a landline now have access to a cell phone. According to The Economist:
Every 10% increase in mobile-phone penetration in poor countries speeds up GDP growth per person by 0.8-1.2 percentage points a year. And when people get mobile internet, the rate of growth bumps up again.
These people did not have to put up poles and phone lines and then move to cell phones like most of us. They skipped the landline phase entirely and went straight to a device that gives them access to mobile money and freelance jobs.
However, to facilitate technological leapfrogging, we need to transform ourselves from a society that asks ‘why’ to a society that asks ‘why not?’
David Marquet, of Forbes magazine, argues that “‘Why” is provocative and puts people on the defensive.’ It implies that they may not have a good reason for what they are doing. Or, suggests that they need to justify their actions to us and we’ve already decided to be skeptical. Picture this: You have an idea. It could be transformative. It could change the way we do business. But you’re constantly met with people asking why. Why do we need this? Why did you do that? Why do you think that?
We need to fundamentally shift the way we think about ideas. Someone has an idea. It could be transformative. It could change the way we do business. So why not try to make that idea a reality? We need to become a ‘why not’ society.
We may be behind many parts of the world on technology. But why can’t we leapfrog them? Why can’t we commit to entrepreneurial ideals? Why can't we use technology to lead to greater social inclusion and social justice? Why can’t we promote critical thinking in schools? We want to transform the way we do business. Well, why not?
Such a mindset must be supported by coordinated policy measures that enable the ‘why not’ entrepreneurs to access what they need to effect change. This is not to say there should be no regulation, but regulations should only exist if there is a material public safety concern. Otherwise, we should be enabled to take risks and innovate. This is, after all, the best environment for creation.
V.S. Naipaul wrote ‘Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.’ Let us not be those people who limit ourselves or limit others by imposing our vision on them. Let us work towards being a people and a country open to the expanse of possibility: in technology and in life. Let us make ourselves a country of why not.
Why not open data?
Why not e-payments in government services?
Why not alternatives to fiat currencies?
Why not e-procurement?
Why not GPS trackers on police and emergency vehicles?
Why not real time data and therefore monitoring of air and water quality?
Why not a unique national identification number?
Why not programming, gaming and app development on the school curriculum from ECCE level and data analytics later on?
Why not a Trinidad and Tobago that is digitally enabled; digitally connected with a thriving ICT industry that both enables other industries and stands as a major "industrial" pillar of our re-newed and diversified economy?
So, I ask you to answer that question for yourself and keep asking it of everyone with whom you come into contact.
AMCHAM T&T RESPONDS TO THE 2018-2019 NATIONAL BUDGET PRESENTATION
AMCHAM T&T noted with interest the numerous measures outlined in the National Budget 2018/2019 which was themed "Turnaround". We applaud the progress made in containing expenditure in prior years. We also note that this budget anticipates higher revenues - driven by an uptick in gas production and firming of commodity prices. We are concerned however, that the Minister indicated that he will concurrently increase expenditure by almost the same amount as the expected increase in revenue while again running a deficit budget. This will further increase the country’s debt, with the Minister saying that the Government is comfortable moving toward a 70% debt to GDP ratio. This is surprising given the fact that it is higher than previously stated targets.
We would have preferred that the Government continue its efforts toward fiscal responsibility by further containing expenditure. Indeed, the Minister highlighted a couple areas where increased efficiency resulted in cost savings such as in housing and the food card programme. These, we are confident, are but two of several areas where efficiency can be realised through improved systems and management.
AMCHAM T&T welcomes the increase in the proposed capital investment programme but encourages greater dialogue and collaboration around planned projects. AMCHAM T&T noted with great interest the focus on the diversification projects including the dry dock facility, Sandals hotel in Tobago, the ferry port in Toco and the completion of long outstanding road and infrastructure projects. Whilst we applaud the actions to diversify AMCHAM T&T is concerned about the lack of information available on the business models of these proposed projects in particular the Ferry Port in Toco and the Dry Dock facility, both of which are substantial projects and will add to the debt burden of the country.
Progress toward improving efficiency of targeted subsidy expenditure is applauded as is the gradual approach to moving the nation toward a new regime of unsubsidized fuel and improved fiscal responsibility. We are disappointed that no mention was made of adjusting the fixed margins along the fuel value chain to offset likely increases in cost of sales through top line taxes such as Green Fund and Business Levy.
We also applaud some of the announced initiatives to modernize the Police Service through the use of technology.
We expect to delve deeper into these and other issues as the budget debate continues and we have an opportunity to further interrogate the figures.
AMCHAM T&T’s LEGISLATION, TECHNOLOGY & COMPETITIVENESS SEMINAR 2018
VENUE: HILTON TRINIDAD & CONFERENCE CENTRE
Opening and Welcome Remarks
Delivered by: Patricia Ghany, President AMCHAM T&T
As we enter the final four months of 2018, and near the end of the country’s fiscal year, there is a definite sense of unease in the business community and the country. With news of the impending re-structuring at Petrotrin and the possible ramifications such action can have, added to an already distended economic ecosystem. It is safe to say that we are all concerned about the state of our economy, and we keenly await the 2018-2019 National Budget.
While the business community will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that the sectors in which they operate remain vibrant and profitable, we still depend on the Government to provide an environment that encourages growth and competitiveness, fosters fair trading practices and provide efficient services.
I am certain that every person here can share at least one instance when bureaucracy encountered while doing business with ministries and state agencies has caused avoidable delays and expenses. Government bureaucracy continues to be a major impediment to doing business in Trinidad and Tobago. According to the World Bank’s Annual Doing Business Report 2018, Trinidad and Tobago dropped in its global rankings from 96 to 102 out of 190 countries. This is a clear indication that more can be done to improve the ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago.
We hope that this event will provide new perspectives, solutions that leaders in private and public sector can apply to improve service delivery.
I firmly believe that as members of the private sectors we must seek ways to move forward despite the circumstances, and do what is best to improve our businesses, productivity, competitiveness and positively contribute to the economy.
It is in this vein of creating a proactive, solution-oriented environment that we continue to advocate for continued collaboration and dialogue between the public and private sector. Added to this, AMCHAM T&T collates the feedback and concerns of our members to submit a detailed Budget proposal every year to the Minister of Finance, and other relevant ministries and agencies. Each year, we have a dedicated section that highlights recommendations that will improve the Ease of Doing Business, and build a business environment that would improve the competitiveness of firms.
These recommendations encompass issues related to taxation, national security and many other challenges. The issues I will touch on are Taxation, Work Permits, Customs and Excise and National Security.
The issue of taxation and its effect on doing business is complex and far reaching. Some of the more pressing issues relayed by the business community involves the persistent delays in companies receiving their Value Added Tax and Corporation Tax Refunds. We think this can be addressed if the Government enacts the appropriate legislation to pay V.A.T online to assist in the time reduction for businesses to receive refunds.
While the business community was in agreement with the formation of the Revenue Authority, details of when this will be implemented has not been not revealed. AMCHAM T&T has continued to advocate for the development an Advanced Tax Ruling System and Alternative Dispute Resolution in Tax Disputes, in an attempt to make the processes of the Board of Inland Revenue or what will be the Revenue Authority, more efficient and practical for companies.
Another challenge the business community faces is the length of time it takes for the Ministry of National Security to approve a work permit. The requested documentation process is not clear as each application demands different supporting documents. The process needs to be simplified as the length of time it takes for an application to be approved is demotivating to many potential applicants. Despite this, AMCHAM T&T continues to do its part by offering training in work permit applications.
CUSTOMS AND EXCISE
I would first like to commend the Government for implementing the ASYCUDA (the Automated System for Customs Data) system. This has reduced the bureaucracy for exporters and importers by integrating all the requirements into a single window.
Customs and Excise is a critical area requiring improvement for many business, especially those in manufacturing and retail who depend on the timely clearance of goods at the nation’s ports. Far too often we hear of businesses being crippled by delays, especially in busy seasonal periods.
For any county that is serious about relieving economic hardship and increasing earnings from trade and business activities, priority should be given to removing any delays that hamper business activity. Delays of any kind can lead to loss of income and in extreme cases job losses.
In this area we believe the following recommendations should be considered:
We recommend that the Customs and Excise Division should seek to increase the number of competent customs officers, and consider the extension of hours at Port Facilities.
It should be noted, that the current legislation governing imports clearing, Customs Brokers and Customs Clerks Regulation, states that each Airway Bill will incur a fee of TTD$10.00. This means that for any item imported customers will pay for the duties, VAT and the airway bill fee. AMCHAM T&T believes that this cost in addition to the 7% Online Purchase Tax would place a severe burden on the courier industry. They would not be able to pass this cost on to the customer. Currently the TTD$10.00 fee is not applied as the courier companies still submit their information manually. However, when the Single Electronic Window becomes operational for trade, the airway bill fee would be applied. AMCHAM T&T suggests that the TTD$10 fee take the place of the O.P.T, as it would be a simpler system to adjudicate and collect.
Other recommendations include: training for staff to improve their productivity and reduce the likelihood of corruption; the implementation of the Authorized Operators (AO) programme by Customs and the removal of the Online Purchase Tax and implement a de Minimus rule instead.
While we must admit that there has been a thrust by government to improve such areas like the implementation of the Single electronic window, there is still too much to be done.
Last, but by no means least, crime continues to be forefront of our minds, not only as it relates to doing business, but for the safety of our employees, family and friends.
Victims of crime and their family are often ill equipped to deal with the after effects of such ordeals, which are felt long after the actual incident. Increased levels of anxiety and other mental health issues can also affect a person’s ability to work and be productive on their jobs. White collar crime also continues to increases the cost of doing business. In a recent event held in collaboration with on our members G4S, Senior Superintendent of the Fraud Squad, Totaram Dookhie, indicated that “The dynamic innovations and advancement of technology have fuelled fraud and financial crimes, and there is substantial haemorrhaging that occurs in the business sector. As such, we continue to advocate for adequate legislation that is up to date, but also acts as a deterrent to would be criminals.” He also spoke to the increased levels of corruption and fraud in the public sector.
With the need for companies to increase security at their businesses, this has put a strain on security companies who are now faced with delays in receiving firearm licenses for staff to carry out their duties. Companies have complained about the inefficiency and bureaucracy associated with the application process. AMCHAM T&T is calling on the relevant authority to formulate and implement a more timely transparent and efficient process for approval of firearm licenses.
These are just some of the recommendations that we have put forward in our 2018/2019 Budget Submission. For a detailed look at our Submission and our recommendations in the area of Debt Management; Ease of Doing Business; Digital Transformation; Energy Sector Policy; Diversification and National Security you can visit our website. Please feel free to send in your comments and concerns.
While I am unable to see what the future holds, I do know that times like this will not only define us as leaders but also as citizens. It is in times like this, that we need to hunker down and look at where we are going and what we need to do to get there. In times like this, we need to set aside individual interest in favour of reasonable solutions that will benefit us all in the medium and long term – as we actively strive to rebuild the economic vitality of our nation.
Public and private sector, business, labour, government and civil society all working together to do what is best for our country.
Before I close it would be remiss of me if I did not extend a special thank you to the AMCHAM T&T Legislative Committee, who worked assiduously to bring this event to life. The Legislative committee headed by Chair Wendy Kerry and Vice Chair, Karen Kelshall-Lee and coordinated by Research Officer Aurelia Bruce, looks at and comments on legislation put forward in Parliament that will affect the business community. At this time I would also like to thank the members who send in their comments and take part in surveys which help to inform our advocacy positions.
I would also like to thank the sponsors for this event. Microsoft, First Citizens, Massy Holdings and Guardian Holding Limited. We acknowledge that in this time of economic uncertainty that there is more scrutiny on where and what you invest in. We are happy that you chose to in invest in an event such as this, so that we can provide the public with necessary information to help them build more competitive businesses.
INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF MS. PATRICIA GHANY, PRESIDENT- AMCHAM T&T
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
DATE: JUNE 29, 2018
VENUE: HILTON TRINIDAD & CONFERENCE CENTRE
Today I stand before you as the 15th President of AMCHAM T&T, humbled by the faith that the Board has placed in me to lead this dynamic organization - an organization with a proud past and an exciting future.
It is with the grace of God, the love of my family and support from my Company and peers that I embark on my journey as AMCHAM T&T’s president — a journey that I am privileged to take with you all.
I stand on the shoulders of other past presidents with whom I had the honour of working with – Clyde Alleyne, Catherine Kumar, David Chaney, Nicholas Galt, Raymond Gatcliffe, , Eugene Tiah, Simon Aqui, Hugh Howard, Ravi Suryadevara, and Mitchell De Silva – all of whom provided strong leadership and who gave generously of their time, expertise and wisdom to this organization.
Through their passion, dedication and commitment they skillfully charted AMCHAM T&T’s course through multiple challenges, changing times and economic landscapes. To all of you, I say thank you very much for the various ways you have inspired and prepared me to assume this role.
My journey with AMCHAM T&T started twenty-three (23) years ago, when our company, Esau Oilfield Supplies, was encouraged to become a member.
When AMCHAM T&T was formed in 1992, Trinidad & Tobago had just come out of a bruising IMF structural adjustment programme. The economy had been significantly liberalized. Fiscal consolidation and structural reforms were being undertaken against a backdrop of social dislocation, global change and limited fiscal space for the government. Sound a bit familiar?
By the time I joined the organisation in 1995, the TT dollar had been ‘floated’. Public finances had been stabilized. The decision to go into LNG had been cemented – in fact Atlantic was incorporated in that year. But the economic recovery was neither complete nor secure.
It was a confusing time. It was an exciting time. And we knew our company had to build solid relationships not just to survive but thrive in the years to come. As part of that effort, we made a conscious business decision to join AMCHAM and have never looked back since.
During our first meeting we sensed that this was a business sector organization with a difference. A different pulse as it were. Dynamic, with a social conscience and a global outlook. Those distinctions and characteristics are important, core parts of our ethos even today.
As the first port of call for any US or international company seeking to do business in Trinidad & Tobago, AMCHAM T&T provides the perfect environment in which to meet and collaborate with contemporaries not just in the oil and gas sectors but along the value chain in almost every sector. We need only to look at our current board and the areas of expertise – ICT, banking and finance, local and international conglomerates, transportation and services. Thanks to the work of my predecessors, we are stronger than ever and getting even stronger still.
My involvement with AMCHAM T&T over the past twenty-three years has seen me serve at both the committee and board levels in positions that have allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. The knowledge and experience gained during these years have been invaluable.
Through my work with AMCHAM T&T, I was able to see the development of the economy and understand the business environment from many different perspectives. The discussions around the impacts of policy changes nationally, and internationally on various groups of members and the society as a whole, have been rich and enlightening.
What always strikes me is the role AMCHAM T&T plays as an aggregator of views and how willing our Board and Committee members are to forge positions which may not always be solely in their individual company’s interest but always in the interest of developing transparent, fair and open markets.
I have also been able to experience the personal rewards associated with volunteerism. Rewards that enrich not only the mind but the soul.
For at AMCHAM T&T, we believe that business must have purpose and meaning, to the enhancement of the quality of life and enhancement of the people and communities who form our customer base and stakeholder groups. And that is at our core – at my core – as we seek to enhance the business environment in Trinidad & Tobago.
As I take up the role as President, I know that my task will be a challenging one given the realities of our current economic environment. Nonetheless I am confident that, with your support and collaboration with the government and civil society groups including the labour movement - we can face these challenges head on, overcome them, and, in so doing, build a better and brighter future not only for ourselves but also for future generations.
My pledge to you today is simple - as President, I promise to bring the same passion, commitment and enthusiasm as I have brought during my time as a Committee and Board member to advocate on your behalf to create a better business and social environment in Trinidad & Tobago. This is my commitment to you, our members.
AMCHAM T&T has grown in strength over the years, and the heart of our mandate has never changed. We have been and continue to be, a pioneering organization, serving the needs of not only our members, but the wider society. In light of this, my vision for AMCHAM T&T over the course of the next year, is to strengthen our position as an organisation and catalyst, for the sustained economic development of Trinidad and Tobago.
To achieve this, our focus will be toward creating positive shifts in the following three areas:
1. WORKING TOWARDS GENDER PARITY
We recognize that diversity and gender balance are integral engines of innovation. If we are to champion broader and more inclusive representation at all levels of the private and public sectors, then we must lead by example.
One of Mitch’s goals during his last term was to hand the presidential baton over to a female. I applauded his intentions then and I admired his persistence in making this a reality. Today, I stand before you all as a testament of his vision and I am honoured to have played a part in helping him accomplish that goal!
As you are aware, AMCHAM is no stranger to female leadership. In 1991, two women, Sally Cowell, then US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, and Nisha Lau, then GM of FedEx, were the original architects who drew up plans for this Chamber. Together they brought AMCHAM to life.
In 2000, we elected Catherine Kumar, then Chief Operating Officer of ALGICO, as our first female President. In 2003, I had the privilege of serving on the Board when Catherine Kumar was still president.
Indeed, women have ‘led the pack’ with successive female Executive Directors – each of them infusing the organization with various strengths and dynamism from 1993 to 2014. It is interesting to note that it was only in 2014, we had our very first male CEO, Nirad.
It is also worth mentioning that our highest level of female board participation peaked at 45% during the period 2015-2016. Today, with the re-election of Karrian Hepburn six of the 16 AMCHAM T&T Board Members are female. Even though this ratio is better than all similar organisations in Trinidad & Tobago, I intend to improve on this during my tenure as we continue our drive towards a fully gender balanced board!
Furthermore, through our Women in Leadership Conference, we will continue to champion gender parity within the public and private sectors. Our conference has been extremely successful in supporting and facilitating conversations pertinent to advancing the role of women in the workplace and society at large.
Over the last year, we worked with the IDB on a women’s leadership mentoring pilot programme and we will be entering an expanded phase two of that later this year. Our focus has always been about empowerment through experience and support.
2. Improving the Business Climate & Focusing on Investment
Another critical issue is competitiveness. As we would all agree, the competition for investment dollars is intense, both at regional and international levels. Global markets are changing. The tax reforms and shale oil and gas industries in the US are already having a disruptive effect on the structure of businesses in the hemisphere.
And other countries are adapting and starting to thrive. Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada in this region are actively changing the structure of their economies and acting with a sense of purpose.
The Dominican Republic has been one of the fastest growing economies in this hemisphere for near a decade. Trinidad & Tobago however, has lagged behind our counterparts.
For us to be an attractive investment destination, we cannot continue to make internal plans and goals in isolation. We cannot continue to talk and not do. Rather, we must understand what the other countries in the region and in the world are doing in terms of tax incentives, fiscal & monetary policies, developing human capacity and improving regulatory environments.
In this context, our Parliament must operate more effectively and strategically and the Government more swiftly, collaboratively and deliberately. To do otherwise is foolhardy.
We know several significant pieces of legislation will be debated in the next session of parliament. Changes to the companies act, amendments to industrial relations legislation, the revenue authority, Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Terrorism Financing legislation, will all have a significant impact on business and we look forward to effective co-operation between the government and opposition as well as meaningful consultation with stakeholders.
In this regard, we again congratulate the government for the process employed thus far on the legislation to develop the revenue authority. However, we remain concerned about the impact and lack of clarity regarding the valuation process for industry under the property tax act.
Whilst it is no hidden fact that Trinidad & Tobago has weathered challenges in the energy sector, displayed its resilience, and at times defied logic, we are at a cross-road.
We seemingly are at an imbalance where our domestic agenda is not completely in sync with the factors that determine attractiveness for investments for which we compete globally.
Very often our conversations on being an attractive investment destination are focused on monetary incentives but we need to expand the conversation to other factors. How do we make Trinidad & Tobago an attractive destination for intellectual capital – both foreign intellectual capital and our own young minds who attend university abroad and never return? Inefficient processes, outdated legislation, weak institutions, systemic corruption and high levels of both white collar and violent crime are all disincentives to investment. Uber’s decision to withdraw from Trinidad & Tobago should be a major wakeup call.
Yet we believe that there is hope. We believe that our country’s best days are yet to come. Trinidad and Tobago has always had the potential to be the true pathway to the Americas. So we need action. With the right national and corporate policies and vision and commitment to execution, this can still be achieved. AMCHAM T & T is committed, ready and able to do its part.
As the ‘pathway to the Americas’, AMCHAM will continue to forge links with businesses across the Americas so that other lucrative markets can be opened to member companies.
Just this week, you would have gotten an email from us which would allow you to register for a webinar with John Murphy, Senior VP International Policy at the US Chamber, on the impact of the US tax reform on business in the hemisphere.
No other Chamber can provide the access, linkages and information that AMCHAM T & T can as a result of membership and leadership in the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA) – the network of the 24 AmChams in this hemisphere allied with the US Chamber of Commerce. We will continue to develop these links to provide value to our members.
3. Digital/Technological Transformation
Another area of focus for me as President will be digital transformation. We have all become familiar with the now clichéd examples of Uber and Airbnb as disruptors of two long standing industries. We all need to embrace the digital transformation that is going on if we are to survive, compete and grow. More than that, we need to be part of the healthy disruptions that are happening in the market.
It can be quite a scary thought to think about the potential of technology to change our businesses and business models forever but we need to embrace reality. That is why we have Tristan Relly speaking to you about the utility of blockchain and Provost Timothy Moerland focusing on the future of work in a short while.
To this end, I want to ensure that our member companies are well positioned to take advantage of rapid technological shifts that can allow our market share, clients, strategic alliances and partnerships to grow seamlessly, no matter where we’re positioned geographically.
To achieve these objectives, the Board will be working closely with our Digital Transformation Committee to develop strategies and provide insights for both the public and private sectors that can assist with digital transformation.
This committee headed by Fenwick Reid, Executive Chairman Massy ICT, Zia Paton, Partner PWC, and Devindra Ramnarine, Executive Director & Caribbean Lead, Government and Public Sector Ernst and Young, will spearhead efforts in assisting member companies in the process of competing in this Digital Age.
More broadly, AMCHAM TRINIDAD & TOBAGO must continue to voice its opinions and views on matters of national interest, and, where necessary, make recommendations. We will always speak truth to power while being solution oriented. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.
As I close, let me again pay tribute to our out-going President, Mitch. I thank you for your stewardship, your confidence in me, and your advice and counsel. We have all benefitted from your vision, your humour and knowledge during your tenure as President.
At this time allow me to express my profound thanks to the Board of Directors to for the invaluable contributions they make in so many ways to the organization. I look forward to a continued close working relationship to all of you.
To our ever resourceful and dependable CEO Nirad, and the passionate and dedicated members of the Secretariat who work tirelessly to ensure, that, as members, we engage more deeply, use our private sector voice in support of our mission, and fully leverage the benefits of our membership, I say a heartfelt thanks to all of you. I also wish to thank you for fostering an environment of excellence and creating a space where we all feel at home when attending an AMCHAM T&T event.
It would be remiss of me not to thank members of the Programmes & Events Committee and the Chamber Experience & Imaging Committee. Let me say that my love of AMCHAM was nurtured, fostered, and strengthened by serving on these committees with a remarkable group of individuals.
Ladies and gentlemen, member companies of AMCHAM, we must continue to collaborate with each other, we must build consensus, we must engage NGOs, we must partner with the Government, and we must partner with other private sector businesses and interests if we are to turn the tide of the current economic situation. I am reminded of our National Motto: “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve”. It is my fervent hope that, together, we can accomplish all that we set our minds and concerted efforts towards.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.
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