Speech by AMCHAM T&T PRESIDENT
Ms. Patricia Ghany
Girls In ICT Day Conference 2020
(Thursday, 23rd April 2020)
Good morning everyone and thank you for having me here.
Before I begin, I want to congratulate the Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) team headed by Mr. Raj Ramdass for making the decision to proceed with this event, especially in these uncertain times.
With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the entire world, today, I feel we are finally one community that is no longer separated by borders and oceans.
This pandemic has shown us that we must look out for each other even if that means we have to socially distance or self-quarantined ourselves from each other.
I want to thank everyone who is logged on today for doing their path and for realizing that an important event such as this must go on. It is in these times we must seek alternative avenues to ensure business continuity which is why AMCHAM T&T is proud to be a partner of this event.
As President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago, I want you to know that the International Girls in ICT Day is an initiative that I am personally very passionate about.
It gives me great pleasure to represent an organization that have made both gender parity and advancing our nation’s tech sector as two equally important issues that we have been proudly championing over the last few years.
For us at AMCHAM T&T, we see these two issues as intersectional in our measures of support and advocacy. By this, I mean, if we are to develop our nation’s tech sector, we cannot do this without addressing the gaps that keep girls and women at a disadvantaged state.
As one of the fastest growing sectors in the world ICT has many benefits, namely creating a wide range of exciting jobs with unique skills and technical know-how for everyone.
For women in technical fields and girls who are aspiring to have ICT jobs, this increases their opportunities for employment in fields such as software development, teaching at ICT, computer engineering, space development, electronic and electrical engineering.
However, the data keeps telling us that there is a disproportionately low number of female students who are given access to pursue higher education in technical fields such as math, engineering, computing and sciences, for a number of reasons.
There is also a body of evidence to show that the tech sector is currently, male-dominated, especially at the senior levels. Think, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zukerberg, Jack Dorsey, and the list goes on. I am sure those names sound familiar to you, but does anyone notice a trend here? Won’t it be more apt to replace these names with super women, female pioneers in ICT such as Ada Lovelace, Marissa Mayer, Grace Harper and Sheryl Sanderg.
This is what I meant when I said we must address the existing gaps, and why advancing the tech sector is married to advancing the opportunities for girls and women everywhere. We simply cannot achieve one and ignore the other.
This is also why the International Girls in ICT Day, and this event is so important to us at AMCHAM T&T. This day allows us to highlight these issues and expose the next generation of female leaders to increase opportunities. We hope this empowers them to enter ICT knowing that there is a bright future ahead for them in this field.
When we increase the educational opportunities in ICT for girls and women, and develop a more gender-balanced tech sector, we are lifting women out of poverty by offering them opportunities for jobs and access to move up the career ladder quicker in their respective fields.
We are also helping girls and women to create their own space and agency. ICT helps women to gain better status within their society and to excel professionally, according to their own choice.
So, as we all sit behind our computers and mobile devices, I want you to soak up the information shared with you today. I believe there are sessions that will expose you to other young girls and women who are making waves in the tech world. You will learn how to deliver presentations and develop your critical and design thinking skills. You will also be taught about entrepreneurship and leadership.
This information will open many doors for you in the future. What you learn here today may inspire you to create your school’s first robotics club, or lead you to develop the next great app that everyone is talking about, or perhaps become the CEO of your own tech company that is changing the world. This is the power of ICT and this is why we need to ensure girls and women have equal access to it.
22nd March, 2020
Hon Paula Gopee-Scoon
Minister of Trade and Industry
Dear Hon. Minister,
AMCHAM T&T compliments the GORTT for the whole of Government's approach to attempting to “flatten the curve” by promoting and enforcing social distancing through a range of measures. As difficult as these may be, we agree that the best available science shows that this is the only effective way to halt the spread of the virus.
The Economic fallout of this is already severe. However, this will be much worse if the virus spreads exponentially in the population, as we see in other economies.
The world and the global economy have changed forever. We must therefore adapt.
The main objective of the Government now has to be to build and maintain confidence.
As such, following decisive action around social distancing, in the short-term what is required is a targeted but robust economic programme designed to mitigate the short-term economic fallout. As such, we have listed some recommendations hereunder.
While this is not a time for long diatribes, we are compelled to point out that short-term measures will at best, only be effective in providing the room to stabilize the economy.
We acknowledge that these are short-term suggestions that will put a strain on the treasury. Consequently, we are cognizant of the fact that revenue generating measures need to be developed in phase two. We accept that all will have to share in the burden of recovery, including the business community.
Recovery is going to depend on close and constant collaboration among Government, civil society, labour and business. The most effective way to ease the ‘pain’ quickly is to have collective buy-in. Let’s do this together.
Recovery, will also require the Government to use this opportunity to significantly improve the ease of doing business, primarily through the adoption of digital technology in the government services. We will also need to radically re-engineer the education system in time for the 2020-2021 academic year.
We appreciate that the next week is critical in the stabilization phase. Once there is some confidence that measures around this have been put into place, the country needs to start looking at recovery and how we may best position ourselves to respond, mitigate and even benefit from the changes in global value and supply chains. Therefore, we suggest the establishment of a private sector team to work with the designated members of the Cabinet to develop on these initiatives.
1. Waiver of Green Fund and Business Levy through September 2020.
2. Corporation tax payment deferral to end Q3 to allow for taxes to be paid on actual amounts due as opposed to last year’s sales figures. This will help businesses substantially manage their cash flow.
3. Adaptation of already-announced unemployment payments to become wage support – 75% Government / 25% business for workers from week three once businesses are willing to keep people employed with no more than a maximum of 20% wage reduction. With this, businesses may seek to utilise this time for training or experiment on new products or services.
4. NIS benefits to kick in after week two for sick leave.
5. Defer VAT Payments through June 2020.
6. Grants for businesses employing fewer than 20 people.
7. Pay outstanding VAT refunds in full (minus interest owed).
8. Pay outstanding trade bills.
9. Any person or business applying for benefits must have a BIR number. Where individuals seek to benefit from wage support, they should be asked to identify their employer and that employer should either have or be made to register for a BIR number (but the latter should not prevent the individual from accessing the benefit). Government should consider waiving penalties on taxes and use this opportunity to have more people and businesses come into the tax net moving forward.
10. Increase taxes on “luxury” imported items in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange. However, these should not be across the board taxes on imported items as broad taxes will likely affect everyone negatively and result in price increases for ‘every-day’ items therefore higher inflation.
11. Grants for teachers to pay Internet service charges once they show evidence of teaching classes online (not extra lessons).
12. Grants for anyone with access to land to either boost production or begin cultivation of crops that will be ready to harvest within 12 months. Priority should be given to registered farmers in the first instance.
13. Co-financing of labour in the agricultural sector to compliment grants identified earlier and provide some opportunity for people who may have lost their jobs.
14. Waiver on stamp duty for loans through December 2020.
15. Waiver on penalties and interest on stamp duty currently owed but not yet paid through July 2020.
16. Waiver of penalties and interests for current tax payments for:
(A) final corporation tax for income year 2019 due on April 30, 2020, until June, 2020
(B) quarterly corporation tax, Business levy and Green Fund liabilities due on March 31st, 2020, until June, 2020
(C) PAYE, Health Surcharge and National Insurance due on the 15th of April and each succeeding month until June, 2020.
(D) Value Added Tax due on the 25th April and each succeeding month until June, 2020.
AMCHAM T&T’s Annual
Economic Outlook Forum 2020
(Thursday, 30th January 2020)
A Vision for 2020 & Beyond
Good morning Ladies & Gentlemen
It is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome each of you here today to our Economic Outlook event “A Vision for 2020 & Beyond”.
‘Vision’ is a word often associated with 2020. Fifteen years ago, Trinidad and Tobago was introduced to Vision 2020 – an ambitious plan to guide our country to developed nation status by the year 2020. We were to invest in sound infrastructure, establish a sustainable business environment, and improve governance structures.
Now we’re standing in the year 2020. Whether we agreed with the initial vision or not, we have to ask: was that vision realized? Where did we succeed? And, where did we fail? If we didn’t agree with that vision and wanted to see a different model of development back then, have we even achieved that?
This look back through the lens of the past is not about bemoaning what some may see as our lack of progress. We do, however, need to understand where we came from so that we can move forward. After all, what we truly want to focus on at this Economic Outlook Forum, is a vision for the future. Kristi Hedges of Forbes magazine claims that a strong vision must be future-oriented. Hedges writes, “Leaders need to stay aware of current objectives, but they must also be looking out toward a future that lies further ahead.”
So, I want you to imagine something: take a few seconds and imagine our country’s future.
Personally, I imagine a society that is inclusive, innovative, productive and resilient.
We at AMCHAM T&T, see a country that will be safe for all our young people to live, work and grow. We see visionary leaders and good governance. We see a flourishing business community where investors and entrepreneurs work together to create a booming economy that works for all our citizens. We see high levels of social mobility and equality.
We’ve said before that we need more collaboration at the political level. We understand that politics involves some level of one-upmanship and we are not utopian in our thinking, to believe that all decisions will be made by putting politics aside but, surely, some big decisions can be made. Some consensus can be fostered.
Surely our government and opposition, political, civic, business and labour leaders can come together and agree on some key crime reduction initiatives, initiatives that will continue regardless of which party is in Government.
Surely, these same groups can come together to agree on some initiatives to reform the education system, prepare citizens for the future of work and increase productivity.
Surely, we can develop a coherent, long-term population management strategy to address the declining, aging population and the impact of migration.
Surely, we can come together on environmental protection and enhancement.
Surely, when we strip away the surface layers and short-term goals, we want a better Tobago and Trinidad.
You might dismiss this all as wishful thinking. But a vision for a better future is instrumental to the work we do at AMCHAM T&T. We need to see the forest first – and then we can focus on the trees. Put another way, we need to see our country as we would like it to be and then we need to work out how to make our vision a reality.
Maybe sometimes we focus too much on the small things. Maybe because that’s what we think we can fix. Yet by tinkering and shying away from the big, transformative issues, we ended 2019 with the following sobering statistics:
The results of the Business Survey AMCHAM T&T conducted in collaboration with Ernest & Young over the past two months, shows that our professionals continue to leave, there is scant medium-term confidence in the dollar. And that a clear vision and plan for our country is a top factor in encouraging investment.
You might think, in the face of that data, it’s ridiculous to imagine a society that’s safe and fair, innovative and dynamic. But the opposite is in fact true. It is because of this data, these outcomes, that we need to do better. We say, if we can’t even imagine our ideal society then we will never be able to build it. We need to define and work toward our vision of the future more than ever before. We need to believe that we can be agents of change. And we need to act to turn that vision into a reality. I have no doubt that the business community in Trinidad and Tobago is committed to this cause. In fact, the results of the survey show exactly how committed the business community is to our country.
But our country is at a crossroad. And ours is a tiny, rural crossroad, several miles away from the large, geopolitical crossroad. Our tiny region is already a key actor in the global aspiration of the big powers of the USA, China and Russia. We need to have a clear strategy to know in which direction to head. So, we need to do things differently. We need to think about our country and our development very differently than we have in the past.
And turning the ship of state 180 degrees is possible. In 1993, Time magazine named Colombia’s Medellin “the most dangerous city on earth”. Just 20 years later, in 2013, Medellin was celebrated as “the most innovative city in the world” by the Urban Land Institute. A city once known for cocaine and murder is now known for entrepreneurship and innovation. If Medellin can transform, so can we.
In the absence of a clear vision and therefore, direction, we are reaping the havoc of virtually standing still. Our Caribbean neighbours, Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada are actively changing the structure of their economies and acting with a sense of purpose. So, we have to do better. Or at least do some things and stick to them.
I’d like to focus on just two areas that will be instrumental in building the society we envisage: technology and public procurement.
First, let’s imagine, a digitally enabled Trinidad & Tobago.
How much easier would your life become?
AMCHAM T&T is working to make this vision a reality. Last year, AMCHAM T&T held the first ever Tech Hub Islands Summit (this) as part of our goal to build a tech hub right here in T&T. We are encouraged by the ways our partners are also embracing technology.
For example, the Ministry of Trade and Industry recently announced that, as part of their e-commerce strategy, the public will soon be able to pay online for government services.
We applaud this change both as business people and as citizens, looking forward to increased productivity.
But we need to remember that these are the first steps. Technology will need to permeate many more aspects of our lives before we can be a truly digitally enabled nation.
Secondly: public procurement. In order to have a society that is inclusive, safe and productive, we must also build a society that is fair and transparent. In such a society, opportunities would be available to everyone and not just to those who have the right connections. To this end, AMCHAM T&T has repeatedly called for the full proclamation and operationalization of the Public Procurement Legislation. This legislation is a powerful weapon in the fight against corruption and crime.
We were disappointed to learn of the government’s decision to proceed with proposed amendments that would limit the authority of the Procurement Regulator as it relates to Public Private Partnerships and government to government transactions. In order to build a truly fair and transparent society, we must have oversight over all institutions.
Therefore, AMCHAM T&T wholeheartedly supports our partners in the Private Sector/Civil Society Group (PSCSG) in calling for no amendments to section 7(2) of the Act. Even after attempts to justify the changes, we remain resolute that amendments to this section of the act will put the country in a disadvantageous position and leave much room for corruption.
Further, we believe that there should be no more delay in proclaiming the sections of the Act which do not require proclamation of regulations. We can all agree that we need a fair and transparent society – let’s put that vision into action. Let’s start building the society we want today.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a useful vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see. So, let’s get on with it!
Thanks for your time and attention.
Standing here, on the cusp of a new decade, I hope that AMCHAM T&T can be more than just a beacon of hope. I hope that we can contribute to inspiring the nation’s vision. I hope that, through our actions, we can show who we are as a people and what we stand for. We look forward to working with our partners and our members to build the future we all want to see.
(AMCHAM T&T's Economic Outlook Forum 2020 - (l-r) Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO, Gregory Nicholas Hill, Managing Director, ANSA Merchant Bank Ltd., Justin Ram, Director of Economics, Caribbean Development Bank, Wade George, Executive Chairman, Ernst & Young, Patricia Ghany, AMCHAM T&T President, Joel 'Monty' Pemberton, Founder and Managing Director, DeNovo Energy Limited, Greer Quan, Chief Executive Officer Caribbean, Pan-American Life Insurance Group, and Zach Nadur, Partner, Ernst & Young.)
Speech by AMCHAM T&T CEO
Mr. Nirad Tewarie
AMCHAM T&T’s Water Pollution Rules
(Tuesday, 28th January 2020)
AMCHAM T&T is regarded as the number one Business Service Organization in Trinidad and Tobago. We are the first stop for foreign investors seeking information and alliances, a value-added partner for domestic companies, and a powerful private sector lobby with the Trinidad and U.S. Government. Our strong mix of formidable local and international member companies, strong networking links, close association with the U.S. Embassy, alliances with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA); all ensure rapid access to what you need to compete effectively both locally and in overseas markets. We can therefore secure for members strategic information on doing business in a particular country; as well as set up introductions to the right business organizations or companies in the U.S. and throughout the Western Hemisphere.
This morning's seminar is one of the many ways we provide value to our membership and businesses in Trinidad and Tobago - bringing issues that affect us to the forefront and facilitating discussion. This Breakfast Seminar is focused on Water Pollution Rules. We are here today because we all agree that the Water Pollution Rules (2019) and the Water Pollution Regulations that came into effect in November 2019 will affect our operations in one way or another.
AMCHAM T&T is in full support of any legislation that would ensure good, clean water and the Polluter Pays Principle. We agree that our environment, and in particular our water resources must be preserved and valued. This is why we endorse the notion that those who pollute should bear the cost of remediation and more so, that businesses of any kind and of any service do no harm to the environment. In addition, we believe that a sustainable economy requires us to value wastewater and find ways to maximize its potential.
We must acknowledge that while our outputs may be a small amount from a point source, it can still affect miles of waterways which eventually lead to marine and water-dependent ecosystems such as rivers, mangroves, wetlands, and even the sea. We must, therefore, take responsibility for our actions. Not only paying for our pollution but by making every effort to reduce the number of contaminants we release into our country's waterways. This is a necessary step in creating positive change that will benefit Trinidad and Tobago and the environment for many years to come.
In April 2019, AMCHAM T&T, through its HSE committee, hosted a stakeholder consultation where a number of questions and concerns about the proposed Water Pollution Rules were raised. We were fortunate to have the Environmental Management Authority partner with us at this consultation, making it an interactive session, addressing some of those issues as they arose.
Following this consultation, we wrote the EMA highlighting some of the issues and concerns and recommended changes to the legislation. We are pleased to see, in the final version of the rules, that some of the highlighted issues were considered and appropriate changes were made, including:
· Adjustment of the annual fee equation; and
· Removal of the number of employees from the fee structure for the Monitoring and Inspection Fee
Many of you who were present at the consultation, are here again today - cognizant of the fact that these Water Pollution Rules will impact the operation of our business and that we, therefore, need to be clear on the major changes; what these changes mean for our organizations and how we can be compliant.
AMCHAM T&T maintains its call for the Water Pollution Rules to effectively deal with all who would pollute our waterways. All companies and sectors that pollute should pay to remediate and more importantly be held accountable as a disincentive to damaging the environment. We must also be cognizant and deal with non-point sources of discharge which also contributes to the overall lowering of water quality, so that companies that are seeking to be compliant are not made to solely, even unfairly bear the brunt of penalties.
We are fortunate again, to partner with the Environmental Management Agency to clear up some of our issues and answer our questions and erase any misconceptions that we may have about this legislation. It is our hope that when we leave here today, we are clear on how we are expected to comply with or even benefit from this legislation.
We are also grateful to our HSE Committee, who is very active and keeps their fingers on the pulse of safety, security and the environmental issues that affect us. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Secretariat, in particular, Melissa Pierre and Rey-Anne Mendez for all their hard work in not only making this event possible but in creating the positions to lead to better, more effective advocacy from AMCHAM T&T. Thanks to our sponsor the National Energy Corporation who like us saw the importance of creating a forum where the EMA could educate stakeholders on the changes to the Water Pollution Rules and interact with us and address some of the lingering issues.
Thank you and we do hope that this proves to be informative and beneficial.
(At AMCHAM T&T's Water Pollution Rules Breakfast Seminar (l-r) Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, AMCHAM T&T, Varsha Ramharrack, Chair of AMCHAM T&T's Environmental Sub-Committee, Wayne Rajkumar, Manager Technical Services, Environmental Management Authority, Cindi Nandlal, Chair of AMCHAM T&T's H.S.E. Committee, Camilla Arjoonsingh, Manager H.S.S.E. National Energy Corporation, Hayden Romano, Managing Director, Environmental Management Authority and Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T, CEO.)
AMCHAM T&T’s 11th Annual
National Youth Productivity Forum 2020
(Wednesday, 22nd January 2020)
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome each of you here today at our 11th Annual National Youth Productivity Forum - otherwise known as NYPF. Every year I look forward to this event for the message it conveys and the hope it inspires particularly for the future of our nation’s youth.
So often we are bombarded with negative headlines as it relates to our young people. Whether we are speaking of crime, violence at schools or lack of opportunities to fulfill the dreams of the next generation - today our nation’s young people are more at risk than any other generation.
But what has been most reassuring is the courage and strength displayed by our young people in the face of adversity. Rather than be bogged down by the swarm of obstacles that lay ahead, today we are witnessing a generation that is more “woke” and action-oriented than ever before as they fight for change to cultivate the roadmap to their own futures. We witness this every day with the voices of young people leading the charge on hot-button issues such as climate change, criminal justice reform, and other human rights violations.
At AMCHAM T&T, we do our very best to provide a platform that speaks to a business climate shaped by greater accountability, transparency, and good governance. Even as we work assiduously towards creating the ease of doing business in T&T so that we can attract more free trade and investment, we are very well aware of the ripple effect this can have for our future generations. We know that to create a good business climate, our vision must be directed towards the levels of impact this is going to have on the future - particularly our children’s future, and their children’s future.
Today’s generation has shown that they are not willing to be silent partners in the decision-making policies that they will inherit from their leaders. Instead, what we see as most promising is the level of engagement and participation from a generation that is more socially conscious and aspirational towards ensuring change happens in their lifetime, instead of waiting for tomorrow.
This is why our National Youth Productivity Forum remains one of our marquee events on the AMCHAM calendar. It is the standard-bearer we hold for direct engagement with our nation’s youths on issues that they will confront as they transitioned out of the classrooms and into the corporate boardrooms of the world.
Our tracer study on past cohorts substantiated the many benefits the NYPF has had on past participants. The findings of this survey revealed that 97% of respondents stated that the critical thinking component of the program aided their studies after they participated in the program. Respondents also spoke favourably of the analytical, listening and communication skills they developed from having to work in a team and being exposed to new areas of knowledge.
Due to the impact that the NYPF had on the past participants, 100% of the past participants strongly recommended that the program should continue since they experienced significant benefits. Because of this, the students believe that other young persons should be afforded the same opportunity to develop their skills which are derived from being a participant in the NYPF.
This year we have chosen the theme: “An aging population and pension security...toward a more productive Trinidad and Tobago” For some of you, the thought of ageing and securing a pension for retirement may be the last thing on your mind at your age. But I don’t want you to dismiss this topic. We chose this theme because we believe this is an issue that should be addressed at your age. And since your generation has been at the forefront of so many pressing issues challenging our world, we hope to learn something from you by making you an active participant on this issue.
The United Nations defines a country as “ageing” when 10% or more of its population is over the age of 60 years. And the 2019 UN Report on Population Ageing, showed that Latin America and the Caribbean was among the fastest regions in the world where Population ageing was reported (from 5 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2019).
You may ask why is this important? When we are facing the reality of an ageing population, we need to pay attention to the impacts this will have on our society and more importantly, how we can prepare for it. This is why we speak of pension security. The number of persons over the age of 60 is projected to almost double over the next 50 years from 215,855 in 2016 to 408,806 by 2066. Meanwhile, the working age population (15-59 age group, who contribute to the system) will decline by almost 25 percent over the same period. The ratio of pensioners to contributors will thus decrease from 4 to 1.6. This demographic trend will negatively impact the sustainability of the NIS, as expenditure on the retirement benefit is projected to increase substantially, while the number of persons in the contributory base is set to decline (NiB’s 10th Actuarial Review).
With an ageing population that is only expected to increase we need to ask ourselves how will this impact on eradicating poverty, ensuring healthy lives and well-being at all ages, promoting gender equality, ensuring full and productive employment and decent work for all, reducing inequalities between and within countries, and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. As you know, these are all parts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which maps the policy directives of every nation. What I am saying is that we can’t just celebrate the success and not prepare for the impacts.
Therefore, we are asking our young people to think critically about issues related to an ageing society and why pension security is important. How are we to access the living conditions and living arrangements of older persons? How are we to address their continued productivity and other contributions to society? How are we to protect their human rights as it relates to social protection and access to health care? How is this going to impact on the state and private sector now that our population is ageing?
These are the questions we want you - our future leaders - to start to think about and to develop concrete solutions for, as we continue along our pathway towards sustainable development.
I know this may seem challenging, but I am confident that each of you possesses the required skill set and knowledge to more than deliver. I am anxiously looking forward to the robust debates that will emerge from this theme and to the entrepreneurial plans that you will develop.
Before I leave, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and pay my gratitude to our patron of this worthy and prestigious forum. All of us at AMCHAM T&T remains humbled and eternally grateful to the Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago and especially to Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes and her predecessor before her, President Carmona. Prior to that, it was former U.S. Ambassador to T&T Mrs. Beatrice Welters. Without their support, the National Youth Productivity Forum would not be the informative and educational platform it has become not only for our students but for our nation.
I should point out that some of the winners of the President’s medals have also been past winners of the NYPF - not to add any further pressure on you, my fellow students. Also, let me remind each of you that AMCHAM T&T also seeks to attain internships for the participating students during the July/ August vacation period, through our member companies. Therefore, we are providing enough incentives to you to fully support and participate in this year’s program. We hope you jump at this opportunity to claim the many rewards it will bring to you.
Finally, I would like to thank our sponsors for this year’s NYPF. Our title sponsor First Citizens Bank has continued to show their support for this youth initiative and for that, we are truly grateful. We have also partnered with Massy Technologies InfoCom (Trinidad) Limited and the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago.
A heartfelt thank you to all the participating schools, principals, teachers and especially to the students who will be leading the conversation this year. I want to leave you with a quote by Nelson Mandela who once said:
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
I hope each of you takes the opportunities life blesses you with and go out into the world and do good! You have the power to change and create the future you desire. Utilize this, not just for your personal benefit, but for the collective i.e. your families, your communities and your nation.
Thank you and I wish you good luck!
AMCHAM T&T Signs ARISE MoU with UNDRR
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) signed an agreement with The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to support the Private Sector Alliance for Resilient Societies (ARISE) project initiative.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today by Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR at the 23rd Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition hosted by AMCHAM T&T at the Hyatt, Regency.
ARISE is a private sector initiative, which in conjunction with the UNDRR, works towards a resilient, prosperous future where fewer lives are lost to disasters; capital assets and investments are risk-informed; and infrastructure is resilient to natural and man-made hazards.
Citing the damage and destruction caused by recent natural disasters and inclement weather patterns to affect Trinidad and Tobago, Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T said in her opening remarks, “Our nation needs a comprehensive disaster resiliency plan that integrates climate change considerations into priority sectors to allow for the appropriate interventions.”
“While the greatest facet of our humanity often emerges in these perilous times it goes without saying that the relief from natural disasters should not be left solely to the charitable acts from private citizens and companies,” Ghany said.
Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR said “With AMCHAM T&T as the national network for ARISE in T&T we are now able to develop new capacities towards accessing disaster risk management and to create action plans to implement tangible projects according to the Sendai Framework which is the connective tissue that can allow us to enhance resilience towards disaster and help us towards achieving the SDGs.”
The MoU is a joint venture between AMCHAM T&T, the UNDRR, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
By signing this document, the Parties will be responsible for the implementation of the National ARISE Network in Trinidad and Tobago which would perform the following activities:
AMCHAM T&T will provide the coordination mechanism link between the UNDRR Regional Office for the Americas and the global ARISE initiative and in coordination with the ODPM and CDEMA will facilitate the scaling up of initiatives and impacts at the regional level. The ODPM as coordinator of the national emergency management system in Trinidad and Tobago, of which AMCHAM T&T is a valued stakeholder, will encourage the continued strengthening of disaster risk management capacities in the local private sector.
Speech By President Of AMCHAM T&T
AMCHAM T&T’s 23rd Annual Health, Safety, Security And The Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition 2019
(Tuesday, 23rd October 2019)
Let me begin by thanking you for being here today at AMCHAM T&T’s 23rd Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition.
Today marks another milestone for all of us at AMCHAM T&T. For twenty-three years AMCHAM T&T has been leading the national discussion on issues related to Occupational Health, Safety and our Environment through our flagship HSSE conference.
When I reflect on the early days of this Conference, I remember the many challenges we face simply trying to raise awareness on these issues. Now twenty-three years later, we have seen this Conference grow in capacity, leadership and expertise. Today AMCHAM T&T’s
HSSE Conference remains the premiere HSSE conference in the Caribbean that brings together the largest gathering of HSSE professionals in one room to share knowledge and offer best practices and solutions on HSSE matters.
Over the years the leadership we have delivered through this conference has proven that HSSE policies don’t just make good business sense but also save lives. Now today we are once more raising the industry standards by seeking to “Advance the HSSE Transition”. What do we mean by this? It means we are evolving with the changing times with respect to how HSSE issues are being applied to our workplace culture. We are looking at the new and emerging trends and topics that would help us to further advance the HSSE transition that will be useful to your organisations. Over the next two days, we will lead in exciting and dynamic discussions on issues related to Mental Health, the Environment, Leadership Process Safety, Disaster Resiliency and Cyber Security.
For this, I would like to thank our title sponsor Atlantic who has once more partnered with us to deliver this quality-driven conference. We are honoured to have Dr. Philip Mshelbila who is the CEO of Atlantic to deliver the official sponsor remarks today. I also want to say thank you to all our partners and stakeholders who have joined us on this journey over the years. You don’t get to twenty-three years changing the way companies address safety processes in the workplace and protection for our environment if we didn’t have a committed and focus driven group of companies supporting this movement. AMCHAM T&T remains grateful to all the work each of your companies has been doing to make sure HSSE culture becomes the established norm of conducting business in Trinidad and Tobago.
This morning you will also hear from Senator the Honorable Robert Le Hunte, Minister in the Ministry of Public Affairs who is here with us to deliver the Feature Address of this Opening Ceremony. We are grateful for the support from the government who have listened to us over the years based on the leadership we have promoted on these issues. But there is so much more we all can do to promote HSSE best practice and leadership in the way we conduct business.
This brings me to recent statistics from the Occupational, Safety, Health Authority and Agency (OSHA) which showed that there was a 33% reduction in fatalities in 2017-2018 as compared to the 2016-2017 period. And whilst we applaud the move in the right direction for fatalities, we are concerned that there has been a 54% increase in non-critical accidents over the same period. We believe these numbers are too high, and as we all know, numbers alone, cannot paint the true picture of the impact of an accident on the life of the worker, their families or the reputation of the company.
AMCHAM T&T is also very concerned as it relates to the progress that Occupational Safety and Health Authority of Trinidad and Tobago has made over the years. When you look at equivalent OSHA bodies in other countries – they balance the legal side of compliance, with the voluntary and proactive support and recognition for businesses that want to embed and sustain a safe and healthy workplace. The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) in the US, Approved Codes of Practice and Support in the UK, and OSH Safety Plus Program in New Zealand are some examples.
The OSHA Act was passed in 2004 and amended in 2006. It is based largely on the UK’s Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 - This legislation is 13 years out dated! There are still no regulations to support the Act and guide employers on interpretation of the act. 13 years later – it seems we have become stagnated.
How many things have changed since 2006? We all conduct business differently, our processes have changed, our job designs have changed, and so to should our legislation. OSH legislation around the world is also changing and is seeking to take human factors into consideration.
OSHA TT should be an important vehicle to support those businesses and business owners who want to protect their workers and also to prosecute those that do not care about employee health and safety.
AMCHAM T&T is calling on Government to pay attention to this very important regulatory organisation - safeguarding the lives of those working in Trinidad and Tobago is of utmost importance.
We have long said that HSSE policies doesn’t just make good business sense but good H.S.S.E practices and policies are saving lives. But if HSSE practices and policies aren’t rooted in the leadership culture set by management, and in particular at the C-suite level, then a company’s HSSE policy is just words on paper. Gone are the days when HSSE compliance should be left solely to the HSE manager. Companies need to stay ahead of the curve, not just to beat their competition but more importantly to protect their employees. Senior management and the C-suite should take it upon themselves to:
These are the reasons why we are Advancing the HSSE Transition and opening the conversation to CEOs and H/R Managers to take leadership on HSSE issues.
Moving on to Disaster Resiliency.
Our citizens have both witnessed and fallen victim to recent natural disasters. One year ago, some 2000 households were affected by massive flooding and landslides throughout the country after five days of torrential rainfall. And just one month ago, T&T under the influence of the outer bands of Tropical Storm Karen recorded almost an entire month’s worth of rain during a twenty-four-hour period which resulted in flash flooding and the elevation of the Riverine flooding alert level to RED once again. And it’s been a little over a month since residents of Piparo have been bracing for the eruption of the mud volcano after recent heighten volcanic activity.
Not only are we seeing the effects of climate change around the world, but the question that’s now being asked is: where is the disaster management resiliency plan and is it working?
While the greatest facet of our humanity often emerges in these perilous times it goes without saying that the relief from natural disasters should not be left to the charitable acts from private citizens and companies. Our nation needs a comprehensive disaster resiliency plan that integrates climate change considerations into priority sectors to allow for the appropriate interventions.
This is why today I am proud to announce AMCHAM T&T’s support for the Private Sector Alliance Resilient Societies (ARISE) project initiative. Today, we will be officially signing the MoU with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). This initiative will bring together an alliance between the private sector, the public sector and other stakeholders who are committed to raising awareness and share knowledge in order to coordinate an efficient disaster risk reduction proposal for Trinidad and Tobago.
AMCHAM T&T is proud to establish the coordination network between the UNDRR Regional Office of the Americas and the global ARISE initiative to fully develop the local ARISE chapter.
I move now to the impact of climate control on our future generations. Earlier I spoke about leadership from senior management and the C-suite, but I believe if we want to seek out leadership then we need to look no further than to the leaders of tomorrow. Our young people have proven to be innovative, highly skilled and now socially conscious. The problems we have created, and they will sadly inherit, are now at the forefront of their consciousness and they are rising to the challenge.
We saw this most recently when sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg confronted the leaders of the world at the UN Climate Summit in September 2019 on the issue of climate change. Her rousing speech captivated the world’s attention.
It is young people like Greta who continue to inspire us here at AMCHAM T&T. Twenty-three years of promoting HSSE policies and practices are born out of the urgency and need for swift action youths like Greta demands for the future they deserve. As business leaders, we ought to listen to what our younger generation is teaching us. Give them a voice and let’s follow their lead.
AMCHAM T&T applauds the government’s recent policy to ban Styrofoam and reduce the cost of energy saving bulbs but we all have our part to play as well. Companies can do more to reduce their energy consumption, minimise waste, use raw materials more efficiently and prevent pollution. The survival of our planet and the future we leave for our young people hinges on the changes we adopt today to protect our environment.
AMCHAM T&T believes that the current state of HSSE issues are continually evolving which is why this Conference remains so critical to the way we conduct business. Therefore, we will continue to invite the greatest minds to offer cutting edge ideas and concepts as well as add innovative solutions to our annual HSSE conference. We believe we have already accomplished that this year just by looking at the ambitious agenda we have set forth. For this, I want to thank our HSE and Security Committees for all the hard work, knowledge and expertise they have brought to this Conference. Moving forward, we need to remember that a healthy marriage between HSE and Security is what will create the right HSSE governance framework and leadership we hope to see in all companies across all industries.
We also hope to share this information with our neighbours so they too can start the process of ensuring HSSE culture is rooted in the way they do business. We were grateful for the collaboration we had with our sister AMCHAM in Guyana when earlier this year they hosted their inaugural HSSE conference. We look forward to strengthening this regional integration with our neighbours especially towards securing HSSE excellence.
Before I close, I want to take this opportunity to thank our title sponsor, Atlantic for once more partnering with us on this initiative. Thank you to our Platinum Sponsors: the NGC Group of Companies, BP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Shell, BHP Billiton, The TCL Group and Pro Man. Our Gold Sponsor Nu-Iron, our Silver Sponsors Citi and Yara and our Airline Sponsor United Airlines. I am grateful to our HSE Committee lead by Chairman Ms. Cindi Nandlal and assisted by her co-vice chair Travis Gayah for all their hard work. Thank you to the CEO and Board of Directors of AMCHAM T&T for spearheading this movement of HSSE awareness and thanks to the secretariat for their work they do behind the scenes in coordinating this conference. And thank you to all our guests here with us today. Thank you for sharing with us this commitment towards promoting HSSE awareness in the way we conduct business.
Finally, to all our exhibitors who have taken the time to share their products, services, and expertise, we thank you for being a part of this year’s exhibition and I encourage each of you here to visit their booths.
Let me begin by thanking you for coming to AMCHAM T&T’s Annual Post Budget Forum.
As we have done in the past, we use this forum to invite and ignite stimulating conversation to add to the ongoing debate that will emerge from the National Budget presented in the Parliament by the Honourable Minister of Finance. Over the years, AMCHAM T&T has invited experts to present ideas on how we can help drive real change and stimulate economic growth.
After all, we believe a dynamic, private sector economy is the best measure and creator of socio-economic development.
My colleagues and I just came back from an exciting week in Washington DC last week. There we met with senior officials of the National Security Council, the State Department, the Senate, the Congress and other arms of the US Government. That country, our largest trading partner, is set for a massive strategy to promote investment in the Western Hemisphere. Unlike other countries, their strategy will rest on their private sector being able to find opportunities and then accessing some support from government institutions as opposed to the government cutting deals directly.
To make this reality, for example, their Overseas Private Investment Corporation is being re-formed and renamed. Oh, and re-capitalized from 30B USD to 60B USD. Why am I raising this in the context of our national budget? Well, to not be left behind, we must do more to become investor friendly and improve our ease of doing business. We also must have an underlying strategy and the will to make it a reality. So doing away with paper immigration forms is a great start but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We need structural reforms. We need them now. We need them urgently.
I doubt that any of you would disagree that our economy is now in as challenging a place as it has ever been except, maybe, the period of the 80s. I say maybe because high crime, low productivity and political one-upsmanship are bigger problems today than they were then.
It is true that stabilizing the ship of state always would have been a difficult task. Let’s be straightforward, it was not prudent to increase borrowing from 41.7B in 2008 to 84.1B in 2015 during a period of increased revenue. Just as that was not prudent, it is not prudent now to expand the budget by some $3B while revenue remains depressed.
That’s really where I want to start. At the point of strategy and philosophy. The theory that government spending will lift the economy is not supported by the facts. Indeed, the opposite may be true. Continuing to fund non productive sectors of the economy and inefficiencies in various parts of the value chain, only make it harder for productive activities to flourish. I know that may seem like a whole bunch of economic jargon but simply put, by spending money on things that don’t generate revenue and by funding systems that are inefficient, it is harder for income generating activities and initiatives to bear fruit.
So remain concerned about the rising debt and, with some $5B of last year’s revenue coming from one-off sources, we encourage restraint on spending this year unless the revenue assumptions are realized. After all, that’s how we run our businesses, isn’t it? At least those of us who survive the downturns.
To realize the revenue that has been projected, the revenue authority will have to be established and operationalized in an effective manner. In the first instance, we at AMCHAM T&T call on the government and opposition to meaningfully engage on the legislative framework to make this happen and to get it done in a manner that, as far as is possible, insulates the new institution from political interference and protects our rights to privacy. This is not an issue over which either party should be seeking to score cheap political points. We urgently need reform of our tax collection agency.
Secondly, the full and speedy implementation of the procurement legislation with, as the Minister of Finance said, regulations covering the disposal of government land and G2G contracts along with an e-registry of public contracts, will go a long way to fighting corruption and improving the value derived from government spending.
We hope that the announcement about improved efficiency of the justice system – both criminal and civil – will result in action that speeds up the administration of justice. Economic growth requires a fair society for all and both our criminal and civil courts are, in many cases, effectively denying justice by virtue of delaying justice.
We welcome what we see as the government’s commitment to advance the digital transformation of the public sector. Not to boast, but I do feel obliged to remind you that this topic has been one of our cornerstone issues for which AMCHAM T&T has been leading the national debate.
Just this year we hosted our nation’s first ever Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) conference. Our goal with hosting this conference was meant to bolster our market share, support our clients, and build strategic alliances and partnerships. More than this, what we really wanted to show, is that the Tech industry remains a major untapped pillar for a diversified economy especially as we seek to move our nation towards a non-energy base.
We have long said that greater investment in the tech industry can attract both local and foreign investment and increase competitiveness. Government’s efforts towards digital transformation of the public sector, in particular the linking of the birth certificate personal identification number to the death registry with the objective of simplifying pension payments is a small and significant step towards ensuring the ease of doing business. However, we must go further and expand this to a unique national identifier and legal digital identity.
Moreover, a commitment to a national open data policy and making government data available online, across a single, manipulatable platform would be a huge step forward and requires relatively little, if any, expenditure. What about blockchain and crypto-currencies. Where are we with policies around the latter and how are we supporting moves to speed up the adoption of the former?
We welcome the Styrofoam ban and encourage it to be an across the board ban and not just on imported Styrofoam. The move toward energy efficiency in government building as well as reduction of single use plastics there is very much welcomed. While people joke about moving from incandescent to LED lightbulbs, if this is implemented properly, it can be a major step toward energy efficiency, which both reduces environmental impact and frees up gas from T&TEC to be used in other, revenue generating industries.
However, we need to complete the beverage container bill, feed-in tariff legislation to allow individuals to generate renewable power and sell back to the grid and the legislation that would allow energy audits and certification for the implementation of tax relief for green buildings. We look forward to fair and properly enforced water pollution rules in the coming year.
Through twenty-two years of delivering advice and leadership with our annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition, AMCHAM T&T has a long history advocating on issues relating to human health, safety and the environment. Therefore, any policy that places environmental concerns over short-term profits is a policy worth championing. We understand that citizens may not see the immediate benefits of these measures, but we do believe a nation that seeks to adopt policies that will protect our future generations is poised for continued growth and success.
On the issue of VAT refunds, we welcome the government’s acknowledgement that these must be settled. We also appreciate the Minister is seeking creative ways to do so without affecting the Government’s cash flow. We await the details of the proposed bonds as we are unsure if they will assist businesses who need their cash for operations and because the amount he proposed is less than the total amount of refunds owed. Such a solution also does not address interest on the refunds.
Having said all of that, we at AMCHAM T&T believe that T&T is still a good, if challenging place to do business. We believe that we have some advantages, starting with our people, our level of business sophistication and our location, that will never go away. However, we need to deal with our realities and implement sometimes difficult but necessary cross cutting reforms. With an aging population and underfunded pension systems, we absolutely need to act now. We need that migration policy that I always speak about.
We raise these issues because we care. Because we are emotionally and financially invested here and want to deepen that even further. We look forward to the rest of the discussion today and to working with all of you and the various arms of the government as we seek to make T&T an even better place to do business and to live!
Thank you for your attention.
AMCHAM T&T has sponsored 350 pap smears to the USNS Comfort mission to Trinidad and Tobago. Also responding to our call for donations were our members at the International Game Technology PLC (IGT) who donated 1000 school kits, Yara Trinidad Ltd who contributed 200 first aid kits, bottled water and snacks, and Esau Oilfield Supplies Company Limited who provided logistical assistance with the storage and delivery of these items.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship anchored off the La Brea port in Trinidad on August 30th for an eleven-day visit to provide free medical services to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The hospital ship, which last came to Trinidad in 2007, set up free clinics at locations in Rio Claro, Cedros, Point Fortin, La Brea and Debe where members of the public were given access to medical services ranging from general medicine, paediatrics, dental, optometry, physical therapy, dermatology, chronic disease testing, Women’s Health (including Pap smears), HIV testing, and various vaccinations.
The arrival of the ship was coordinated through the efforts of the U.S. Embassy and is part of the commitment made by the U.S. to increase partner capacity and regional collaboration for medical assistance and disaster relief which remains a continued high priority for the region.
AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie applauds this initiative by the U.S. Embassy saying: “An initiative like this will definitely provide much-needed medical assistance and health care for so many of our most vulnerable citizens where access to health care remains out of reach and out of their pockets. The surgeries and procedures being performed by the staff of the USNS Comfort might be considered lifesaving measures for the people who will be receiving this medical assistance. AMCHAM T&T is delighted to have contributed to this worthy cause.”
The visit of the USNS Comfort is part of the ship’s deployment to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean for a five-month medical assistance mission, as a result of the humanitarian crisis created by the ongoing political and economic instability in Venezuela. The ship anchored off the southern part of Trinidad where there is an additional burden on health facilities as the highest concentration of migrants displaced by the crisis in Venezuela is in the south.
AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our partners at YARA Trinidad Ltd and IGT for their contributions of First Aid kits, bottled water and School kits to this worthy cause, Esau Oilfield Supplies Company Limited for rendering assistance with the collection, storage, and delivery of these items and eZone for assisting with transportation.
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