AMCHAM T&T HOLDS DISCUSSIONS WITH U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE AMERICAS
A high-level discussion between United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Dale Eppler and CEO of AMCHAM T&T Nirad Tewarie took place at the Outlook For the Americas Forum hosted by the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA), in February 2019.
One of the main issues discussed at the meeting was the recent passage of the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act in October 2018 in the United States through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC).
This discussion comes after AMCHAM T&T wrote to Trinidad &Tobago’s Ambassador to the Washington Brig Gen (Ret ’d) Anthony Phillips-Spencer requesting T&T lobby to have this country included as an eligible recipient of support under the BUILD ACT and through the USIDFC. According to the Act:
Sec. 101. Statement of Policy: It is the policy of the United States to facilitate market-based private sector development and economic growth in less developed countries through the provision of credit, capital, and other financial support.
Sec. 102. United States International Development Finance Corporation.102 (b) PURPOSE.—The purpose of the Corporation shall be to mobilize and facilitate the participation of private sector capital and skills in the economic development of less developed countries, as described in subsection (c), and countries in transition from nonmarket to market economies, in order to complement the development assistance objectives, and advance the foreign policy interests, of the United States. In carrying out its purpose, the Corporation, utilizing broad criteria, shall take into account in its financing operations the economic and financial soundness and development objectives of projects for which it provides support under title II.
AMCHAM T&T believes that there is need to advocate for T&T’s inclusion in the Act; although T&T is not eligible because it is classified as a high-income country, the socio-economic realities and the levels of private sector development in T&T do not support this categorization. Our exclusion will deny this
country access to capital that can assist in our development. Furthermore, no access can place T&T at an economic disadvantage to other countries who will receive support.
While there is much work still to be done on this, State Department officials indicated that they are aware of the issue and are willing to continue discussions on the matter.
The Outlook For the Americas Forum is an annual event where CEO’s and Board members of AmChams in the Western Hemisphere come together to discuss pressing business and economic issues affecting countries in the Americas. AMCHAM T&T continues to show its reach and impact across the region.
MEDIA RELEASE 10.02.19
AMCHAM T&T SUPPORTS DPP IN REMOVAL OF ACIB FROM ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) joins the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in his call for the removal of responsibility of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) from the office of the Attorney General to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).
The proper functioning of the ACIB is critical in combatting the scourge of white-collar crime and ensuring that Trinidad & Tobago is a jurisdiction in which the rule of law prevails. To achieve this, corruption among public officials and politically-connected rogue elements of the private sector must be rooted out.
We believe that having the ACIB under a political office does not lend to best practices in the thorough investigation and prosecution of corrupt persons. Regardless of the administration, this situation may allow for political interference and compromise of sensitive investigations.
We therefore call on the authorities to review the current policies and procedures related to the ACIB and take the necessary actions to physically and operationally integrate the Bureau into the TTPS.
Moreover, AMCHAM T&T remains unapologetic in our stance against white-collar crime as we believe that its economic and societal impacts can be far costlier than may be perceived. This is evident by Trinidad & Tobago’s less than admirable ranking on the Corruption Perception Index, where the report cites “issues such as bribery, government’s inability to treat with corruption and the unwillingness to report on corruption by citizens” are some of the reasons why we continue to see no improvement in this ranking. Additionally, Trinidad & Tobago’s inclusion in 2017 Global Business Rule of Law and Business Dashboard report showed that Trinidad and Tobago ranked 43rd out of 72 countries across the world
This report measures categories relating to procurement, business regulations and licenses, and judicial impartiality, among many others.
According to AMCHAM T&T President Patricia Ghany, “T&T’s performance in both rankings can be used as tools to measure the country’s attractiveness for investment. AMCHAM T&T is concerned that when we do not take the necessary steps to improve, Trinidad and Tobago may be seen as a less attractive place to do business. In a time when neighboring countries are taking huge steps to improve their attractiveness to investors and creating a more facilitative business environment, we should ensure that we are doing the same. Taking decisive action towards moving the ACIB will show that Trinidad & Tobago is serious about tackling corruption in all aspects of society, thereby inspiring greater confidence that T&T is open for business and that the Government, regardless of party in power, will act fairly and impartially.”
US AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH AMCHAM T&T BOARD
United States Ambassador Joseph Mondello met with members of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T), on Thursday 5th February 2019, where the Board presented some of their members’ issues to the U.S. Ambassador.
While the executives of the Board have had several interactions with Ambassador Mondello - including his first public appearance at AMCHAM T&T’s Health, Safety, Security and Environment Conference in 2018 - this is the first time Ambassador Mondello visited the chamber’s building.
“I think this is a positive step, and what we believe will become a regular occurrence as we continue to strengthen our relationship with the U.S. Embassy,” said AMCHAM T&T President Patricia Ghany.
Some of the issues discussed at the meeting include: the current business climate in Trinidad & Tobago, ways Trinidad and Tobago can attract and keep foreign investors, opportunities available for local companies to do business with the United States and the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
“Increasing bilateral trade and investment is one of my top priorities as Ambassador. I look forward to continuing our excellent partnership with AMCHAM to make this goal a reality,” said Ambassador Mondello.
AMCHAM T&T Board members present at the meeting were:
Patricia Ghany, President AMCHAM T&T and Chief Financial Officer – Esau Oilfield Supplies Limited; Simon Aqui, Business Development - IBM; Gayle Pazos, Vice President & Chief Risk Officer - Scotiabank; Mitchell De Sliva, Citi Country Officer and Managing Director Citibank Trinidad & Tobago; Dominic Rampersad, President - Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited; Glenn Hamel- Smith, Partner, Head - Banking & Finance - M. Hamel-Smith & Co.; Sana Ragbir, General Manager - First Citizens Investment Services Ltd; and Erojus Joseph, District Manager - GE Oil & Gas
AMCHAM T&T LOOKS FORWARD TO GLOBAL FORUM COMPLIANCE
AMCHAM T&T is concerned about Trinidad and Tobago’s continued non-compliance with Global Forum requirements and is urging both Government and Opposition to address the outstanding legislative requirements in the shortest possible time. We call on the Government and Opposition to conclude deliberations on the Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters Bill, 2018 and the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill, 2018 which are currently at a Joint Select Committee (JSC), and bring the required legislation to Parliament urgently. The Bills were introduced in Parliament in May 2018 and have been before a JSC since. Moreover, since the November 2018 deadline for passing the legislation, there has only been one meeting of the JSC on public record. AMCHAM T&T believes that the Government should move with alacrity to convene JSC meetings in order to bring the legislation to Parliament and pass these critical pieces of legislation. The Government should also update the country on the remaining steps to achieve compliance and the deadlines to meet these compliance requirements and we urge the Opposition to clearly identify their concerns so that both parties can work in a collaborative manner to pass the legislation.
We believe that information from external entities such as the Global Forum and the EU regarding the required steps, timeline and consequences for failing to meet deadlines should be clearly articulated and the relevant supporting documentation be made public.
AMCHAM T&T is deeply disappointed by the continued delays, posturing and political wrangling that is contributing to the lack of passage of the critical legislation that will contribute to compliance.
In addition to the non-compliant rating under the OECD tax transparency standards, the Council of the European Union, another body responsible for setting tax governance standards, included Trinidad and Tobago in its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. Further non-compliance by the stipulated deadlines could pose major challenges for operations of financial institutions and in turn gravely affect our ability to do business with the rest of the world. To avoid the penalties of non-compliance, such as stricter reporting requirements and multinationals and loss of correspondent-banking relations, among other things, it is imperative that legislators on both sides of the House commit to passing the legislation forthwith.
We trust that our legislators will put politics aside to ensure that the interests of Trinidad and Tobago come first.
SAFER SCHOOLS FOR A MORE PRODUCTIVE TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Violence and indiscipline in schools in Trinidad & Tobago has been a perennial issue for government and school administrations. With an increase in the number and severity of violent incidence in schools many are struggling to come up with credible solutions to stem what has now become an epidemic.
With this in mind, the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) decided to focus its annual National Youth Productivity Forum (NYPF) on the impact of unsafe school environments on students and the long-term impact it may have on our economy and country. With the chosen theme for the 2019 Forum - "Safer Schools … Towards a More Productive T&T" – AMCHAM T&T launched the program with over 150 students attending the two-day training sessions on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th January 2019 at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.
AMCHAM T&T believes that discussing this topic is extremely important if our society intends to address bullying and take meaningful steps to end school violence. The forum allows students to discuss among their peers’ ways of improving the currently fearful environment they face in the classroom, and the negative impact it has on their concentration and academic performance.
The NYPF demonstrates to the students; inter-connectivity between the 4 major stakeholders in society - business, government, labour and civil society. This initiative highlights that the answers do not reside with any one group, but also that no one group is responsible for the problems of Trinidad and Tobago. The Forum goes further to compel students to think critically about solutions to national problems and to look at how these solutions can be implemented. AMCHAM T&T has taken this bold move because we believe that our future leaders, entrepreneurs, activists and employees must understand their critical role in propelling Trinidad and Tobago forward.
Schools taking part in the various rounds of the competition along with their perspectives are:
East Round: El Dorado East Secondary School – Business; North Gate College - Civil Society
North Round: St. Joseph Convent, Port of Spain - Civil Society; Woodbrook Secondary School – Labour; Queen's Royal College - Business and Belmont Secondary School - Government
Central Round: Presentation College, Chaguanas - Civil Society; Waterloo Secondary School – Business; A.S.J.A Boys' College, Charlieville - Government and Holy Faith Convent, Couva - Labour
South Round: Cowen Hamilton Secondary - Civil Society; ASJA Girls' College, San Fernando - Government and Palo Seco Secondary School - Business
Tobago Round: Goodwood Secondary School - Civil Society; Goodwood Scouts – Business; Speyside High School - Labour and Pentecostal Light & Life - Government
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.
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