AMCHAM T&T's Annual H.S.S.E Conference 2017
Remarks by Nigel Darlow, CEO Atlantic for Opening Ceremony
November 10, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to all and a particular good morning and welcome to the Honourable Minister, Paula Gopee Scoon. Paula of course knows Atlantic very well especially with her connections to our home base in Point Fortin. We thank her for her collaboration and support to Atlantic over the years and are delighted she could join us here this morning.
Atlantic is pleased once again to be the title sponsor for the 25th anniversary edition of the AMCHAM HSSE Conference.
Atlantic congratulates the Chamber on this significant milestone and we take this opportunity to applaud its many achievements stretching over a quarter of a century.
This event is very much established as the leading HSSE Conference in the Trinidad & Tobago calendar. It plays a very important role in promoting and reinforcing best practices in health, safety, security and the environment not only locally but also across the Caribbean Region.
Recognition of the caliber and importance of this conference is clearly evidenced by the many sponsors and attendees here today. So on behalf of the other sponsors of this event, we wish AMCHAM continued success in the future.
The theme for this year’s Conference is “People, Systems, Sustainability”. This very much resonates with Atlantic’s Core Values – what we call our SPiRIT values – of Safety, Performance, Integrity, Respect and Teamwork – and with People being the centre of everything that we do.
I am certain that 2017 has presented challenges to many businesses and Atlantic is no exception. This has been a year which has again seen very significant gas supply shortages to our plant – with rates down at around 70% utilization.
This has had a significant impact on the business – not only the considerable lost revenue opportunity, but the operational challenges of having to continually adjust to gas supply fluctuations. The plant is not on steady operation, making things more complicated and putting additional strain on the plant & equipment and the people operating and maintaining it. Consequently, this has had an adverse impact on our plant reliability, which is lower than normal.
This year Atlantic has also seen a drop in our safety performance. Atlantic has delivered very strong safety performance sustained over many years. Up until August this year we achieved over 37 million man hours – stretching back almost 10 years – without a Lost Time Injury. This achievement has been due to our determination to build and embed a strong Safety Culture, and implement best practices in Safety.
One of the biggest contributors to our safety performance is our commitment to Safety Leadership at all levels in the organisation. There is high visibility of the company’s leadership and management in Safety Walkdowns, Safety Audits and regular Safety forums. Atlantic continues to perform very well in HSSE during our major shutdowns where we have implemented many best practice initiatives such as our Safety Village with Contractors; our Management Safety Walk-downs every 12 hours; our Fatigue Risk Management Policy, and also our practice of regular Safety Stand-Downs. This all helps to ensure Safety is our number one priority.
On the process safety side Atlantic had not experienced a “greater consequence” process safety event for a long time. In addition Atlantic was ranked the leading company in Trinidad and Tobago for Process Safety & Asset Integrity Management in last year’s National Audit conducted by globally renowned experts DNV on behalf of the Government. In fact, DNV commented that Atlantic’s Process Safety Management was amongst the best they had seen globally. This together with our annual Process Safety Week (which promotes awareness of process safety risks) and our strong leading and lagging safety indicators suggested that Atlantic was in a good place with Safety.
However, in the last few months Atlantic has had two process safety events. Back in August we had a gas release on Train 3 due to a failure of a control valve. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the incident – but things could have turned out very differently. The train was shutdown for 11 days whilst repairs were undertaken and safety checks carried out. Then a month afterwards Atlantic had a fire on one of our nine power generation units. Again, nobody was injured but it did cause damage to the unit.
These two incidents were quite difficult for us to come to terms with. Atlantic had a strong track record and all safety indicators appeared very positive. Yet two incidents happened in quick succession. We have spent a lot of time investigating them and putting in place corrective actions to ensure there can be no repeat. Beyond the immediate investigation we have been standing back and asking ourselves some more fundamental questions about how we operate and maintain the plant – and are there changes we need to make?
So we are having a re-look at things including an external review with our Shareholders – to determine what changes are required. We need to ensure we reinforce and sustain all the good safety processes and systems that exist at Atlantic but also that we identify and correct weaknesses in those processes and systems. So the lesson is to always be wary – and have that “chronic unease” that something could go wrong at any time. Never get complacent.
As I said, 2017 has proven to be a challenging year – but it is also one where Atlantic has delivered some significant value to our stakeholders, and we have moved forward our HSSE agenda.
For instance, Atlantic delivered the Trinidad Region Onshore Compression Project, called TROC, which involved installing large new inlet compression facilities at Atlantic. The TROC project was executed on behalf of one of our shareholders, BP. Its delivery was exemplary – on schedule, below budget, but most importantly of all, with an outstanding safety performance. TROC became operational in April this year and provides an important source of increased gas supply.
Another of our initiatives in 2017 involved Atlantic partnering with a local asphalt production company, to recycle the molecular sieve used in our liquefaction process. The asphalt company thermally oxidizes the molsieves at high temperatures then uses it as a feeder for road paving. This is a significant environmental benefit, as it reduces the need for sand from local quarries. This ground-breaking initiative continues to provide cost savings to Atlantic, but more importantly helps to reduce the risk in handling, transporting and storing used molecular sieves. This project was the overall champion in our annual Atlantic CEO Awards.
I mentioned earlier the significant gas supply shortages impacting the country and in particular Atlantic. We expect the situation to become much improved in the short to medium term, when supply from Juniper increases its flows into the system and other sources come online.
Atlantic’s four train facility remains globally competitive. As I have often stressed, our trains were built at a fraction of the cost of new LNG facilities coming on stream – including those in the US and Australia. This gives Trinidad & Tobago a strong competitive advantage against many LNG sources and helps Atlantic to maintain its status as one of the lowest cost producers of LNG globally.
Additionally, Atlantic’s LNG volumes are sold under long-term contracts with significant destination flexibility. This allows Atlantic’s LNG volumes to continue to compete favourably in global markets against other LNG supply sources, even in the current global over - supply of LNG.
So, given the improving gas supply outlook and Atlantic’s sustained competitive position, the future for Atlantic is a very positive one. But it is extremely important that we continue to deliver a safe and a reliable operation.
This being an HSSE Conference, I want to take a moment to pay tribute to someone who had contributed significantly to the field of HSSE, by both his passion and expertise, and that is Atlantic’s late Vice President of HSSE, Henley Harewood, who sadly passed away suddenly in April this year. Many of you here today will have known Henley – larger than life and very passionate about what really mattered to him: making sure that we all return home safe to our families at the end of each day.
Henley took safety to a different level – he set the bar at new heights. He helped change the safety culture and leadership not just in Atlantic, but amongst our Service Providers and across Trinidad. What Henley delivered did not just make Atlantic a safer working environment but Trinidad and Tobago a safer working environment. Henley should be remembered as one of the great safety leaders. He was very good at what he did, and we all owe him much thanks.
In honour of this great man’s achievements, Atlantic in partnership with the University of the West Indies has established the annual Henley Harewood scholarship in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety. The first recipient was recently announced, and we look forward to more scholars engaging with this very important area of research.
Some of the challenges that we face in Trinidad and Tobago in the area of occupational and environmental health and safety will require innovative, cost-effective solutions. Whether it is the issue of aging infrastructure and its impact on asset integrity, or enhancing HSSE competence among the workforce, fresh perspectives are needed, as well as practicable, robust solutions that are sustainable in the global marketplace.
We look forward to robust discussion over these two days and to the sharing of best practices. We encourage everyone to continue to work together to make our companies and our country safer. The theme of this year’s Conference highlights how important it is for us to keep our focus on people. This focus should drive everything that we do. When we keep people and their communities safe, helping to meet their needs in ways that are mutually beneficial and also sustainable, then everybody benefits.
So again, on behalf of the sponsors, I thank AMCHAM for arranging this fantastic opportunity, and I know we will all benefit from the exchange of ideas and the strengthening of partnerships. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.
MORE FEMALE MENTORSHIP NEEDED
“Based on feedback from our annual Women’s Leadership Conference, we realized that more support for women was needed in terms of mentorship. AMCHAM T&T decided that instead of complaining about the problem, we would be part of the solution.” These were the words expressed by AMCHAM T&T’s CEO Nirad Tewarie as he addressed the successful mentees chosen for the Women’s Leadership Mentorship program.
Done in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), this pilot project, will enable AMCHAM T&T to make a greater impact on the local business environment.
“Studies have shown that having more women in the boardroom, and at senior executive positions within a company is good for business. This is a philosophy that AMCHAM T&T fully supports,” Mr. Tewarie added.
The mentees were paired with both female and male mentors from the IDB’s network of professionals in areas of Science and Technology, Information Technology and Economics. Mentee, Thrizyl Nandoo, Account Manager at TSTT raved with excitement at being chosen for the program. “I think this is an amazing opportunity for me to grow and develop in my field” she said. “I have no problem with being paired with a female or male mentor, in fact, I believe that it is necessary to engage men in the process as men make up most of the leadership positions, so we must enlist their help if we are to create any kind of meaningful change” she added.
The mentorship program will span four to six months, depending on the individual needs of each mentee. Carina Cockburn, Principal Operations Specialist IDB, emphasized that: "The IDB is 100% committed to gender equality and sees this Mentorship Program as a perfect opportunity to further demonstrate this commitment. We strongly believe that women and men are equally capable, and women are fully ready to take on more leadership positions, whether it’s in Government or in the boardroom. By empowering women to share in the responsibility of taking our countries forward, we enable them to be agents of change for the overall betterment of our society."
AMCHAM T&T hopes to expand this program in 2018.
The full list of mentees for the 2017 intake are:
AMCHAM T&T TO HOST NATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN HSE AWARDS
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T), is once again ready to host the only award ceremony focused on Occupational Health, Safety and the Environment. The 4th Annual National Excellence in HSE Awards will be held on Tuesday 14th November, 2017 at the Port-of-Spain Ballroom, Hyatt Regency.
The annual award ceremony which celebrates companies that exemplify HSE excellence integrated with business excellence, has become an integral part of AMCHAM T&T’s focus on championing for HSE excellence in the workplace. It is also a major highlight of the Annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition which is now in its 21st year.
The number of entrants competing has grown steadily throughout the years, which is a positive indication that companies are committed to implementing HSE best practices in their organisations. Companies that continue to focus on finding creative solutions to increase productivity, while mitigating risk in a period of economic decline should be applauded. Organizations are competing for awards according to the size of the entity (i.e. Small, Medium and Large) within the following Sectors: Energy; Manufacturing; Services to the Energy Sector and Services to the Non-Energy Sector
The main objective of this Awards Scheme is the promotion of the development and implementation of robust occupational health and safety and environmental management systems by companies, and to recognize related achievements. The Award lends distinction and prestige to its recipients who will be acknowledged not only as business leaders, but as recognizing the value of protecting employees and the environment.
Previous winners include: Halliburton, Stork Technical Services, WITCO, bpTT, Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited, General Electric, Massy InfoCom and Massy WoodGroup.
For more information on the HSE Awards, please contact Melissa Pierre Senior, Trade and Projects Officer at 622-4466
AMCHAM T&T’S RESPONSE TO THE 2017-2018 NATIONAL BUDGET
AMCHAM T&T listened with interest to the National Budget 2017/2018 presentation by the Honourable Minister of Finance. We expected this presentation to result in some difficult measures being announced. We appreciate therefore that the Government has some hard decisions to make and has limited options. We are concerned that the Minister focused too heavily on revenue increases through greater taxation of those who are already compliant, and filling the revenue gap through the one off sale of CL Financial assets. Overtaxing of the formal economy is going to have a dampening effect on reinvestment.
We feel the presentation fell short on explaining measures to expand tax collection into the informal and underground economies. In spite of a desire to bring the gaming industry into the tax net to a greater extent, simply increasing taxes while admitting that tax collection in the sector is weak, is unlikely to work.
Most worrying is the potential negative impact on investment of the additional taxes on the upstream energy sector, most significant of which will be the proposed Supplemental Petroleum Tax on gas. We hope that this will only be done after consultation with the industry. In addition, the apparent concentration of additional discretionary power in the Cabinet in terms of the small business grants and housing projects should be carefully considered as it is not in keeping with best practice regarding to transparency.
The commitment to transform the public service and take the hard decisions in this regard was welcomed but we have heard such promises in the past. We now await the specifics.
We do support the establishment of the Revenue Authority which would combine both the BIR and the Customs Department. The implementation of this requires deep and meaningful engagement with all stakeholders. We support the establishment of the semi-autonomous Board to oversee the establishment of this Authority and we urge the inclusion of the Customs functions in the TTBiz Link Platform.
We appreciate the re-commitment to the establishment of the Procurement Regulator and encourage the Government to keep to its commitment in this regard, the most important function of which would be to provide the necessary resources and funding.
We are pleased that the Minister made good on his commitment to adjust the margins for fuel peddlers and dealers and encourage regular reviews since this is a fixed price industry. The increased incentives to the Tourism sector can be useful to stimulate activity in this sector and we encourage even greater policy co-ordination and execution to achieve the stated policy results.
Incentives for the tourism sector seemed to be concentrated on room stock and, while important, other key stakeholders need to be considered in any incentive scheme: tour operators, car rental companies, entertainment etc. These actors are a key component of the tourism industry and we should examine how incentives can be provided to these entities as well.
We will expand on this statement at our Post Budget Analysis Event on Wednesday 4th October at the Trinidad Hilton at which Minister Allyson West will deliver the Feature Address and focus on tax-related matters including the establishment of the Revenue Authority.
“It is a very difficult time for us Trinbagonians, but whatever people can give we would appreciate it. We know that people help in different ways and so we encourage all to give how much they can afford in this relief effort,” Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T
For those wishing to donate can use the link below.
In celebration of AACCLA's 50th Anniversary, the 24 AmChams in Latin America and the Caribbean and all members of the US Chamber of Commerce participated in AACCLA DAY. Each AmCham did volunteer work in their respective countries. The idea behind the initiative is undertake projects that positively impact citizens at the local level, with spillover benefits to the region.
AMCHAM T&T decided to do a number of activities focused on positive youth engagement in T&T. We collaborated with the St. James Police Youth Club and the Russell Latapy Government High School.
The St. James Police Youth Club, like AMCHAM T&T is celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary in 2017.
The PYC’s motto: “Join a club and not a gang” is relevant now, more than even before.
As part of our outreach activities, AMCHAM T&T through its security Committee has adopted the PYC. The PYC supports preventive policing, exposing young people to productive activities in education, sports, culture, spirituality, community service, life skills and employment as alternatives to crime, juvenile delinquency and drugs.
The club also has a resident program for 8-10 young men, between the ages of 12-18 who reside on the premises. The PYC’s vacation camp is free of charge to children and runs from 17th July 2017 to August 31st. It facilitates almost 100 campers ranging in age from 3 years old to 21 years old
Our aim was to expose the children to activities (and possible career paths) that they would not traditionally consider given their background. To expose them to new opportunities and ways of thinking - while still involving the business community
Our areas of focus included
● Arts and Entertainment
● Science and Technology
● Energy sector
● Environmental sustainability
This initiative gave campers a sense of what goes on at the various companies.
The hope is that the activities are not only fun, but also insightful and educates participants on various environmental issues and economic sectors, perhaps presenting possible career choices to the PYC members
Russell Latapy Government High School
AMCHAM T&T is embarking on a new Corporate Social Responsibility initiative involving the form 1 classes of the Russell Latapy Government High School.
This school is among several secondary schools throughout Trinidad that has received negative publicity and faces many challenges that inhibit its students’ abilities to reach their potential.
On Sunday 28th August, AMCHAM T&T met with representatives from partnering organisations -the WAND Foundation, the Pan American Health Organization, UTT, and the Ministry of Health, to discuss the plans going forward to implement a positive program for the students.
Some of the areas in which the program will focus include health & wellness, nutrition, counselling, conflict resolution, and field trips.
Click on the link to view a short video of our AACCLA Day activities.
AMCHAM T&T MAKES A CALL FOR GREATER COLLABORATION AND DIALOGUE
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) would like to address the call made by union leader Ancil Roget to “boycott the 1%” on Friday 4th August 2017. AMCHAM T&T believes the statement is not only unfortunate but counterproductive. In every country where a minority has been persecuted in an attempt to shift power or influence to another group, the result has been economic and social decay.
We believe that statements such as these are very divisive and not in the best interest of the very workers that they are supposed to represent.
We acknowledge that Trade Unions have a very important part to play in protecting and promoting the rights and best interests of their members. This can only be done through dialogue leading to constructive solutions. In that regard, we too would like to see a return to multiparty dialogue in a manner that allows all stakeholders to participate in a meaningful and constructive way. The National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) was that vehicle, but it is not functioning as intended. AMCHAM T&T stands ready to assist and participate in its reformation to facilitate meaningful dialogue and a path forward.
The world is in the midst of an economic crisis, with new political and social disruptions occurring every day. At this time, the country needs leaders – including Trade Union leaders - who are willing to look past all differences and seek solutions to the challenges we face. We believe that this is not the time for pointing fingers, but instead a time of increased collaboration and dialogue. Myopic viewpoints and unreasonable demands that seek to promote specific agendas rather than finding innovative solutions should not be the first course of action.
Opening and Welcome Remarks
Delivered by: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T
Tuesday 27th June 2017
· Jennifer Baptiste- Primus, Minister of Labour and Small and Micro – Enterprise Development
· AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors
· Carolyn Sancho, Executive Director, Occupational Safety and Health Agency
· AMCHAM T&T HSE Committee Members
· Representatives of the Sponsor Companies of AMCHAM T&T’s 21st Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition
· Specially invited guests
· AMCHAM T&T members
· Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning to you all
It is indeed a pleasure to deliver this morning’s opening remarks and welcome you to the Launch of the AMCHAM 21st Annual Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Conference and Exhibition and the National HSE Awards. At AMCHAM T&T, the promotion of excellence in health, safety, security and environmental management remains one of our core tenets. We encourage our members to uphold and aspire to achieve the highest standards in these areas as we believe that the benefits positively impact not only the organization but the wider national community. Many, if not all of you are very familiar with these benefits which include:
· Automatic compliance with relevant legislation;
· Avoidance of uncontrollable costs and business interruptions;
· Efficient use of resources;
· Increased employee morale and productivity and
· Improved reputation and the potential to attract new business.
HSSE excellence, therefore, ensures an organization’s resilience to withstand threats and the sustainability of business success, simply put - “HSSE makes good business sense”. Now in its 21st year, the upcoming Annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition continues to be one of the AMCHAM’s flagship events and an effective vehicle for sharing information, encouraging best practices and elevating National HSSE awareness and standards. It is for this reason that I am very excited to share with you today some of the features of this upcoming event that will be held on November 14th and 15th here at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad.
The chosen theme this year is “People. Systems. Sustainability”. We are confident that this theme is both timely and appropriate, as all three components are necessary for business success. I also think it is important to point out, that the most important of the three component, we have listed first- People. We cannot attain business success, without thinking about our employees. No system would be sustainable unless it takes into account the most important asset of any company, its people. It is against this backdrop that I echo the call made by the AMCHAM T&T’s President earlier this year, for the trade union movement to return to the National Tripartite Advisory Council. It is also important that Government more meaningfully engage business and labour on key national issues. We understand and accept that the government has to lead and take decisions about the present and future of our country. However, the problems our society faces cannot be conquered alone. Anyone who thinks they can is making a grave mistake.
All of us have a role to play. AMCHAM T&T and the business community is willing to play its role. To lend many hands. To get to solutions, we must start with meaningful engagement.
Many of us were uncomfortable with the depiction of our society by the recent Anthony Bourdain production. Far from being portrayed as a happy, integrated, rainbow nation, we came across as a patchwork - segmented, fractured enclave. To some extent that is true, but it is not good for our society. Beyond social dialogue, which is extremely important to assist with the macro environment, we all have to make more of an effort to reach out to people from outside of our communities to better understand their concerns, hopes, dreams, problems and even suggestions for solutions.
So why talk about this here? At AMCHAM T&T we are firm believers in a conscious society underpinned by enlightened self-interest – the understanding that for you to truly succeed, the overall lot of the whole must improve. Wealth and success can never really be enjoyed if we all do not have opportunities, safety, and mobility. Businesses that are more diverse – in terms of race, gender, geography – tend to perform better.
We also have some significant issues to address in our society. One such issue is the behemoth that is Petrotrin. Petrotrin can be described as a systemic risk to our economy in terms of its debt and asset integrity; competitiveness and productivity; income inequality; our full commitment to the CSME; the weakening of institutions; reform of the public service are but a few. To address these risks, Business, Labour and Government must come together. We believe that only with all these groups working together we can reverse some of the negative economic and socio problems which affect our country. AMCHAM T&T remains ready to assist, in any way we can, to facilitate the healing of the relationships between business, labour and Government.
We need to create safer working environments for our employees. We have done a fairly good job of this in the energy and heavy industrial sectors, but much more needs to be done in the contracting sector.
As you will hear this morning, from the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Iain Daniels, of Ely Place Chambers and the One Caribbean Media Group Executive, Corporate Services, Gregory Camejo, the current OSH legislation needs work to meet the needs of our current environment for both the employers and the employees.
The objective of our HSSE Conference and Exhibition is to identify practical applications of HSSE Excellence as tools to achieving sustainable development. The Conference offers a neutral platform to discuss important issues and seeks to bring a diverse audience together. This year we will address issues relevant not only to our CEOs, HSE practitioners, and security experts, but also very relevant to our Occupational nurses, contractors and HR professionals, like:
· COP 21 & Renewables
· Health Roots- Root cause analysis and equipment failure
· Mental Health
· Electronic terrorism
· Leadership and Errors
amongst other topics. As sessions and speakers are confirmed they would be updated on our website and you would receive periodic updates via email. The deadline for the early bird registration ends today, however, Melissa has instructed me to extend it until July 14th an additional two weeks.
For 2017, I am pleased to inform you that we have expanded the Exhibition component of the event. Some 40 organizations will be on show, displaying products and or services for use within the HSSE sectors. For exhibitors, this is an excellent opportunity for marketing and to retain and build a customer base. For the participants and visitors to the exhibition, this is an opportunity to witness the practical application of various products and seek out information directly from suppliers.
The final feature that I would like to share with you today is that of “Excellence in HSE Awards” scheme and ceremony. Held on the afternoon of the first day, the “Excellence in HSE Awards” scheme recognizes and rewards organizations that uphold Health, Safety, and the Environment (HSE) as fundamental business values and excel in both business and HSE performance. The initiative therefore provides an incentive for all companies to improve their performance and encourages winners to maintain their high standards. Encouraging companies to participate in this awards scheme is yet another avenue to promote the implementation of HSSE best practice across all sectors and organizations. I encourage you to seek out additional information over the coming weeks so that your organization may also have a chance at making the winner’s row.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to remind you that this is the only opportunity locally and regionally to attend an HSSE Conference and Exhibition of this scope and quality. The event will bring together professionals from the private and public sectors from the fields of Occupational Health and Safety, Security, Environmental Management as well as Process Safety, Disaster Management and Business Continuity. A wide range of high caliber speakers both local and international will address the six aforementioned focus areas. I am sure you will agree that AMCHAM T&T 21st Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition promises to be an exciting event and is not one that should be missed by any committed stakeholder. Attending this event is an excellent opportunity to share information, gain exposure to HSSE best practices and network with professionals in a field that has the potential to shape the country’s future and achieve meaningful sustainable development.
I encourage all of you to seek out additional information from the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat and consider participating in one of the several activities available. Please become involved and reap the benefits that will accrue not only to you the individual but to your organization and by extension our wider national community.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to seeing you in November!
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago elected its new President at its Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Trinidad Conference on Thursday 11th May 2017. The fourteenth President, Mitchell De Silva is currently the Regional Vice President - Corporate Banking - RBC Merchant Bank (Caribbean) Limited, and has been an active participant in AMCHAM T&T for the past decade.
In his inaugural address he underscored the immediate need for the “Private Sector to take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy.”
He informed the two hundred plus crowd at the AGM, that high on AMCHAM T&T’s advocacy agenda was the intention to “press the Government to adopt fiscal rules.” He maintained that the implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules is a necessary step to follow if the Procurement legislation is to be effective, as the two will work in tandem. He explained that “one, broadly speaking, is designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other is intended to preserve or, one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.”
On the topic of labour, he noted that the “already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve.” To this he advised that both sides should “unclench their fists and extend their hands” and seek instead to bridge the divide. He added:
“I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society. Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that
the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.”
There was also a few changes to the AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors and sees Dominic Rampersad, President Pheonix Park Gas Processors Ltd. as the vacant VP spot. The list of Directors are as follows:
President – Mitchell De Silva, RBC
Vice President - Catalina Herrera, Citi
Vice President - Dominic Rampersad, PPGPL
Secretary - Glenn Hamel-Smith, Hamel-Smith & Co.
Treasurer - Patricia Ghany, Esau Oilfield Supplies Limited
Other Directors to the Board are: Ravi Suryadevara, TRINVALCO; Hugh Howard, Hugh Howard & Associates; Simon Aqui, IBM; Nicholas Galt, TSL; Frances Correia, Microsoft; Sana Ragbir, First Citizens; Giselle Thompson, bpTT; Jason George, United Airlines; Gayle Pazos, Scotiabank; Ravi Bajaj, Chevron and Erojus Joseph, GE Oil & Gas.
Mitchell De Silva, President AMCHAM T&T
I begin my inaugural speech to you by expressing sincere thanks and appreciation to the Board of Directors of AMCHAM T&T and you, the membership, for having the confidence in me to lead this organization. That said it would be remiss of me to not also acknowledge the many persons and experiences within different organizations that have led me to this latest adventure. My parents, wife, family, friends the Fatima Old Boys Association, colleagues across three financial institutions, Citi, Scotia and RBC, all of whom and which afforded me guidance, encouragement and key learnings. I owe you all a deep sense of gratitude and it is my hope that my performance in this office will fully reflect all that you have instilled in me.
I have been actively involved with AMCHAM T&T for quite a few years, with this being my second and longest stint. Over the years I have seen the organization steadfastly represent you the membership on many different fronts, whether it be regional, hemispheric or domestic our voice has been raised and our presence felt. Testimony to that is evidenced by the fact that our very own former President Nicholas Galt, held the post of Chairman for our regional body, AACCLA, and our immediate Past President Ravi Suryadevara now serves on its Board. I highlight this, not only out of pride and admiration for these distinguished gentlemen, but to emphasize the point that the lobby voice of this Chamber has a depth and breadth to it that few, if any, can lay claim to. All of your past Presidents have been persons who excelled in their respective fields, where they served and in most instances continue to serve with distinction.
Priority 1 - Diversity
This brings me to what I view as one of my priorities as I assume the Presidency, as I look back at previous holders of this office, there appears to be only one instance where a woman was at the helm. In keeping with one of the key goals of the United Nations on Sustainable Development, the organisation’s philosophy and indeed, my own personal beliefs, it is my hope that when I demit office that the Board and you the membership will see it fit to transition the leadership of this Chamber to one of the eminently qualified women who serve on our Board. Like the Presidents of the past, the women on our Board are leaders in their respective fields and are capable and competent as any to assume the Presidency. Forgive this seeming digression as it may seem odd to speak of leaving office when I have just assumed it, but I see this as a priority and a natural fit in the context of the Women in Leadership event that we have successfully hosted for a number of years. AMCHAM T&T must be a standard bearer and an exemplar in evidencing the diversity we promote and while we have achieved same at a Board level the time has come for us to take the next step.
Priority 2- Continued advocacy
As I have highlighted above, we will continue to remain relevant in conversations that affect you the membership, that said, and as another critical priority for my time in office I intend to continue the heightened engagement with Government and critical stakeholders in our economy that characterized Ravi’s Presidency. Our views must and will continue to be tethered to logic, sound judgement and reasoned objectivity. It is only with these values will we remain credible in the eyes of those whom we seek to sway as we work on influencing how as a country we navigate these most turbulent times.
Successive credit downgrades, one firmly entrenched in junk status, rampant violent crime, an untenable Fx situation and a widening of the divide between labour and business together with multiple other threats to our country and wellbeing must be boldly tackled and remedied with urgency.
AMCHAM T&T’s push, as part of the Private Sector / Civil Society Group’s initiative, for the operationalizing of Procurement legislation and the bringing into effect and staffing of the office of the Procurement Regulator is one of a series of critical steps that we believe assists in treating with some of the issues mentioned above. This legislation, once appropriately brought into force, has the potential to radically change the expenditure patterns of the State and significantly improve accountability and oversight on Public spend. Achieving this objective should allow for more efficiency and transparency, thereby limiting instances of artificially inflated project costs and questionable disposal of State assets.
Indeed, the passage and implementation of adequate public procurement legislation is critical to reducing a significant portion of white collar crime.
Our unfortunate reality today is that the surge in crime is evident at all levels, from corruption to widespread violence. Talk of the death penalty and a need for swift justice and a reboot of our judicial and penal systems are spoken of daily. The latter points are indeed needed, however seemingly absent from the national conversation is a focus on what brought us to this juncture and what is required to move us back from it. If we agree the view of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, in their book Freakonomics, we would have to concede that the solution to our current problems will not happen overnight. In their analysis of crime riddled New York of the 1970s and 80s and its seeming return to sanity in the 1990s and early 2000s, they do not attribute the resurgence to then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but rather to a series of policies and steps taken in the years and decades before that culminated in the significant reduction in crime levels and criminality. Yes, the leadership at the time was in fact a major contributor to the improvements noted, but it was not solely their doing rather a collaborative effort that took years. We need this type of long term vision and planning in our country, the patience to persevere and the will to have seemingly small changes take root. Let me be clear the need for immediate firm action is necessary, but more arrests and prosecutions will not stem the problem on their own, we need a more holistic approach to an issue that is out of control.
Clearly, the problems that confront us are many and our desire for rapid change and course correction is significant. Years of seeming indifference, buoyed by unprecedented growth in our energy sector, as we all well know, masked the inefficiencies and shortcomings of our institutions, systems and tragically undermined our productivity as a people. The entitlement mentality is pervasive across our society, not only at the level of labour, where a day’s pay is exchanged for three hours of work, but even in the very private sector that we hold in such high esteem. Far too often we as a sector cry out to the Government to solve our problems as opposed to creating the solutions on our own. A difficult task yes, impossible, no. I know this point may be difficult to accept, but in this current crisis the Private Sector must take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy. Again, this will be incremental, as it is foolhardy to believe that we will become the main driver in the short term. In the immediate term however, we must engage the Government in adopting and accepting that its main role in the economy is not that of actor, but rather facilitator. As President of AMCHAM T&T, I recommit the organisation to this process and I appeal to the Government to engage meaningfully as it is only through real collaboration that we can return our country to growth.
As I mentioned previously we see Procurement Legislation and its being brought into effect as an apt example of our efforts to get Government to embrace its role as facilitator. Sadly, we have not achieved complete implementation of the legislation, nor is its roll out occurring as contemplated and advised by the civil society group, nevertheless we continue to press on multiple fronts to have this landmark piece of legislation enacted and operationalized in the best interest of all concerned.
Our efforts will not stop at Procurement as we intend to press the Government to adopt fiscal rules, as many countries have done, Grenada and Jamaica being two regional examples. We see implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules as a necessary step to follow from Procurement as the two will work in tandem. One, broadly speaking, designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other intended to preserve or one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.
Priority 3- Enhanced relationship with labour
In the crisis that we face as country today, the already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve. That is of course, if we both continue to wed ourselves to our seemingly entrenched positions. In my view it is time to change how we engage with labour, as Barack Obama noted in his inaugural speech in 2008,
“…if you unclench your fist, we will extend our hand…” that statement rings true on both sides. If we are true to ourselves we will see that our fists, on key issues, are just as tightly clenched as we view labour’s on matters of importance to us. The question that has vexed and plagued many before me, is how do we bridge the divide. I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society.
Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.
Assuming office in the year that marks AMCHAM T&T’s 25th anniversary as a Chamber, coming in after so many Presidents who have provided invaluable service to the Chamber and by extension to you the membership; at a juncture where our economy is delicately balanced on a razor’s edge; is daunting to say the least. All that said and acknowledged I take up this challenge with full confidence in the capacity that has been built in the Chamber over those many years:
All of these reasons clearly say to me that I am not alone, the support, guidance and counsel that all I have mentioned above will remain and I will rely on them to ensure that I execute on this critical mandate in keeping with those that have gone before me.
In closing permit me to especially recognize our outgoing President, Ravi Suryadevara, those of you who would have had the privilege of interacting with Ravi I am sure, like me are the better for it. Ravi, your commitment, passion and dedication to the Chamber and your values as an individual are not only worthy of praise but emulation; on behalf of the membership and the Board I thank you and more importantly, I salute you.
Dignitaries, members, Media, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.
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