AMCHAM T&T Responds to New COVID-19 Restrictions.
We acknowledge that the country is in a precarious position with regard to the increase in the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks.
While there are several issues to be addressed in this regard, we are where we are at this point. As such, the measures announced appear to be necessary at this time. We appreciate that the Government is attempting to balance several very difficult factors. We also acknowledge that the Prime Minister is playing a leading role in global vaccine equity advocacy. The acquisition of vaccines has to be our number one priority moving forward.
We urge everyone to act responsibly and do all that they can to curb the spread of the virus.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
AMCHAM T&T Promotes Building Investible Businesses in T&T
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) in collaboration with our partners at Become Investible hosted the Webinar: “Building An Investible Business” to provide business leaders with direct access to expert investors and finance professionals. This Webinar sought to demystify the investment process, address the challenges with attracting investment, and provide insights into what SMEs can do to access funding from outside traditional channels.
Despite the country’s current economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, AMCHAM T&T believes the roadmap to recovery is dependent on ensuring T&T remains an attractive and sought-after investment hub for both local and foreign investors. “While we are in the process of vaccine administration, we must continue seeking out new opportunities and implement better strategies that will help us remain a competitive and attractive destination to conduct business,” says Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist at AMCHAM T&T.
“For this to happen we are going to need a more collaborative environment that is facilitated by more tailored policies to overcome restrictions and barriers to trade and foreign direct investment. We have started this work already, but we can’t afford to have COVID-19 push us even further behind which forces us to play catch up,” Pierre said. “The private sector will continue to have a vital role in the local economy after the pandemic and therefore businesses will need more open, transparent and dependable conditions that must ensure everything from the ease of doing business to easier transactions at the ports, flexible labor markets, and protection on intellectual property rights so that SMEs can attract investors.”
Pierre said T&T can look to Jamaica who has utilized private equity as an important tool in the financial system that has proven beneficial to business. “In Jamaica, private equity and the junior stock exchange have been important sources of capital for growth. Jamaica has something like a dozen private equity shops and several companies listed on the junior exchange while T&T has one private equity shop and two companies on the junior exchange. So, T&T needs financing vehicles to fill the gaps not being served by traditional financial institutions. Furthermore, access to financing is not always about the availability of capital. In fact, T&T is very liquid. The issue is often how SME's present their case.”
Meanwhile, Kevin C. Valley, Founder and Managing Director at Become Investible says the Caribbean business financing ecosystem needs an evolution. “Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs in the Caribbean are largely underserved by existing financial structures and face significant challenges in accessing finance to grow and scale their businesses. Many businesses in the region lack understanding of what investors/lenders are looking for and how to find the right sources and types of financing, and do not consider what is needed to build a business that is prepared for the future and can scale and generate income for generations.”
Kriss Marcus, General Manager of Aspire Fund Management Company Limited (T&T) says companies that possess strong business models have been overleveraged over the last 1-2 decades arising out of limited financing options outside of the traditional debt markets. “I would assert that if these companies can extinguish debts to more comfortable levels with the injection of private equity, these companies will position themselves to go public. Our SME Stock Exchange is at present, under-participated and to the extent that the Minister of Finance introduced incentives for SMEs is laying a good foundation for another wave of non-energy sector economic development and foreign exchange earning capability. The missing component between these companies moving from their current state to becoming publicly traded is accessing private equity.”
Karrian Hepburn-Malcolm, Vice President, Sales & Service at Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation says there is a growing need, especially among younger persons, to become successful entrepreneurs. As such, under the pillar of Entrepreneurship, the Unit Trust Corporation created several entrepreneurial initiatives: the URPRENEUR video series, podcast, and hub; Scale Up; and sponsorship, partnerships and awards with other institutions.
“These initiatives are specially geared to facilitate the advancement, development, encouragement, recognition and support needed by entrepreneurs from the Unit Trust Corporation,” Hepburn says. “Given the aim of this event at highlighting what entrepreneurs should focus on when preparing to approach investors and when building sustainable, scalable businesses, we at the UTC felt that this event aligned with our entrepreneurial vision to nurture and support businesses in their continued growth and expansion.”
Christopher Williams, CEO of PROVEN Management Ltd. says the biggest challenge that confronts entrepreneurs is making sure their businesses have the right mix of competence and capital. “What I have found in my experience is that very attractive competence attracts capital. Put the focus as much as possible in putting together good competence. How you do that is first ensuring that your own experience is solid. Then put together a strong competence team, not just people will who are like-minded or are your friends. Put together a strong competent team so that the competence can attract the capital.”
Beresford Grey, CEO of Sygmus Group in Jamaica also says having a strong team helped his company to list on the Jamaican Stock Exchange after only 12 months in operations. “When you are thinking about raising capital and growing your business and you look at the stock exchange as one avenue to raise capital then you have to start over from day one with the mindset of a very organized business covering everything from your accounting to your operations, and your governance structure.” Beresford said Sygmus created an early growth structure starting with investing in their leadership at the board level, their operations and then the competency of their team which helped position the company as a creditable organization with a strong leadership team and governance structure, that can be entrusted with capital.
Vashtie Dookiesingh, Senior Specialist at the IDB Group (T&T) says entrepreneurs must also operate with a value-oriented mindset to grow and become attractive to investors. “The fundamentals of business are the same: how are you creating value, which means you are addressing a problem. But most importantly, how do you capture value from what you're delivering? You need to have a very clear idea. So be in love with the problem that you're solving and not necessarily the solution or the channel that you're seeking to use to solve that problem because situations can change, and you will need to pivot as the situation demands.”
AMCHAM T&T would like to thank Become Investible for their support and partnership on this important issue as we believe the Pathway to the Americas is built on ensuring T&T remains an attractive investment destination to foreign and domestic investors that will ensure further economic growth and sustainable development. AMCHAM T&T would also like to thank our Sponsor: Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation for their support to host this Webinar and for taking strong leadership on the topic.
AMCHAM T&T remains strongly committed to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on your behalf through these challenging times.
For further questions or comments please contact: Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist at AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMCHAM T&T Extends Condolences To The Family of Senator Franklin Khan
The American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AMCHAM T&T) extends condolences to the family of the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries the Hon Franklin Khan. Senator Khan was a gentleman who always sought to discharge his public duties diligently. In the 2002 – 2005 period, he was often described as a “super-minister” as the then Government’s go-to problem solver.
In our interaction with him, Senator Khan was always open and engaging. His signature smile provided a window to his personality. He was willing to listen and consider different points of view. His steely competence and commitment towards national development have left an indelible mark on Trinidad and Tobago.
We hope that his family and loved ones are able to find peace and comfort in the significant contribution that he has made, and the memories they shared. May he rest in eternal peace.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
AMCHAM T&T Hosts Virtual Tech Trade Mission with Canadian Companies
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) in collaboration with the High Commission of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago, hosted a virtual Tech Trade mission with local businesses and Canadian firms. The Canadian High Commission sourced the Canadian companies and AMCHAM T&T set up more than 60 meetings with local entities.
As part of AMCHAM T&T’s drive to increase FDI, AMCHAM T&T and our member InvesTT hosted these virtual commercial meetings aimed at providing local and foreign firms with an understanding of the tech landscape, helping companies with their export strategies, and allowing them to participate in virtual sales meetings with their foreign counterparts.
Over the past year, we have witnessed how technology has taken on greater influence and demand over our lives due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also felt the major economic impacts this pandemic has caused to local companies with many having to reduce staff, cut costs, and close business operations, altogether. Now that we are in the race to acquire vaccines and ensure our entire population receives the vaccine in a safe, timely and responsible manner, AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie says it’s important that we see digital transformation as our safe bet to full recovery and growth of our economy for a post-pandemic era. “AMCHAM T&T has been a long proponent of Tech to enable growth and attract investment opportunities so that businesses can remain competitive in the global market while facilitating the economic recovery the country needs from the pandemic.”
“These Tech Trade Missions – we hope to facilitate at least two more by the end of the year - will highlight the many investment opportunities both for tech firms to invest in T&T and for the development of partnerships with local firms. We hope to promote the tech incentives announced in the 2020/2021 budget to foreign firms to increase business in, and with T&T. We are also hoping that the exposure from these foreign firms and the knowledge generation brought about by these events will redound to boosting local entrepreneurship, creating new markets for exciting jobs and widening the talent pool. We have a generation of young innovators who are persevering despite the tough economic climate. We also have a number of firms in the market that have displayed tremendous resilience. We are trying to do our part to create new opportunities. This is how we build the Tech Hub Islands within our region.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Maharaj, Senior Trade Commissioner and Counsellor (Commercial) at the High Commission of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago says his office welcomes the opportunity to increase trade opportunities between local businesses and companies operating in Canada. “This mission has brought together excellent companies, all focused on win-win collaboration to meet the emerging challenges in our respective countries.”
“With our strong people-to-people connections, there is so much untapped potential for more business between Canada and T&T. As we come through the global pandemic, we can collaborate to build back, especially in the area of digital technologies and environmental sustainability,” Maharaj said.
There were a total of 61 business to business meetings conducted today with local companies at the virtual Trade mission with six (6) Canadian companies interested in trade and investment with businesses operating in Trinidad and Tobago. These six companies are:
1. WeLoveLearning Canada Inc. - provides online training solutions for employees and customers.
2. Inspectify - a platform that digitizes and revolutionizes risk management and organizational processes for inspections, assessments, screenings, and health protocols (including COVID-19 screening processes).
3. Unifai Solutions Inc. - supports Financial Services, Digital Governance, & Networked Supply Chains and provides Digital Transformation Software, Services and Consulting.
4. TTT Studios - an award-winning Digital Innovation Studio, building custom software for more than 200 clients around the world.
5. Cycura Data Protection Corporation - offers customized offensive and defensive services and take a proactive approach to cybersecurity, both creating and implementing break-through technologies.
6. SOTI Inc. - a proven leader at creating innovative solutions that reduce the cost and complexity of business-critical mobility and the IoT.
AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our partners at the High Commission of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago and InvesTT for their support in facilitating this Trade Mission. We would also like to thank the local companies and Canadian firms who agreed to participate in today’s meetings. AMCHAM T&T will continue to provide support and leadership in our continued advocacy in promoting tech as a viable means for both enabling growth and a sector of growth and investment in Trinidad and Tobago.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMCHAM T&T Builds MSME Business Continuity Planning Capacity
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T), through the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilience Societies (ARISE) initiative, is engaging the private sector to create more risk-resilient enterprises to assist businesses to resist, cope and recover quickly during times of sudden shocks, emergencies and disasters. AMCHAM T&T, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) has launched a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) workshop to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that do not have dedicated departments to address BCP measures within their organizations.
The BCP workshop provides a framework for MSMEs to start identifying and addressing the exposure to risks of their businesses, and to prioritize areas for preventive action. It also seeks to raise awareness of inherent business risks and to be a catalyst for developing risk informed strategies in MSMEs. The 3-Day workshop is scheduled for February 16th, 18th and 23rd and begins with 50 participants in the first edition.At the launch of the workshop, Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T highlighted the Caribbean region’s vulnerability and the importance of BCP in business operations. “This vulnerability is multi-dimensional - it includes economic, social and environmental factors. The frequency of disasters in this region means that recovery can take years. We know that our region will almost always be susceptible to sudden and quick changes affecting both our lives and business. If it’s not COVID-19, it’s going to be the impact of climate change. The point is, if we are going to survive, we must make business continuity planning part of our long-term company’s strategic vision.”
In this context, AMCHAM T&T believes the support to the private sector (particularly MSMEs) in areas of understanding of risk, business continuity and disaster risk reduction is considered vital to ensuring a quick and resilient economic and social recovery after sudden adverse events.
Despite the region’s exposure to multiple hazards, AMCHAM T&T recognizes that the private sector has the capacity to serve as a catalyst for bringing disaster risk information to other social sectors, supporting risk-informed governance, and helping the government to fulfil its 2030 Agenda obligations, most notably the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction; and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Against this backdrop, the business continuity planning (BCP) workshop will support the ARISE initiative, which looks at engaging the private sector on these important matters.
“The private sector plays a critical role in national development and is an essential partner with the public sector in the national response and recovery plans during times of national disasters and other sudden shocks and emergencies,” Ghany said. “Therefore, AMCHAM T&T believes it is necessary for MSMEs to become more risk-resilient so that they can recover quickly and contribute more towards ensuring social change, economic diversity, reducing poverty and achieving greater gender inclusion.”
Meanwhile, Major General (Retired) Rodney Smart, CEO of the ODPM said the Business Continuity Management (BCM) strategy for the public service in T&T is aligned with the Comprehensive Disaster Management Policy Framework for Trinidad and Tobago and the National Response Framework, the latter which applies a 3-level response system. The policy acknowledges that a major disruption can potentially lead to a country-wide disaster, the response to which may have to be coordinated by the ODPM. “The purpose of the strategy is to ensure timely and effective business continuity, disaster preparedness, response and total business recovery, should a major interruption occur in Trinidad and Tobago,” Smart said.
He says the BCM Policy and other business continuity processes are directly linked to the ODPM’s strategy for the implementation of Comprehensive Disaster Management which is the Regional Framework espoused by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and is reflected through 4 pillars:
· Mitigation – Risk Identification, Assessment and Reduction
· Preparedness – Risk Control, Early Warning Systems
· Response – Emergency Response Plans, Business Continuity Plans
· Rehabilitation/Recovery – Recovery Plans and “Build Back Better”.
The ODPM is currently working in collaboration with other national, regional and international agencies such as the CDEMA, the UNDP and UNDRR, the Red Cross, Ministries and local bodies such as AMCHAM T&T on the development of its National Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction, known as Country Work Programmes.
Meanwhile, Nahuel Arenas, deputy chief of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean says, “The Caribbean is the most vulnerable region to hydrometeorological events in the world. Yet, these risks are systemic and have cascading effects affecting the private sector, especially SMEs.”
He says the Sendai Framework, which is the global footprint on DRR provides clear recommendations on how to address disaster risks. “On its basis, the recommendations aim at sharing value with the business sector. Thus, the Sendai Framework recommends that the private sector must move from a narrow vision of preparedness and response, to integrate prevention and risk reduction into business practices. This is possible by better understanding risks, better quantifying losses and damages and by improving cost benefits analysis.”
Arenas added that the private sector needs to invest in disaster resilience, integrate risk-information in decision making and work together with the public sector to strengthen disaster risk reduction and resilience policies at national and local levels. “Investing in resilience means directly investing in your own business. It is a business opportunity.”
The Business Continuity Planning Workshop was coordinated by AMCHAM T&T’s ARISE committee. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our Sponsor Guardian Life for their support to host this Workshop and our two main partners: The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) for supporting this important initiative. The BCP workshop is another example of AMCHAM T&T’s strong commitment to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on their behalf through these challenging times.
AMCHAM T&T: Enhance Trade Facilitation to
Improve The Ease Of Doing Business
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) hosted a Webinar on “The Ease of Doing Business – Trade Modernization” to facilitate greater dialogue between Customs and the business community to improve the trade facilitation process in T&T.
AMCHAM T&T is empathetic to the challenges Customs is currently facing having to balance revenue collection and maintain border security within the current economic climate while doing both in the context of trade facilitation. However, the approach that is being met with right now from Customs does not place customer service and trade facilitation at the level of priority that we would like to see.
Currently, the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business ranks T&T at 105 out of 190 countries. AMCHAM T&T considers this ranking a worrisome position for T&T that needs urgent attention if we want to create a business-friendly environment to attract investors, as well as to create the opportunities for businesses to become more efficient.
“We cannot talk about attracting investment if we do not have the conditions to attract investment. If the fundamentals are not there to support investment, the investment will be hard to come by,” says Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO. “It will be state-driven, largely drive us further into debt and that is not the kind of economic development that is sustainable and that will create the kind of future and society that we want. So, we have to improve where we sit on the Ease of Doing Business ranking, and that means the trade facilitation component of our economy needs radical improvement.”
Fernando Peña, Director of Customs and Regulatory Affairs at DHL says there is a roadmap that T&T should consider that would enhance the trade facilitation process. He recommends 1) publishing regulations that would provide legal certainty and allow traders to provide input on what is feasible operationally while providing guidance to customs officials. He says we also need to consider 2) a de minimis exemption to save on customs’ inspection and processing resources; 3) involve the private sector more in the development of procedures and regulations; and 4) simplify border procedures with fewer formalities such as removing data elements from customs declarations and expanding the values under which traders need to use a broker for customs transactions. “These measures would really expedite trading and free up inspectional resources and post-entry audits,” Peña says.
He says DHL has the data when shipments leave their points of origins before arriving at their destinations which can be submitted to Customs authorities for 5) pre-arrival processing. This can free up a lot of resources once the shipment arrives and allows for a 6) separate release from clearance for low-risk shipments to be released immediately on arrival. The clearance payment process can be facilitated by electronic transmission of customs transactions and a built-in risk management system that detects trends through time that can inform authorities of risky shipments. He also advocated for the 7) coordination of border agencies to establish a single window where traders submit information into one electronic data interface, and finally to 8) adopt measures for trusted traders where they are asked to provide information concerning their supply chains and other operations so the authorities can allow expedited treatment to such traders at the border, once trust is established.
Meanwhile, Earl Anthony Stewart Jnr - Director for Planning and Research at the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) said numerous reform initiatives have helped improve the trade facilitation process and enhanced the ease of doing business in Jamaica. Stewart said this is a testament to the leadership from the Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the strategic plan laid out by the Jamaican government to get Jamaica into the top ten countries with respect to the Ease of Doing Business.
In the past year, Jamaica has adopted a multi-sectoral approach using a national development plan that covers every single sector with strategic initiatives and outcomes that guide what all ministries and departments are doing. “It is the ambitious vision of wanting to see improvement and wanting to get in that top 10 that led to several strategic moves that now see Jamaica ranking at 71 and the number one ranking in the Caribbean,” says Stewart Jr.
“We have established the National Competitiveness Council with the mandate to spearhead and manage business reform in Jamaica. The council is mandated quarterly to submit progress reports on issues that need to be addressed to improve the Ease of Doing Business in Jamaica. The Trade Facilitation Taskforce has also been set up which monitors the inspection for a single entity that aims to create efficiency in doing business and to speed up trade. The goal is to make Jamaica the place where people want to live and raise families,” says Stewart Jr.
He says Jamaica customs has been partnering with other entities to drive reform to enable both the improvement and realization of trade facilitation. Jamaica customs is achieving this through the recently implemented ASYCUDA system which has improved trade facilitation within Jamaica especially with respect to performance measurements and the ability to eliminate the number of manual processes. Partnerships with the port authority and the government have resulted in the Port Community System that facilitates the easy sharing of information between the relevant agencies. Also, Jamaica Customs is the implementing entity for the Jamaica Single Window for Trade (JSWIFT) which serves as an electronic platform that allows traders to submit transactional information through a single access point.
Also, Dr Krista Lucenti who is a Senior Specialist in the Trade and Investment Division of the IDB based in Trinidad and Tobago says trade facilitation can be improved by greater collaboration and dialogue between the private and public sector. “It really does depend on leadership within the governments, not just in customs but also within the private sector. Customs has an interest for facilitating the trade to compliant traders and reducing the risk related to noncompliance. And compliant actors in the private sector also have an interest in eliminating fraudulent activities because that just leads to more control for everyone which is an increased cost for compliant traders. When the private sector and customs see that their interests aligned then there is space for programs like the Authorize Economic Operator or Trusted Trader Programme which then provides the opportunity for dialogues and the alignment of interests.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Patricia Aveitia who is the CBP embedded Advisor in Trinidad & Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance says CBP is currently assisting T&T with best practice approaches around technological advancements. She outlines the use of non-intrusive technology, a largescale x-ray system to expedite more cargo, and a canine programme to increase border enforcement as some of the measures currently being looked at by CBP and the Customs Division.
“The Ease of Doing Business – Trade Modernization” Webinar was coordinated by AMCHAM T&T’s Express Logistics Committee. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank our Platinum Sponsor Ezone Logistics for their support to host this Webinar. AMCHAM T&T remains strongly committed to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on your behalf through these challenging times.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com
Urgent Action Required on Port Delays
AMCHAM T&T would like to applaud the Customs and Excise Division for finally beginning the process of full implementation of the electronic clearance application, ASYCUDA 4.2.2. If managed effectively and implemented fully, this transition can result in greater revenue collection, better detection of contraband and improved efficiency of the clearance system at the ports.
Unfortunately, continued changes without adequate engagement with the industry is creating a situation where the sputtering economy is being further choked. In addition to having to deal with a lack of Standard Operating Procedures, resulting in frequent, seemingly arbitrary changes to clearance processes and operations over the past several years, no items could have been cleared at the ports from December 31st to 4th January to facilitate the migration to ASYCUDA.
Regrettably, the new system has been down more than it has been functional since going live on Monday. We understand that a major software upgrade sometimes results in “teething problems”. However, these new stresses compound a situation in which clearance times and costs in T&T continue to escalate.
The business community has been in frequent communication with Customs and the line Ministry – Ministry of Finance. For more than a year our Express Logistics Committee has been meeting with the Customs’ Leadership in an attempt to streamline and standardize Customs’ procedures to provide clarity and stability in the market. We have had several meetings with the Honourable Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert on these matters as well.
These have resulted in some small but meaningful gains. However, our small gains will be eroded if we do not seek to quickly rectify the ongoing problems at the ports. We are once again experiencing not only delays, but also several hours of overtime to clear seemingly simple shipments. We continue to be alarmed and concerned that multiple companies are charged overtime for the same time period. It is obscene that in the absence of a proper, centralized, risk-based management system this creates the conditions for which the need for overtime is determined by the officers who will benefit from this overtime.
These delays and the addition of bureaucracy not only add to the overall cost of operations to the Express Courier and Freight Forwarder Industries, but also result in additional costs to small and medium enterprises, in particular, at a time when they can ill-afford increased costs. Customs has justified these delays with increases in tax revenue collection, however, we propose that an increase in tax revenue should not be at the detriment of the industry. We believe an efficient Customs Division will not only lead to greater tax revenues, but it will redound to greater efficiencies for the entire economy - the more shipments are cleared the more revenue (duties and VAT) can be collected by Government, and the faster businesses can get the products to continue to operate.
Increased taxation of a smaller number of businesses will not grow the economy. In fact, such continued action will further shrink the economy.
Going forward, we look forward to the production of Standard Operating Procedures to be publicly available and adhered to at all ports. A centralized, integrated and robust risk management system must also be put into place if the Government intends to protect the borders at the official ports of entry and simultaneously improve the ease of doing business. We also believe that meaningful, open dialogue should continue with adequate consultation, adjustment and testing before new measures are implemented.
In the meantime, urgent leadership from the Government and Customs is required to reduce backlogs and to ensure that trade can take place in an efficient manner.
AMCHAM T&T Launches Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative For Private Sector
AMCHAM T&T, in collaboration with The UWI Institute of Gender and Development Studies and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is launching an Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative for private sector entities. The purpose of this Initiative is to prevent all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in the workplace and to help companies develop a workplace policy that supports employees who are victims of gender-based violence.
Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T says this initiative reaffirms AMCHAM T&T’s strong commitment to promoting gender equality in the workplace and society. “AMCHAM T&T has been a strong advocate for the promotion of women’s leadership in business and fighting for equality to build a progressive, fully democratic society. Removing obstacles that limit the potential of women to advance in their careers should be a priority for all companies if they intend to reduce gender inequality in their organisations.”
“The training is intended to assist companies to provide resources that will offer support for victims of gender-based violence and identify means to possibly hold more perpetrators accountable. Using the data we get from this Initiative, we will also work with the participating companies, the IGDS and CADV to explore and hopefully develop initiatives to more effectively protect victims of intimate partner violence. AMCHAM T&T believes that implementing workplace policies on gender-based violence will ultimately have a positive impact on the organisation whereby employees are made to feel safe, protected and empowered. Ultimately, this is the type of workplace culture that drives higher rates of productivity, profitability, and performance.”
“Even as we launch this initiative, we are painfully aware that it is the perpetrators who need to be stopped rather than the victims needing to be soothed. That is why we are extremely pleased to be working with two organisations who are on the front lines combatting this issue. Together we hope to be able to do our small part to build the required system to identify and ultimately reduce the prevalence of intimate partner violence (commonly referred to as domestic violence),” Tewarie said.
Speaking to the importance of the Initiative, Dr Gabrielle Hosein, head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IDGS) said: "The data show that 1 in 3 women working in the private sector have experienced physical or sexual partner violence at some point in their lifetime. These women experience higher levels of mental distress, lack of confidence, physical pain and inability to concentrate at work, affecting their ability to earn, lead and succeed. The data also show that the majority do not seek services. However, these women go to work every day and therefore there is a role for the private sector in helping them feel safe and heal, end feelings of shame, break silences, and know that their workplaces are leading in establishing zero tolerance of violence against women, including by identifying and responding to perpetrators with clear workplace guidelines. In showing such leadership, AMCHAM T&T is continuing to collaborate with the women's movement and civil society to transform the realities of violence in women's lives. We aim to keep expanding our partnership, learning from each other, and making whatever difference we can, together.”
The Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative is designed to address Gender-Based Violence through the execution of a three-phase programme.
Phase one: Survey - How is Gender-Based Violence affecting your employees?
Phase two: Workshop - Understanding Gender-Based Violence and how your organisation can develop a culture of zero-tolerance of Gender-Based Violence. This workshop is tailored to your organisation’s specific needs.
Phase three: Policy Development - Develop your Workplace Anti Gender-Based Violence Policy.
Companies participating in this initiative will benefit from gender-sensitive training that will discourage all forms of Gender-Based Violence and abuse, address the issues of gender, vulnerability, and marginalization, recognize signs of abuse and offer assistance, and address claims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
AMCHAM T&T would like to congratulate Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited (PPGPL) which is the first company to participate in this initiative and for actively seeking to address gender-based violence in the workplace.
The Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative is open to all companies and organisations in Trinidad and Tobago. Interested participants seeking to have their Anti Gender-Based Violence Programme executed at their organisations should contact AMCHAM T&T at 295-4869.
AMCHAM T&T has been a leader on issues of gender parity. Earlier this year we achieved gender parity on our Board of Directors. Our Annual Women’s Leadership event is almost a decade old and we have provided mentorship opportunities for more than 100 professional women over the past three years in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
AMCHAM T&T HONOURS HSE EXCELLENCE at its 10th ANNUAL NATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN HSE AWARDS
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) hosted a virtual ceremony to commemorate the 10th Annual National Excellence in HSE Awards to honour companies in T&T who have demonstrated HSE excellence and leadership in their operations.
Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO, said the awards, which were endorsed by the Ministry of Labour in 2011 and recognised as a National Award, represented a great partnership between Government and AMCHAM T&T towards promoting HSE standards in T&T. “It is our considered view that this partnership support speaks not only to the laudable nature of the program but is a powerful statement by Government of its recognition of the need to improve national HSE standards in order to ensure that HSE excellence becomes a way of life for all our citizens.”
This year, the National HSE Awards which was held on Day Three of AMCHAM T&T’s 24th Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition held greater significance due to the ongoing pandemic which has pushed the issue of health and safety as a major concern, not just for companies but also for citizens and countries alike. Over the past seven months, many businesses have been forced to close or leapfrog their operations to digital platforms while ensuring stricter health and safety measures to protect their employees and to maintain business continuity during this pandemic.
In this context, AMCHAM T&T recognizes the value and importance of effective HSSE leadership by companies. Tewarie said when organisations make investments in HSE policies and processes it creates a safety culture than extends beyond the company. “Organisations which emphasise high levels of HSE performance in their operations demand higher standards of HSE performance from their contractors, service providers and support systems, thereby ensuring the broadening and deepening of best practices, including caring for and strengthening the resilience of fence line communities.”
“If there is anything we learnt during the course of the Conference, is that true HSE success will only come when HSE is a value and safety leadership is authentic. Designing policies without leadership and the development of culture will not give you stellar safety results. In that regard, we are elated to see so many companies improving their safety cultures and therefore getting better results, but also seeing companies improve their safety culture from year to year.”
With companies placing a high priority on health and safety measures because of the ongoing pandemic, AMCHAM T&T’s National HSE Awards saw a record number of companies participating in the awards this year. Therefore the judges made the decision to expand the Award scheme to include the new category: Business Continuity: Surviving the Pandemic Award - as a means to highlight the safety measures companies would have implemented to protect their employees and customers.
WINNERS OF AMCHAM T&T’s National HSE Awards 2020 are:
Outstanding OSH/Environment Project 2020
Awards Criteria: The company engaged on a significant project, or “first steps”, on the journey towards achieving HSE excellence. The company demonstrated that its Project entailed the implementation of several of the key elements of formal HSE management systems, i.e. elements of Planning, Risk Management, Implementation or execution, Monitoring and Measurement, Handling Nonconformities, and/or Continual Improvement, OR that the Project addressed systems for building a positive HSE organizational culture, AND that the Project contributed to overall positive Occupational Safety and Health, and/or Environmental Results.
Most Improved HSE Performance
Awards Criteria: This company has embarked on the journey of implementing company-wide HSE Management Systems and has successfully implemented the system as a whole, or major elements of it, AND has achieved a trend of significant improvement in their HSE performance in year 2019, and over the 2 previous years as a minimum. The Award looks for evidence that a strong foundation has been set for building excellence in the near future
BCP Special Award – Business Continuity and Surviving the Pandemic 2020 (Honourable mention)
Awards Criteria: Special Award, while not the winner of this category, the company qualified for the receipt of the BCP Special Award-Business Continuity and Surviving the Pandemic 2020 Award. The company is recognised for the excellent job that it has done in managing its business response to the interruptions caused by COVID-19 to ensure operational resiliency. The company has implemented a strong Risk Management Plan, Business Impact Analysis, Incident Response Plan and Recovery Plan.
Excellence in HSE Award 2020
Awards Criteria: The Company has earned the premier award, the category of ‘Excellent HSE Performance’. This company has established a strong HSE Management Systems AND has achieved excellent occupational health and safety, and Environmental Results. The awardee will serve as a paragon of HSE Excellence in practice and will go on to share their Success Stories with companies within the AMCHAM T&T Membership and beyond, so that we all can firstly believe that impeccable occupational safety and health, and environmental performance records can be achieved and maintained over the years, and we can learn best practices and how to overcome the practical challenges.
AMCHAM T&T would like to congratulate all the WINNERS of the National HSE Awards 2020 and thank them for the leadership they have shown towards achieving HSE excellence in their safety measures and overall business operations. AMCHAM T&T would also like to thank BHP - (Title Sponsor) for their unwavering support since the inception of these awards. AMCHAM T&T extends our sincere gratitude to the HSE Awards Committee and the judges for their hard work by conducting virtual walkthroughs and interviews with employees and management of all companies that participated this year in the National HSE Awards 2020.
Through these awards and the Annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition, AMCHAM T&T continues to uphold and promote HSSE excellence as a key performance indicator towards business success and ensuring the safety and protection of all employees and citizens of our nation.
AMCHAM T&T President Calls for Clear Guidelines for Different Stages of Lockdown
AMCHAM T&T President Patricia Ghany, is calling for clear triggers to be established to determine different levels of response to control the spread of COVID-19. Speaking at the Launch of AMCHAM T&T’s 24th Annual Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition, she said that “for businesses to be able to bounce back or at least start planning for a recovery, we require predictability. It is our view that restrictions to curtail business and individual activity should be linked to specific triggers. This should be clearly communicated in advance and of course, based on science.”
With the projected contraction of the economy estimated at least negative 6.8 percent for 2020, according to the figures presented in the National Budget, AMCHAM T&T is concerned that further or continued restrictions placed on business will have an even bigger impact on the nation’s economy that will hinder long term growth and investment.
The AMCHAM T&T President outlined a path forward for the re-opening of the economy given that the situation the nation experienced in March is not completely applicable to the current context. “What we did in March when we knew little to nothing about the virus, is not completely applicable now. For example, if we, hypothetically, record five straight days of new cases of more than 100, severe lockdowns may be necessary, but if we are at fewer that say 40 a day for five days, a significant re-opening of the economy may be possible and of course, if we drop to fewer than 20 new cases a day, we can join the CARICOM bubble and fully re-open the economy.”
While the re-opening of the borders remains a public health and safety concern, Ghany says there should be a clear and reasonable criterion for the re-opening of borders.
In the meantime, Ghany says measures like mask wearing, social distancing and no mass gatherings will likely have to remain in effect until a vaccine is developed and administered to the majority of the population. “Individuals will have to take much of the responsibility for ensuring that cases don’t spread through their actions, but continued uncertainty and apparent arbitrary measures are counter-productive.”
Opining on the way forward, the AMCHAM T&T President believes there is a need for deeper engagement and clarity on national development objectives. “Some clear milestones and both short-and long-term objectives in the context of an overall plan are required which would require meaningful engagement with stakeholders.”
Ghany said stakeholders will sometimes have suggestions that are not apparently supportive of the measures being implemented but what is needed now is collaboration, dialogue and meaningful engagement. “It’s a point about culture and collaboration. For our country to be resilient; to be able to build back stronger, we need a more inclusive, more collaborative culture. We face many challenges, and many sacrifices will have to be made. The burden will have to be shared, for sure.”
Ghany says the business community is doing its part. “Companies large and small are donating devices for online school; assisting with food care packages and supporting employees in this difficult time. For true resilience, we need a strong and enabled private sector.”
AMCHAM T&T remains committed to working with the government on behalf of the business community on this issue so that we can ensure our economy and our nation recovers from this pandemic.
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