Accelerating the Digital Government
To push the digital transformation agenda forward within the private and public sectors, AMCHAM T&T recently launched its “Coffee Shop Conversation” series on the topic: Accelerating the Digital Government.
AMCHAM T&T has been advocating a transformation of Government to a digitally-enabled government for several years as this would result in greater efficiency, improved services, better accessibility of public services and more transparency and accountability within government.
Three of the main recommendation of the AMCHAM T&T have been the implementation of a Unique National Identification Number; accelerating the adoption of e-payment for Government services and acceptance of digital signatures. In this regard, AMCHAM T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie complimented the Government for implementing e-payment for some services such as payment of taxes at the BIR and the acceptance of the need for the Unique National Identification number. However, even with taxes, companies are unable to pay their quarterly taxes online despite the BIR being able to facilitate online payments for personal income tax.
“There are two types of people. Those who see a solution for every problem and those who see a problem for every solution. COVID 19 has shown us that we have to be the solution seekers. There is nothing but lack of will preventing the implementation of a Unique National Identifier, acceptance of e-signatures for government transactions, e-payments across ministries and government agencies, a fully computerised Customs entry system and open data," says AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie.
“We have been talking about these things for too long while our ease of doing business has been falling. Sure, there a million reasons we can hide behind to say “why?” but let's be the people who say, "why not?" and then go make it happen!”
Vashti Maharaj, Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs says recent amendments to various laws to digitize public services at the Court, Registrar General’s Department and Intellectual Property Office will give momentum to and create a crescendo effect across government.
“The amendments to recent laws to digitize certain government services will lay the foundation for other dynamic and innovative initiatives such as the use of a unique personal identification number across government to access services as well as the launch of the national e-money policy that will pave the way for the use of digital wallets and encourage the development of a burgeoning Fintech economy within Trinidad and Tobago,” she says.
Glynis Alexander-Tam, former Chair of the e-Business Roundtable and CEO of Info Link Services Limited says there needs to be a common-sense approach of accelerating the government’s ICT plan particularly with the impact of COVID-19. She argues the digitization approach must be collaborative and should not reinvent the wheel on what already exists within the private sector.
“There are large companies that have digitized a lot of their services across the board. Government should, in fact, be engaging private sector companies to see what has been done before and where information can be leveraged, and partnerships developed to push some of that digitization process into the market space. Because what we are talking about is not only work “SMART” but also working smarter.”
Kirk Henry, CEO of iGovTT also participated in the event and indicated that the current environment of a global pandemic emphasizes the need to move services online by preparing the supporting infrastructure in a manner that is sustainable and secure. “This involves around managing risk associated with implementation to ensure availability of the system, to ensure accuracy in terms of processing the data that is captured, the agility to quickly respond and rollout solutions and finally accessibility.”
“We want to ensure the systems and the services that we digitize, provide and present in an online fashion is handled in such a way that the right people have access to it and we are always mindful of the bad actors who are attempting to subvert the process.”
AMCHAM T&T believes the aim should be for the entire population to fully benefit from the digitalization of these services which would require digital inclusion policies to address digital literacy, access to ICT and enabling the digital workplace. Therefore, the gaps need to be closed in ICT availability, affordability, and adoption for a large cross-section in society, through public and private sector policies and initiatives.
The “Accelerating The Digital Government” is the first part of AMCHAM T&T’s “Coffee Shop Conversation” series which was envisaged and designed by AMCHAM T&T’s Digital Transformation Committee. We would like to thank our sponsors: Republic Bank, PwC, Digicel and our Digital Media partner, Trend Media for the support to host this Webinar.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMCHAM T&T Extends Condolences on the Passing of
Mr. William "Bill" Aguiton
Date: September 11, 1938 - June 12, 2020
AMCHAM T&T is saddened by the news of the passing of one of our founding members, William “Bill” Aguiton.
An ever-present and active member of AMCHAM T&T, he was admired and respected as being both a loyal and devoted member of the AMCHAM family, having served with distinction on the Board from inception in 1993, until his retirement in 1999, from Hilton International.
He is fondly remembered for facilitating AMCHAM T&T with our first offices, situated at the Trinidad Hilton in Port of Spain. We are eternally grateful to have enjoyed his leadership, commitment, and support in helping to build our organisation into the preferred private-sector business organisation for the stimulation of free and fair trade and investment within and between the Americas and the Caribbean.
William Aguiton was recognised as AMCHAM T&T’s first Honorary Member, after a stellar 37-year career that saw him earn plaudits for his devotion to professionalism and contributions to the hotel industry, having been appointed the only Trinidad and Tobago national to hold the position of General Manager of the Trinidad Hilton Hotel, and the first to be named "Hotelier of the Year" by the Caribbean Hotel Association. He was also the recipient of the Humming Bird Medal (Gold), and served as President of the Hotel, Restaurants and Tourism Association and Chairman of the Hospitality and Tourism Institute of Trinidad and Tobago.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and all those who like us, feel a deep sense of loss, on the passing of this exemplary gentleman.
May his soul rest in perfect peace.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
AMCHAM T&T Responds to Mid-Year Budget Review 2020
The mid-year review did not contain any surprises. AMCHAM T&T once again places on the record our congratulations to the Government for its containment of COVID-19 in T&T. As a country, our handling of the crisis is indeed the envy of many.
Further, while we are of the firm view that the support to business has not been comprehensive enough, we acknowledge that the Government has managed to maintain social stability and cushion the impact of the pandemic on significant sections of the most vulnerable.
We are concerned, however, that the Government is misdiagnosing the current situation. The contraction this year is likely to be much larger than the 2.4% contraction predicted by the Minister of Finance. In that context growth of 5% in 2021 also seems optimistic. We say this considering that natural gas production over the first six months of 2020 is slightly lower than the comparable period in 2019 while gas prices are significantly lower. In addition, the closure and idling of several plants on the Pt. Lisas Industrial Estate and significantly depressed petrochemical prices combined with the significant losses since March are going to have an extremely significant negative impact on GDP.
In this context, we are extremely concerned about the continuing inability to take decisions about the natural gas value chain that will give long-term confidence to the sector at the various points on the value chain.
We also readily acknowledge that the Minister of Finance has a very difficult job, made worse by the impact of COVID-19, however, the lack of focus on digital transformation of government services, customs reform and passing references to the improvement of the ease of doing business suggest that, at this point, more specificity is required around the initiatives that will be implemented to return the country to growth.
And while the Minister spoke about how many people received support but operate outside of the tax net, he did identify how these people will be brought into the system. We have been urging the Government to use this opportunity to ensure that such people are registered with the BIR and NIB from this point onward and sincerely hope they will do so.
We therefore eagerly await the presentations of individual Ministers and the final Roadmap to Recovery Committee report.
As always, AMCHAM T&T remains committed to collaboration with the Government and other stakeholders as we represent our members’ views and work collectively in the interest of our country.
Patricia Ghany re-elected as AMCHAM T&T President
at 27th AGM
(Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T)
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) re-elected Patricia Ghany to another term as President of the Chamber at its first-ever virtual Annual General Meeting held today.
Speaking on the theme “Business in the New Normal” in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ghany laid out the Chamber’s vision and plans both for society and the role for business. “Our success as a country cannot be measured simply by GDP growth. Neither can our businesses’ success be measured only by profit. From what I have seen in my more than two decades as part of AMCHAM T&T and in my own business, for the most part, the business community has always taken an interest and supported both fence-line communities and the national community,” she said.
“Now, we may need to do a little more and, quite frankly, communicate what we do a little better. This is beyond CSR. It’s about building resilient communities and contributing to the overall sustainability of the country and, hopefully, the region.”
Even in the new normal, Ghany says the old, fundamental rules still apply, especially the rule of law. “Fairness and access to justice are key to developing a conducive business environment but so too are they to building a resilient and cohesive society. In the old normal or the new normal, strong adherence to the rule of law is key.”
“As a country, we need to do a better job of fixing the systems that inhibit social mobility and perpetuate inequality. We cannot fool ourselves by talking about outliers who emerge successfully from structural inequity and try to hold them up as examples that can be easily replicated. As citizens, we should have a vested interest in making our society better. And as businesses, we should see that if the rule of law is assured for those who are often most invisible and on the “margins of society” it will be assured for business too, making the entire economy more efficient and attractive.”
Ghany said to fuel and reward the innovation shown by companies, government, non-profits, and individuals in response to COVID-19 challenges, it will require an acceleration of our country’s digital transformation. “The COVID-19 situation has ripped the band-aid off the need across the public and private sector to enable teleworking and remote learning across most households. To support this new normal, gaps need to be closed in ICT availability, affordability, and adoption for a large cross-section in society, through public and private sector policies and initiatives.”
“We congratulate the GOTT on accelerating the offerings of e-payments for statutory tax payments such as Corporation tax, Green Fund. We look forward to the implementation of a unique National Identification Number system which will allow for the provision of government services in a less disjointed manner and instant verification of information provided by the customer.”
Ghany also recommended that the GOTT recommit Trinidad and Tobago to the Open Government Partnership and provide more data available in a manipulatable format to allow the private sector to extract economic value from our data. She says this should be done with the appropriate privacy protections supported by data privacy and data transparency laws including the full proclamation of the Data Protection Act.
She also urged government to urgently address the deficiencies in the education system as it relates to the appropriate use of IT in the teaching-learning process, the teaching of tech-related skills specifically, and, at a base level, differentiated approaches to teaching to most effectively facilitate learning across the widest group of students.
Ghany said it is imperative that we address issues around the energy value chain since the energy sector will remain the mainstay of our economy. “The Government and private sector have to work more closely to further develop the export capacity of the energy services sector, in recognition that if our petroleum resources were ever to be depleted, we could still have a vibrant, foreign exchange-earning energy services sector.”
On climate change, she says building the new normal will require the integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities to create a stronger business strategy moving forward. “If we do not take action to protect sensitive habitats and species; conserve water, forests and other natural resources; and lobby for more stringent environmental protection enforcement, our ecosystems will collapse.”
At the AGM, the Chamber elected its new board:
· President - Patricia Ghany, Finance Director - Esau Oilfield Supplies Co. Ltd
· Vice President - Gregory Hill, Managing Director - ANSA Merchant Bank Limited
· Vice President - Mitchell De Silva, Citi Country Officer T&T Hub - Citibank
· Secretary - Glenn Hamel-Smith, Partner, Head Banking and Finance - Hamel-Smith
· Treasurer - Dominic Rampersad, President - Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd.
· Bruce Mackenzie, Group Strategy Officer, - Massy Group Vice President
· Caroline Toni Sirju Ramnarine, VP, Corporate Operations - Atlantic LNG Company Limited
· Giselle Thompson, VP Corporate Operations - BP TT
· Simon Aqui, Business Development Executive, Caribbean Financial Services Sector - IBM Trinidad
· Greer Quan, Chief Executive Officer, Caribbean - Pan-American Life Insurance Group
· Katishe Serrette, VP-AML/ATF Compliance - Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago Limited
· Karrian Hepburn, Chief Customer Relationship Officer - Trinidad & Tobago Unit Trust Corporation
· Nicholas Galt, Chairman - Trinidad Systems Limited (The TSL Group)
· Ravi Suryadevara, CEO - Trinidad Valve & Fitting Company
· Jason George, Country Sales Manager - Trinidad, Jamaica and Other Islands United Airlines Inc.
· Richard Look Kin, Group Chief Risk Officer - First Citizens Trinidad & Tobago
Ex-Officio position - H.E Joseph Mondello, Ambassador U.S Embassy Trinidad & Tobago
Ex-Officio position - Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T
E-zone & the NGC Group of Companies are the Platinum Sponsors of the AGM while PALIG, Atlantic, bpTT & EOG Resources are Gold Sponsors. PWC is a Silver sponsor and Microsoft and Velsoft are Technology Partners.
For more information, interested persons can visit www.amchamtt.com.
AMCHAM T&T To Host Virtual Annual General Meeting
MEDIA RELEASE 09/06/2020
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) will be hosting its first-ever virtual Annual General Meeting on June 10th, 2020. The virtual AGM is in keeping with the organisation's commitment to maintaining social distancing measures with respect to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The AGM, which is now in its 27th year, will introduce the new President of AMCHAM T&T who will outline the organisation’s priorities for the coming year, and provide thoughts on the current and future business environment here in T&T.
The theme for this year’s AGM is “Business in the New Normal.” Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T said businesses in T&T will have to make the necessary adjustments to survive in this new normal. “The reality is that we will be dealing with the impact of COVID-19 long after a vaccine is developed and there is full immunity. Businesses will have to make – are already making - tough decisions to transform their operations to adapt to the current reality and to the challenges that a post-COVID world will present. Our AGM will explore not the challenges, but the opportunities offered by this new normal.”
Julie Chung, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the United States Government will deliver the Feature Address. She will discuss the opportunities for deeper engagement between the US and Trinidad and Tobago in this “new normal”.
As we know, geo-political and global supply chains shifts are likely to influence changes in the hemisphere that would be important factors in business planning. In that context, should we anticipate any major shifts in US Government policy that could affect business in the hemisphere but specifically between our two countries?
Also speaking are Basil Khalil, FedEx’s VP Operations for the Caribbean and Central America and Dr. Nadir Hirji, Digital Services Leader, PWC Canada.
FedEx is one of the largest logistics companies in the world with operations throughout the hemisphere. What changes are they seeing in the types and quantity of packages being shipped since the start of the spread of COVID-19? What are the emerging issues that they think businesses should take into consideration as they plan their short, medium and long-term strategies? Mr Khalil will address these and other issues in his presentation.
A now-ubiquitous joke is: who did more for your company’s digital transformation – your Chief Information Officer, your CEO or COVID-19? Undoubtedly the pandemic has significantly accelerated the implementation of digital transformation in companies and industries. PWC is one of the world’s largest consulting firms. Their Canada practice is one of the leading centres of digital expertise. So, what are the ongoing digital trends that will affect business? What emerging technologies should we be watching and, quite frankly, adopting? Dr. Hirji will explore these and other topics in his address to the audience.
AMCHAM T&T’s Annual General Meeting begins at 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM with the members-only portion while the Business Forum begins at 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm during which the incoming President will make their inaugural speech.
AMCHAM T&T/IDB Launch 3rd Women in Leadership Mentorship
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) hosted a virtual launch of the third Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme earlier today.
The AMCHAM T&T/IDB Mentorship Programme is part of AMCHAM T&T’s continued commitment to working towards achieving gender parity and promoting women’s leadership in business.
At the launch, President of AMCHAM T&T, Patricia Ghany said we may find the solutions to these big problems by taking a collection of micro-actions and concrete steps. “The Women in Leadership Mentorship Program is an example of AMCHAM T&T taking these micro-actions and concrete steps to create opportunities for women to advance their chosen career paths whilst building the next generation of female leadership in the business sector. We must put action to our words and ensure that we lead by example at all levels of our organisation.”
“I am very proud of this programme, because we have created a space for young female professionals to have guidance and counsel that will prepare them for the next step in their career paths. And what better way than having senior executives – both male and female – acting as mentors to the next generation of leaders?” said Ghany.
She also spoke about the impact COVID-19 is having on women across the world. “Before COVID-19, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report estimated that it will take another 99.5 years before the global gender gap is closed across 107 countries. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this gap is expected to widen even further.”
She says the impact of COVID-19 could see an estimated 195 million jobs eliminated globally according to figures by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Many of these jobs are from the informal sector and non-essential services industries which mainly employ women.
Rocío Medina Bolívar, Country Representative for the IDB Group to Trinidad and Tobago says her organisation remains committed to achieving gender equality. “The need for more women in leadership positions is not unique to T&T. The overall number of women in leadership positions are really still low. We have seen some of the statistics in the Caribbean where we have 18% of the world members and 29% of women in leadership positions, which may indicate growth from previous years but there is still a lot of work to do.”
“So this latest edition of the mentorship programme with the IDB and AMCHAM T&T renew our commitment to empowering women whose increasing role in leadership aren’t only good for businesses but also contribute as a catalyst for the social development of the communities that they belonged to.”
AMCHAM T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie reaffirmed AMCHAM’s commitment to providing more opportunities for women and girls in these uncertain times. “Our philosophy on equality has always been: we don’t view this as a male or female issue but an issue of fairness that just happens to also make good economic sense and is a necessary element towards building a fully democratic and progressive society.”
The programme was originally conceived from feedback at our annual Women’s Leadership Conference which typically attracts more than 300 participants, mostly women, every March in commemoration of the International Women’s Day.
Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the programme would be held entirely virtually this year with a class featuring the highest number of participants in the programme’s three-year history. Thirty-seven (37) women working in various fields across the private sector signed up to be matched with a mentor aligned to their career goals.
Originally, mentorship was offered for female professionals mainly in the areas of Science & Mathematics, Technology, Engineering and Economics but since 2018, AMCHAM T&T had added the field of Occupational Health and Safety as part of its continued commitment to adding value to the state of H.S.S.E. in Trinidad & Tobago.
The third edition of the Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme will run from June through November 2020. For more information on the program, please visit our website www.amchamtt.com or contact Rey-Anne Paynter @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
Cybersecurity Essential for Conducting
Business During COVID-19
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) is encouraging companies to invest more around cybersecurity tools and policies to protect their digital assets and workforce in light of changes to the way people work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a Webinar hosted by AMCHAM on “Navigating The Pandemic: Cybersecurity” Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, Melissa Pierre said the pandemic has created new opportunities for criminals to disrupt business. “We already know that opportunistic criminals and other malicious actors have been using the internet and other rapidly evolving technology such as apps and mobile smart devices to compromise an individual or company’s financial and digital assets. Amidst a pandemic where social distancing, economic disruption and remote working have now become the norm – this has created the perfect setting for criminals to induce further shocks and disruptions to both our economic and health systems.”
“It was just a matter of time for hackers to take advantage of a remote workforce, or an unsuspecting customer plugging in company credit card details or other important company information on an unsecured network,” she said.
Vernon Jeffery, Chief Strategist at Readiness Associates which provides disaster and emergency preparedness services to healthcare organizations, says while no one could have foreseen entire companies going remote, the pandemic has created its own unique set of cybersecurity challenges.
“Ultimately, to protect their teams of employees and company sensitive information, organizations should endeavour to implement a singular cybersecurity policy that will follow a person around wherever they go; on every device that they use, that will protect them from everything from malware to ransomware to nation-states, who are trying to steal their credentials, and as well can protect the company from bad behaviour if it should occur.”
Shanna Utgard, Success Manager at Defendify, which is a cybersecurity platform designed specifically for small businesses suggested five (5) top tips for companies to secure their remote workers during COVID-19. They are:
1) Secure and test remote connections – Hackers frequently exploit out-of-date firewalls and VPN connections. Companies should ensure all devices on their network are up-to-date and “patched” i.e. messages received to update apps or operating systems on phones and other smart devices. The connection tool i.e. VPN or tunnelling tool coming from the employee’s home and back to the
corporate network should be secured and using a two-factor authentication in addition to just a password.
2) Run a Cybersecurity assessment – When working from home, companies will need to perform self-assessments to walk through the cybersecurity controls; and identify what has changed with their infrastructure and overall IT posture.
3) Set work from home expectations – It is important to set various policies and plans when working from home.
4) Train your team – Due to distractions at the home, companies should invest in training employees to use new technology at home that they are unfamiliar with to prevent information from being stolen.
5) Revise the Incident Response Plan – Companies should create a culture for employees to know what to do if they suspect an incident and to report issues when they occur. It is recommended that companies provide clearly defined support communication channels and a paper copy of the incident response plan to employees.
Utgard stated hackers have tried to infiltrate the networks of users through suspicious registered domains and phishing schemes since the onset of the pandemic. “There have been more than 40,000 new registered domains that reference coronavirus terms. These attackers are buying up these domains and they're starting them up and making these malicious websites and they're also using these domains to send these phishing attacks. First, it was warnings from the CDC and the World Health Organization, then it transitioned to new cases that were reported in your area.”
Hackers are also aiming their sights on information regarding social relief assistance programmes as countries start to flatten the curve. “We're starting to see the attacks transition into disaster relief. So, a lot of the theme of these emails now are related to Grants and Loans, small business relief, paycheck protection, all of those types of attacks,” Utgard said.
Anthony Subero, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer at Hitachi says T&T will have to accelerate its digital transformation because of COVID-19. Outlining the Transition and Transformation Tracks cited in the government appointed “Road to Recovery Committee’s” preliminary assessment report, Subero says, “If you look at the second block in both tracks, the digital transformation track plays a key enabling component to that road to the recovery strategy.”
“What that inter-connectivity and movement of data and storage of data mandates is the need for proper cybersecurity, but it also drives the conversation towards data privacy and protection of confidential data for your consumer. Once you move into the Internet, you are open at two levels: one is for an increased number of attacks and as well as the ability to compromise your data or shut down their service. To mitigate these threats, you have to adopt more effective cybersecurity and privacy programs which are strongly embedded in the Enterprise Risk Management framework.”
With more people working from home and exchanging in the sharing of information online, Daniel Gaudreau, Executive Consultant at Hitachi says companies need to be able to evolve with their digital environment as the technology is evolving. He says companies must also build trust with consumers during this exchange of information particularly as they manage their digital transformation journey.
“Cybersecurity and privacy need to be part of the basic requirements of any business that is moving forward to the digital transformation. If you are making use of Technologies, you are making use of data and you need to make sure that protecting that information and privacy of your customers and employees are part of what would be considered on a day to day basis.”
The “Navigating The Pandemic: Cybersecurity” Webinar was envisaged and designed by AMCHAM T&T to help companies adjust to the disruption caused to business by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also, part of our Digital Transformation Series which we are hosting over the next couple of weeks to continue the dialogue, engagement, and information sharing we started at last year’s Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank Ms. Zia Patton, Partner at PwC for moderating the Webinar and to our sponsors Republic Bank, PwC, Digicel and our partners at Trinidad Systems Limited (TSL) for their support to host this Webinar.
For further questions or comments please contact: Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Risk Management That Is Agile and Flexible For Emerging
And Unknown Scenarios”
Risk management allows organizations to prepare for the unexpected by minimizing risks and extra costs before they happen. Much of the risks and threats posed to companies in the past have come from financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management errors, accidents, and natural disasters. However, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the closure of businesses, remote working, and government-mandated national shutdowns of all non-essential services in many countries, businesses are now dealing with new and bigger threats.
AMCHAM T&T hosted a Webinar on “Navigating the Pandemic: The Usefulness of Risk Management” which was moderated by our H.S.E. Committee Chair, Ms. Cindi Nandlal, to provide vital information and additional resources that will help businesses and the wider society adjust to the health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T said companies will have to begin investing more towards improving their risk landscape which is changing every day because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We may have to perform more new risk assessments and continually adjust control measures to contain those new or heightened risks. So, we must come together and start developing practical solutions – if we haven't done so before – that will start looking more closely into our crisis management plans and business continuity plans in an era of COVID-19. We also need to re-think how we assess risk and prepare for events that could impact our businesses. Nassim Taleb – author of the Black Swan – is on record as saying that COVID-19 is not a Black Swan event as it was entirely predictable, yet many of us were almost totally unprepared to respond to it.”
“We understand that many companies are struggling to cope in these times due to the major disruptions caused by the response measures to stop the spread of the virus. The reality is that this virus is going to be with us for some time in the immediate future if there is no vaccine, but we also have to find safe and responsible ways to ensure that we can conduct and operate business during these challenging times,” Tewarie said.
Nippin Anand, feature speaker at the Webinar and founder of Novellus Solutions - a UK based company with world-class expertise in Human Factors and Safety Management Systems, argued that it is deeply problematic to think only in terms of errors when accessing risks and safety management policies. “There is very little value in looking at problems as errors, malfunctions, non-compliance, slips, and mistakes. We need to mature in terms of our language because this is where the safety science is taking us towards.”
Drawing insight from the real-life case study of the Costa Concordia accident – which claimed the lives of 32 passengers in 2012 when the ship capsized after hitting a rock off the coast of Giglio, an island on Italy's Tuscan coast – Anand reported that the crew was unwilling to speak up against the captain despite obvious warning signs that the ship had veered off course and was too close to the rocks.
Anand says in many situations when we push people to challenge authority it becomes difficult because we are not sure when the roles will be switched in the same space between the student and the teacher. “It is not just the captain. He is also the teacher. In certain cultures, and certain societies, we don't question the teacher. We don't quite understand these dynamics,” he says.
“We talk about leadership and accountability. Let's try and understand that when there is a significant gap between the captain and the subordinate, between the surgeon and his subordinate, between the pilot and his subordinate, between the trainer and his subordinates. What sense does it make to ask these questions?”
Anand says subordinates do not question authority because of the way society has organized the different roles and the value of the information that comes from the respective players. “From the perspective of the novice, he feels threatened. He feels very uncomfortable that whatever he says would make him feel exposed as somebody who doesn't understand anything, as somebody who's incompetent. And nobody is really making up anything. This is how we have organized these teams under very tremendous pressures.”
Anand argues that language plays an important role. “We should stop asking people to follow behavior-based safety and behavior-based tools. What is really needed is something more powerful and that is a shift in language. Language plays a very important role. So, people feel more comfortable talking about their adaptability and that is a very powerful way to influence the culture change. It is to give people a new language, a new way of thinking.”
“Today we have what you call reporting systems, that you spot something, and you report but they are very linear systems, they are very one-directional. The idea is to create systems of that thinking where we encourage that "two-way conversations", where somebody in a COVID situation sees something unusual and they can discuss this with the office and you can come up with a solution.”
Anand also said business leaders need to keep their focus on building a safety and risk management system that supports the outcome in relation to reality. “Business leaders should stop counting on outcome after an accident as a way to say that you are a safe or unsafe organization. In other words, stop counting on loss time incidents, casualties and breakdowns as a way to understand who is a hero and who is a villain. If you leave the outcome aside i.e. people getting hurt or injured, there is nothing really significantly different in a normal, average, successful operation and an accident.”
Meanwhile, Colonel Lyle E. Alexander, Chairman of the Port Authority of T&T says the future of risk management is dependent on companies becoming more encompassing and global in their learning, customer service, communications, medical responsibility, training (especially the soft skills) and with scenario planning and drills.
“What this pandemic has taught us is the risks that we face now literally can come from left field. There is no normal anymore and we are not going to go back to normal. So, we have to be constantly thinking if we want to achieve these business objectives, what are the possibilities and likely challenges that we will face down the road? Can we scenario them, and where possible, drill them?”
He says the Security Manager of the future needs to be more business-focused and solution-driven, creative and flexible, and consider taking the enterprise security risk management approach which uses risk-management principles to manage security-related risks across an enterprise.
In this period of COVID-19, he advises companies to establish a risk committee that is made up of all the necessary areas of the business, ensure that cybersecurity is a priority with so many people working at home, and not to take for granted the human component of the business i.e. their employees.
The “Navigating The Pandemic: The Usefulness of Risk Management” is one of a series of webinars that was envisaged and designed by the AMCHAM T&T HSE Committee to provide the necessary tools to help companies adjust to the disruption caused to business by the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
AMCHAM T&T Supports Navigating HR & IR Issues During the Pandemic
Navigating Human Resource Management strategies and Industrial Relations practices will be essential for business operations once work restrictions are lifted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a Webinar hosted by AMCHAM T&T on “Navigating HR & IR Issues During the Pandemic", Chief Executive Officer, Nirad Tewarie, said, "Business will have to address both the legal obligations of employers on issues relating to employee leave, employer’s obligation with work from home policies and best practice on how companies can engage with their unions and employees during this period.”
“It’s important that companies employ compassionate solutions that will help them to effectively engage with their employees so that their concerns are addressed while maintaining business continuity during these uncertain times.”
Catherine Ramnarine, Partner - M. Hamel Smith & Co said the Covid-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for employers particularly as it relates to H/R policies on sick leave, working from home, and dealing with a downturn in business. “Much of our employment requirements are determined, not by legislation or regulation, but by the principles of ‘good industrial relations practice’. These principles are not codified, but instead must be gleaned from decisions of our Industrial Court.”
Even though the legislative provisions governing sick leave in Trinidad and Tobago are limited, Ramnarine says employers should check the employment contracts, policies, and collective agreements. “In the current situation, good industrial relations practice may require employers to apply those provisions more flexibly, reasonably and compassionately than they would during normal business operations,” she said.
Meanwhile, quarantine leave or time off to stay home with children may not expressly qualify as ‘sick leave’ under the employment contract, policy, or collective agreement. “It is likely to be considered a breach of good industrial relations practice to penalise employees by non-payment of salary - at least in the short term if an employee is mandated or recommended by health officials to stay away from work,” says Ramnarine.
With regard to the controversial issue of Pandemic Leave, Ramnarine says, “there is no express legal obligation on employers to provide pandemic leave. However, employers do still have a general obligation to treat with requests for leave, flexibly, reasonably and compassionately, while balancing the operational, business and financial challenges of the current situation.”
When dealing with the downturn in business from the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should ideally consult with its employees and obtain their agreement to utilise their vacation leave. “Alternatives like the utilisation of vacation leave should be considered before implementing more drastic measures such as salary cuts and a reduction in paid working hours.”
“The unilateral imposition of no-pay leave MAY be considered a repudiatory breach of the employment contract and conduct deemed to be harsh, oppressive or contrary to the principles of good industrial relations practice. However, the Industrial Court has recognised temporary lay-offs as a valid industrial relations practice."
Ian John, CEO of Massy Technologies InfoCom says businesses must look beyond performance management and pay more attention to productivity. “So, we are now in the era where we are no longer managing staff’s time, as we say performance is not managing staff time but how do we manage productivity.”
“Many managers in organizations are finding out, holding an employee accountable/responsible for a set of deliverables but the set of deliverables that this employee has to deliver is based on a set of inputs, factors, variables, some of which may no longer be available to that employee given the current situation.”
John says companies must ensure that employees who are working from home are provided with the required IT infrastructure, HSE regulations, documented policies and processes and clear expectations of what is required of them during this situation.
Teresa White, Group HR Director - ANSA McAL Limited spoke about her Group’s plans and policies that were implemented following the first reported case of COVID-19 in T&T.
She said ANSA McAL implemented work from home policies for all their non-essential staff and issued a clear set of deliverables and expectations. She advised that any performance managing work from home policy should be clearly articulated with established rules and expectations and have a performance objective-setting and assessment measures.
During the period where employees were working from home, she said meetings were set up between the ANSA McAL leadership team and the union executives, and the communication channels were open between the executive team and employees. She noted that the Group had also ramped up its Corporate Social Responsibility activities. “We are aware of the fact that ANSA McAL is a major private sector profit generator and, therefore, we have an obligation to our communities to provide support where we can at this time.”
The “Navigating HR & IR Issues During the Pandemic” is one of a series of webinars that was envisaged and designed by AMCHAM T&T, as a means to provide the necessary tools to help companies adjust to the disruption caused to business by the global pandemic. 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.
AMCHAM T&T Celebrates International Girls in ICT Day 2020
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) partnered with the NGO, Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) to host several Break Out Sessions for the “Girls in ICT Day” Virtual Conference.
This event was part of T&T’s activities to commemorate the International Girls in ICT Day 2020 which is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of the month of April. This is a global movement to encourage and empower girls and young women to consider studies and careers in ICTs. Since 2011, more than 362 000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 11 000 celebrations in 171 countries worldwide.
Today’s event attracted over 1600 participants from several countries across the Caribbean and South America who came together to engage in online discussions to provide increasing opportunities for continued education and jobs in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Originally scheduled as a live event, the COVID-19 global pandemic forced organizers to transform their activities into virtual events. For this event, AMCHAM T&T assisted by providing the platform for hosting the event as well as arranging for several female professionals to host sessions on careers in tech. The shift to virtual events such as this shows the increasing role of technology in the post-COVID 19 future
Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T spoke about the important link between promoting gender parity and advancing our nation’s tech sector. “For us at AMCHAM T&T, we see these two issues as intersectional in creating the kind of society that we want and that allows us to participate effectively in global value chains. By this, I mean if we are to develop our nation’s tech sector, we cannot do this without addressing the gaps that keep girls and women from achieving parity,” said Ghany.
“When we increase the educational opportunities in ICT for girls and women, and develop a more gender-balanced tech sector, we are lifting women out of poverty by offering them opportunities for jobs and access to move up the career ladder quicker in their respective fields.”
AMCHAM T&T is proud to have collaborated on the RSC’s “Girls in ICT Day” virtual conference as we see this as another avenue to push towards digital transformation. Countries and businesses need to invest more to digitally transform the way they do business if only to meet the changing demands posed from a post COVID-19 world.
Last year we hosted our nation’s first-ever Tech Hubs Islands Summit (this) Conference. Hosting this conference was an opportunity for us to encourage the private and public sector to infuse tech into their business processes to increase their competitiveness and attract both local and foreign investment. We believe a meaningful, dynamic tech industry could change the essence of how we live, work, and play in T&T, which is why we are strongly committed to advancing our nation’s tech sector.
AMCHAM T&T invited several prominent and influential women, both locally and internationally, to speak at the “Girls in ICT Day" conference and lead many of the Break Out Sessions:
AMCHAM T&T would like to thank these women for their contributions to this event and particularly to Mr. Raj Ramdass and his entire team at the Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) for hosting this very important conference.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com
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