U.S. Deputy Assistant Energy Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas discusses U.S. Energy with AMCHAM T&T Board
(Meeting with U.S. Energy Department Official (l-r) Matt Ciesielski, AMCHAM T&T Director, Karrian Hepburn, AMCHAM T&T Director, Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO, Shawn Bennett, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas, U.S. Energy Department, Patricia Ghany, AMCHAM T&T President, Nicholas Galt, AMCHAM T&T Director, and Stuart Franco, CEO, The T.S.L. Group.)
Shawn Bennett, U.S. Deputy Assistant Energy Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas, held a meeting with members of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T), on Monday 3rd February 2020 at the AMCHAM T&T building in Newtown.
The meeting primarily focused on the impact of the US becoming a major gas exporter and the structural changes to the industry as a result. DAS Bennet emphasized that the US Administration would like to work collaboratively with T&T even as the private sectors in both countries compete in the market.
He further gave some suggestions on how AMCHAM T&T might play a role in exposing Independent Producers in the US to potential opportunities in the onshore oil and gas sector in Trinidad.
Currently, the U.S. is T&T’s largest trading partner, providing 28% of its imports and accepting 48% of its exports.
Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T welcomed the exchange of ideas and business interests with the Deputy Assistant Secretary. “We are grateful to have been paid this special visit with such a high-ranking member of the U.S. Energy Department. Our continued engagement with the U.S. remains vital for our long-term growth and development.”
At the US Energy Department, DAS Bennet administers oil and gas programs, including research and development, analysis, and natural gas regulation. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs and government relations in the coal and the oil and gas industries. Most recently, he served as the Executive Vice President for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA), a non-profit trade association that is dedicated to representing Ohio oil and gas producers. His role at OOGA included overseeing all U.S. federal and state legislative and regulatory activities in Columbus, OH and Washington D.C.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com or 728-8274
AMCHAM T&T Signs ARISE MoU with UNDRR
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) signed an agreement with The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to support the Private Sector Alliance for Resilient Societies (ARISE) project initiative.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today by Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR at the 23rd Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition hosted by AMCHAM T&T at the Hyatt, Regency.
AMCHAM T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie shakes hands with Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR. Also pictured is Sabine Kast- Director, International Programs at Miyamoto International, a speaker at this year's HSSE Conference.
ARISE is a private sector initiative, which in conjunction with the UNDRR, works towards a resilient, prosperous future where fewer lives are lost to disasters; capital assets and investments are risk-informed; and infrastructure is resilient to natural and man-made hazards.
Citing the damage and destruction caused by recent natural disasters and inclement weather patterns to affect Trinidad and Tobago, Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T said in her opening remarks, “Our nation needs a comprehensive disaster resiliency plan that integrates climate change considerations into priority sectors to allow for the appropriate interventions.”
“While the greatest facet of our humanity often emerges in these perilous times it goes without saying that the relief from natural disasters should not be left solely to the charitable acts from private citizens and companies,” Ghany said.
Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR said “With AMCHAM T&T as the national network for ARISE in T&T we are now able to develop new capacities towards accessing disaster risk management and to create action plans to implement tangible projects according to the Sendai Framework which is the connective tissue that can allow us to enhance resilience towards disaster and help us towards achieving the SDGs.”
The MoU is a joint venture between AMCHAM T&T, the UNDRR, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
By signing this document, the Parties will be responsible for the implementation of the National ARISE Network in Trinidad and Tobago which would perform the following activities:
AMCHAM T&T will provide the coordination mechanism link between the UNDRR Regional Office for the Americas and the global ARISE initiative and in coordination with the ODPM and CDEMA will facilitate the scaling up of initiatives and impacts at the regional level. The ODPM as coordinator of the national emergency management system in Trinidad and Tobago, of which AMCHAM T&T is a valued stakeholder, will encourage the continued strengthening of disaster risk management capacities in the local private sector.
AMCHAM T&T CEO Calls for TRUTH and REALITY in Facing T&T’s Economic Woes
“According to the data, this is the worst recession that we have been in since the 1980s and therefore how we get out of it and what we do requires the truth,” said AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie while delivering the welcome remarks of Day Two at AMCHAM T&T’s 23rd’ Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition.
While AMCHAM T&T does not think that we are facing an 80’s style gloom and doom situation, Trinidad and Tobago will have to face the truth and answer to indisputable facts regarding our economic reality. “Official statistics don’t tell the whole story. To give just one example, the central government’s debt is recorded to be 62% of GDP and continues to show an upward trend. However, this recorded debt does not include the TT$40 billion exchequer overdraft, upcoming payables or VAT refunds. Therefore, it does not reflect the government’s true indebtedness,” said Tewarie.
The AMCHAM T&T CEO says the business community has a responsibility to go into the numbers and not get caught by promises that are not based on reality. “Where there is spending promised and cuts are promised but at the same time balancing of budgets and economic growth, we have to ask some questions and we have to use our connections and our resources to ensure that we are pushing the parties to come up with sound economic plans because if we don’t, what therefore is our reality?”
“We saw that GDP growth projected at 1.9% in 2018 and turns out to be -2%. How can we have those things? How can we plan? Can you plan your businesses based on that? So how do we plan a country?”
The business community is going to have to organize and demand that both the government and the opposition provide economic plans based on reality especially with this being an election year. AMCHAM T&T believes any person who is seeking political office, regardless of the party, should lead by truth and reality.
“We have heard the National Budget; we have heard the opposition response. AMCHAM T&T is not concerned with the politics of the matter, what we want is the truth,” said Tewarie.
AMCHAM T&T says all truths are easy to understand once we can discover them. If we want to understand our truths, we need the right tools and the right data to reveal those truths for our companies to succeed. “We have two options: we can complain, or we can put our shoulder to the wheel, and do what all resourceful Trinidadians have always done, and find ways to thrive once again,” said Tewarie.
To move forward, AMCHAM T&T believe we must look at how things are linked and be able to identify the risks especially now that our economic system is a real issue as we plan for businesses and for the future.
Speaking on the issue of risk and security at the HSSE conference Tewarie said: “We have to think of risk very differently and whether you are in the cybersecurity, or security and HSSE part of the business, seeing how all of these things linked is going to be important and putting that in the national context and in the international context is going to be even more important.”
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org or 728-8274
AMCHAM T&T RESPONDS TO THE 2019-2020 NATIONAL BUDGET PRESENTATION
AMCHAM T&T listened with interest to the national budget statement. We applaud the efforts towards digital transformation of the public sector, in particular the linking of the birth certificate personal identification number to the death registry with the objective of simplifying pension payments. We also note similar efforts in the licensing department and encourage acceleration and deployment of digital transformation across the wider public sector, which we believe will aid in improving the ease of doing business.
We also note that civil matters would be given dedicated space in the-soon-to-be vacated waterfront building. We hope that this will also lead to speedier resolution of commercial disputes. We also hope that the freeing up of the High Court to deal with more criminal matters will result in timelier delivery of justice for all.
A third noteworthy area is the new tax incentives for the development of the agricultural sector but we seek clarification on whether this applies to farmers or corporations or both. We are unsure that this will be enough to stimulate the sector as other concerns such as irrigation and praedial larceny still need to be addressed.
We also applaud the announcement of the Styrofoam ban and look forward to its implementation. Further environmental positives include the initiatives supporting enhanced energy efficiency, for example tax incentives for solar heaters and the planned changeout of regular to LED light bulbs.
However, we are uneasy that the government is increasing expenditure and again planning a fiscal deficit in 2020. This follows a year in which the government’s revenue was bolstered by more than $5 billion in one-off revenue yet resulted in an almost $4 billion deficit. AMCHAM T&T would like to see a clear link between revenue and expenditure patterns with a view towards realistically achieving a balanced budget in the near future. This must be placed in the context of the government’s medium-term policy framework with special emphasis on sustainable growth and improving the ease of doing business.
We lament that the budget presentation did not address the ease of doing business in a more deliberate and tangible way.
These are our initial comments and we look forward to hearing further details as the Budget debate continues.
AMCHAM T&T TO HOST CLEANATHON 2019
AMCHAM T&T will be launching the 23rd Annual Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition on Saturday, 6 July 2019 with a CLEANATHON and Fun Day event in commemoration of the 2019 UN World Environment Day.
AMCHAM T&T, which hosts the region’s premier HSSE conference that typically brings together the largest gathering of HSSE professionals from both international and regional territories, is seeking to increase local awareness on the effects of air pollution with this year’s conference. With the continuous and elevated levels of the Sahara dust affecting air quality and the lives of citizens across Trinidad and Tobago over the past couple months, AMCHAM T&T believes highlighting the impact of air pollution remains a very timely and relevant issue that deserves addressing.
The World Health Organisation highlights air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to human health, second only to climate change. Air pollution is also estimated to be the cause of seven million premature deaths every year (4.3 million from ambient outdoor pollution, and 2.6 from households.)
A recent UN Environment report on Caribbean Air Quality outlines that Air pollution consistently ranks among the top risk factors for death and disability worldwide. In 2017, air pollution was the fifth highest mortality risk factor globally and was associated with about 4.9 million deaths and 147 million years of healthy life lost.
AMCHAM T&T’s CLEANATHON will engage citizens to collect trash around the Queen’s Park Savannah while highlighting the hazards of environmental abuse with the focus being on the impact of air pollution. AMCHAM T&T believes indoor and outdoor air quality can be improved if the right investments are made towards renewable energy, tightening vehicle emission standards, reducing open burning of agricultural and municipal waste, providing greater access to cleaner cooking and heating fuels and adopting more efficient cook/space heating stoves for citizens. Failure to address these very real concerns would continue to erode the quality of life for all citizens.
AMCHAM T&T is inviting everyone to support this worthy venture to raise awareness on air pollution and by extension the urgent need to protect our planet. So, come out in your numbers and let’s clean up the Queen’s Park Savannah to #BeatAirPollution and maintain Clean Air for a Better Tomorrow.
AMCHAM T&T MAKES A CALL FOR GREATER COLLABORATION AND DIALOGUE
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) would like to address the call made by union leader Ancil Roget to “boycott the 1%” on Friday 4th August 2017. AMCHAM T&T believes the statement is not only unfortunate but counterproductive. In every country where a minority has been persecuted in an attempt to shift power or influence to another group, the result has been economic and social decay.
We believe that statements such as these are very divisive and not in the best interest of the very workers that they are supposed to represent.
We acknowledge that Trade Unions have a very important part to play in protecting and promoting the rights and best interests of their members. This can only be done through dialogue leading to constructive solutions. In that regard, we too would like to see a return to multiparty dialogue in a manner that allows all stakeholders to participate in a meaningful and constructive way. The National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) was that vehicle, but it is not functioning as intended. AMCHAM T&T stands ready to assist and participate in its reformation to facilitate meaningful dialogue and a path forward.
The world is in the midst of an economic crisis, with new political and social disruptions occurring every day. At this time, the country needs leaders – including Trade Union leaders - who are willing to look past all differences and seek solutions to the challenges we face. We believe that this is not the time for pointing fingers, but instead a time of increased collaboration and dialogue. Myopic viewpoints and unreasonable demands that seek to promote specific agendas rather than finding innovative solutions should not be the first course of action.
We urge all leaders in all sectors of Trinidad & Tobago- Business, Labour, Government to come together so we can work together with a unified purpose of ensuring that our country and all citizens enjoy a decent quality of life not just in the short term but for many years to come.
AMCHAM T&T INTRODUCES ITS NEW PRESIDENT AT ITS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago elected its new President at its Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Trinidad Conference on Thursday 11th May 2017. The fourteenth President, Mitchell De Silva is currently the Regional Vice President - Corporate Banking - RBC Merchant Bank (Caribbean) Limited, and has been an active participant in AMCHAM T&T for the past decade.
In his inaugural address he underscored the immediate need for the “Private Sector to take up the challenge to cede from the Government the position of being the main driver of our economy.”
He informed the two hundred plus crowd at the AGM, that high on AMCHAM T&T’s advocacy agenda was the intention to “press the Government to adopt fiscal rules.” He maintained that the implementation of codified and legislated fiscal rules is a necessary step to follow if the Procurement legislation is to be effective, as the two will work in tandem. He explained that “one, broadly speaking, is designed to ensure efficiency in expenditure and the other is intended to preserve or, one might say establish a strong correlation between what we spend and what we earn. Fiscal rules and Procurement are not a panacea for what ails us, but they form the basis for creating a more accountable and responsible form of Governance, not only at the political level but across the entire society.”
On the topic of labour, he noted that the “already tense relationship between business and labour is more likely to deteriorate than it is to improve.” To this he advised that both sides should “unclench their fists and extend their hands” and seek instead to bridge the divide. He added:
“I recognize that a degree of tension between the forces is necessary and a requisite for a healthy industrial relations climate, but what I do believe and what I do foresee, is that to continue as is will only lead to a further fracturing of our society. Now is not a time for unyielding commitment to ideology but to find new ideology to fit our reality. I am not advocating that we abandon our core principles but that, as we discuss the future, we incorporate these into a shared sense of purpose for the benefit of all. We have no choice but to search for a better way. In this regard, it is my hope that
the unions will see it fit to return National Tripartite Advisory Council and that Government Business and Labour come together on some key initiatives to drive our socio-economic recovery.”
There was also a few changes to the AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors and sees Dominic Rampersad, President Pheonix Park Gas Processors Ltd. as the vacant VP spot. The list of Directors are as follows:
President – Mitchell De Silva, RBC
Vice President - Catalina Herrera, Citi
Vice President - Dominic Rampersad, PPGPL
Secretary - Glenn Hamel-Smith, Hamel-Smith & Co.
Treasurer - Patricia Ghany, Esau Oilfield Supplies Limited
Other Directors to the Board are: Ravi Suryadevara, TRINVALCO; Hugh Howard, Hugh Howard & Associates; Simon Aqui, IBM; Nicholas Galt, TSL; Frances Correia, Microsoft; Sana Ragbir, First Citizens; Giselle Thompson, bpTT; Jason George, United Airlines; Gayle Pazos, Scotiabank; Ravi Bajaj, Chevron and Erojus Joseph, GE Oil & Gas.
AMCHAM T&T RESPONDS TO THE MID-YEAR REVIEW
AMCHAM T&T has considered the Minister’s Statements in the Report on the Finance Committee and acknowledges that the Government is on budget at this point in the fiscal year. We also note that this will still require significant deficit financing at the end of this period. The minister articulated that within current circumstances we are on track to achieve fiscal balance by 2020. That said, there is much time between today and fiscal 2020 and our expectation is that the Government will maintain the current course to ensure balance by year the 2020 or before. Further, in curtailing expenditure, our hope is that low spend is not linked to an inability to execute or non-implementation of plans and programs, but rather a result of real savings.
Within the presentation, the Minister of Finance addressed measures being taken on the implementation of the Property Tax. While the focus in the interim is on residential properties, it is our hope that there will be adequate discussion on industrial property tax prior to its implementation. Earlier articulation surrounding the tax on industry suggests that there may be a negative impact on re-investment and new investment.
We also note that the Minister recognized increased tax revenue from the SPT. In previous presentations, the Government committed to a review of this tax in an effort to boost oil production. Ultimately boosting oil production will lead to greater revenue and we urge the Minster to make the necessary revision of the SPT in the 2017/2018 National Budget.
The Minister has also requested that the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago give priority to trade and manufacturing. This is, as we understand, the status quo and will unlikely result in any significant change. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago needs to articulate a clear set of long-term plans and initiatives to address these and other issues to inspire greater confidence in the local economy.
As always, we remain committed to collaboration with the Government and other stakeholders as we represent our members’ views and work collectively in the interest of our country.
AMCHAM T&T EXTENDS CONDOLENCES ON THE PASSING OF DR. ANTHONY SABGA
AMCHAM T&T is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Anthony N. Sabga.
Dr. Sabga led a remarkable life. He was a true pioneer and titan of business. He played a significant role in the creation and development of several businesses in T&T and has left an indelible mark on the economic landscape of the entire Caribbean. Deeply committed to the development of the region, Dr. Saga supported numerous social causes through the ANSA McAL Foundation.
Dr. Sabga’s life stands as a testament to the value of hard work, commitment and extraordinary vision.
He was a man who, in many ways, was ahead of his time, and earned the respect of people across the region.
We extend a heartfelt condolence to his family and his loved ones.
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) is concerned about the lack of clarity on the implementation of the proposed Property Tax.
AMCHAMT T&T understands the urgency of increased revenue collection and supports the need for a Property Tax. However, the re-introduction of any policy measure must not occur in an environment of uncertainty. We urge the Government to provide details on the valuation and implementation of the Property Tax, particularly where it relates to uncovered plant, rigs, and machinery.
Proper implementation of the Property Tax is key to reducing any negative impact on the business community that has already been significantly taxed over the last few years. It is also fundamental to the ability of the country to attract new investors. We are concerned that this may be a deterrent to new investors whose deployed capital in the form of new plant or equipment, will now attract an exorbitant Property Tax before depreciation can be applied.
AMCHAM T&T has been requesting clarity and underscoring the need for greater discussion since 2015. In September 2015 AMCHAM T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie, in his address at our Doing Business in Latin America forum, stated “We anticipate that in the upcoming budget there may be a return to the Land and Building tax. If so, we urge the government to be mindful of the impact on business and to provide clear and detailed information on how it will be implemented.”
AMCHAM T&T again raised the issue in June 2016, when the chamber submitted its budget recommendations to the Ministry of Finance, where we asked for a “Review of Lands and Building Tax regime in consultation with stakeholders” and we reiterated the call for collaboration and clarity in our response to the National Budget presentation. Further, AMCHAM T&T’s President Ravi Suryadevara wrote to the Minister of Finance on Friday 24th March, 2017 requesting a meeting to discuss the tax, but to date, no response has been received.
If the Government would like to promote public-private sector partnership they must create an environment that encourages investment, entrepreneurship, and diversification, greater effort must be made to foster the trust and open dialogue to facilitate such.
In a global environment where nothing is certain, and concerns about our economy linger, the Government must make a greater effort to reduce ambiguity and promote confidence to drive growth.
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