AMCHAM T&T HSSE Conference & Exhibition 2020
Dr Philip Mshelbila - CEO of Atlantic
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome.
We are now in the tenth month of a global pandemic that is once in a lifetime. The news continues to be sobering – in fact many of us avoid it. But at the same time, all around us there are inspiring stories of people rising above the challenges.
When I think about the brave response of people in this situation, I am reminded of a quotation by the famous psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who pioneered the theory of the Five Stages of Grief. She said, and I paraphrase: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when adversity comes, their real beauty is revealed by their light from within.”
People have been pressing on through the challenges, because as a famous actor once put it: “Life finds a way.” People have been skillfully navigating the complexities of the new world in which we find ourselves. Our children are learning to master online school. We, their parents, are juggling responsibilities as we turn our homes into offices and schools. We all sanitize our surroundings and wash our hands like never before, and none of us go anywhere without our face masks – the world’s newest and most essential fashion (and I may add, safety) accessory. In fact, in Atlantic, we call the face mask a lifesaving personal protective equipment.
In all these things, everywhere we look, we see on display the courage, creativity, and resilience of our common humanity. It is therefore very fitting that AMCHAM T&T has chosen the theme of “Resilience” for this year’s annual Conference on Health, Safety, Security, and the Environment. This year’s staging is the 24th in the series since it was first established, and for the first time ever, this Conference is being held virtually and online, for obvious reasons.
On behalf of all the sponsors, I welcome all attendees from here at home and those from around the region. We thank you for attending and participating. As we all know, this week will connect us to the latest best practices in HSSE. This information is particularly valuable given the present time and throughout this week, there will be an indispensable transfer of knowledge. We will share in the priceless lessons learned from the experiences of others, which we can take back and implement in our own companies. This will help build our collective capability to rise above the challenging local and global business environment.
Atlantic, like many other companies, continues to navigate through the storm, buffeted by the wind and the waves that seem to assault our very existence. The global LNG business has experienced a contraction, as reduced economic activity around the world has had a knock-on effect on demand for natural gas and LNG. Fortunately, there are signs that global demand for energy is beginning to recover, albeit slowly. Prices remain lower than they were, ushering in a new era of even more targeted cost management and energy efficiency across the industry.
Through it all, there can be no compromise on the safety and reliability of our business. The practice of HSSE and its contribution to business viability and success become even more critical during a global pandemic. At Atlantic, resilience in these times has meant that our business has had to evolve. We have had to discover innovative ways to deliver our targets, to manage risks both prior and new and to keep our people safe and productive.
As part of our proactive risk management, Atlantic has been monitoring the pandemic from the moment the first official announcement was made by the World Health Organization back in December 2019. We developed and then activated our COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan, and three key principles have guided us from the onset. We resolved that we would protect the health and safety of our employees, our number one priority. We committed to sustain safe and reliable operations for as long as possible, and we further charged ourselves to provide care and support where feasible to all our stakeholders, especially in our home community of Point Fortin.
These three principles have been foundational to our experiences ever since. In the months following the implementation of the national lock-down, we have been discovering our collective resilience and building upon it.
I am proud and humbled to report on one aspect of this. Throughout this period, Atlantic has experienced no impact to our production. We have been able to keep to our schedule for maintenance of our Trains. We have delivered four maintenance outages within budget, on time and most importantly, we have delivered them safely. In fact, there is a turnaround maintenance outage being conducted right now on the facility, and it is the only one for which we have had to adjust the original scope, because it was massive and would have required too many people on the site to manage sensible social distancing.
My observation is that our resilience in our operations is anchored on two key success factors, which I would like to speak about very briefly.
The first success factor has been our People. Atlantic’s people – like so many around the world – have demonstrated both their resilience and their adaptability. When we had to manage the number of personnel on site and therefore restricted access to only those employees who are critical to business continuity and plant operations, our people adapted. On-site work arrangements were revised to accommodate social distancing, cocooning, small work teams and other measures which have had implications for plant specific tasks, including the work conducted during maintenance outages. Work arrangements have been reconfigured to reinforce the new level of safety mandated by the current environment.
On the other hand, employees who are not plant-based have adjusted seamlessly to remote working arrangements. We have implemented several initiatives to help them become even more resilient, including psychological support, stipends to help them establish home offices, virtual ergonomic assessments and even a virtual gym.
In return, our employees have offered and continue to offer innovative ideas that have helped us to adapt work processes and businesses practices. These new processes have helped us to enhance safety, efficiency, and productivity in the new normal. This brings me to the second success factor that I would like to talk about and that is our Use of Technology.
A big part of our pandemic response has been powered by technology. We were among the first companies to deploy fixed and handheld thermal scanners at all our locations, conducting thermal scanning of all persons entering our facilities.
In 2018, we had declared Technology to be a strategic enabler for our company and part of our strategy to future-proof our business. Some of the state-of-the-art technology initiatives that we embarked upon at that time have now become the platforms that facilitate remote working and other necessary evolutions of our business.
For example, one platform that we implemented now allows for the quick creation of mobile apps. It was very easy for us to develop a special app to support our aim to control the numbers of persons on site. Employees use the app to request access to our plant and other Atlantic locations. The app routes requests to Atlantic leaders for authorization up to a maximum limit, and in real time helps the Company to monitor numbers across all our locations at any given time.
Another example early in the lockdown period was developed in our marine operations. We aimed to minimize the risk of contact with the crews on LNG tankers that visit our facility from all over the world, including from countries that are pandemic ‘hot spots’. A new process was developed to transfer intrinsically safe tablets between ship and shore, without requiring human contact, and adding another layer of protection around our LNG loading operations.
In other areas of the business, entire processes have shifted to online portals, which employees working from home use to collaborate with site-based personnel. We use virtual software to enable trouble shooting of onsite issues from both local and foreign service providers. In our control room, we now facilitate contactless shift handovers virtually, by use of an alternate simulated control room that is adjacent to the main location. This minimizes physical interaction between our shifts and therefore minimizes risk of transmission. Everywhere in our business, processes have been migrating online, increasing cross-functional collaboration and communication, breaking down silos and helping us keep our commitment to not compromise on the safety and reliability of our business.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Atlantic’s people for your resilience and your innovation. Our business could not be where it is today without you. We know there are still challenges ahead of us, but if there is anything that COVID-19 has taught us, it is that we have resilience and that working together we can overcome challenges and still achieve our ambitions.
It is this outlook that I would like to leave in the minds of all participants in this year’s Conference. Greater challenges may indeed lie before us all, but we have even greater resilience.
I want to thank the team at AMCHAM for creating this opportunity for us to be reminded of the strength, courage and creativity that lies inside us all.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
AMCHAM T&T HSSE CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION 2020
The Honourable Marvin Gonzales
Minister of Public Utilities
Theme: Resilience in the Context of Updates on the Energy Efficiency Policy, Tariff Policy and the Renewable Energy Policy.
It is indeed a pleasure and an honour to share with you some thoughts on Resilience and the building of sustainable energy futures from the perspective of the Public Utilities Sector.
But first, I must commend the American Chamber of Commerce for their willingness to engage with an issue that impacts every aspect and every level of the global community – from households to multi-national corporations, and from remote rural areas to teeming cities.
There can be no doubt that civilization, as we know it, is undergoing a great sea-change on a number of fronts. In the face of these developments, resilience is essential, along with strategic ways of mitigating their impact. One such development – Climate change – requires not just mitigation but systemic change across the board and at all levels, specifically in relation to the ways in which we harness and utilise energy.
For hundreds of years, mankind has had a love affair with fossil fuels. And understandably so! Coal, and then oil and gas, along with their downstream industries, have literally driven the global economy. As in all relationships, however, we have to, at some point, take stock of where we are. And in the case of fossil fuels, it is obvious that we cannot continue to sustain our relationship without doing irreparable damage to ourselves and to the planet that we call home.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, the words efficiency and conservation have been used with increasing frequency over the past few years. Government has realised that despite our unique position as an oil and gas-producing country, the sustainable use of our energy resources is the first step in the journey towards a sustainable and resilient energy future.
And we are not the only ones to come to this realisation. Many countries are individually and collectively taking systematic steps to reimagine and reshape their relationship with fossil fuels. They are actively adopting energy efficient and energy conservation initiatives and attempting to inculcate it into their daily lives. Here are some ways in which they are doing that:
1. In over 21 countries, energy utility obligation programmes have been established, mandating energy companies to adopt energy saving targets within a certain timeframe.
2. In the European Union, India, the United States, China and Australia, grants and tax relief dominate fiscal mechanisms to encourage energy efficiency activities.
3. With regards to buildings, India’s Energy Conservation Building Code mandates that new buildings must illustrate energy savings of 25% to be code-compliant. And the United Kingdom Clean Growth Strategy focuses on measures to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings and industry by a minimum of 20% by 2030.
Even our regional neighbours have joined the global thrust to become more energy efficient. Brazil created a division within its national utility, called PROCEL, expressly for the purpose of focusing on energy efficiency. And in 2002, the country created an incentive program for renewable energy aimed at stimulating the development of wind, biomass and small hydro plants along with energy efficient projects within the country.
Meanwhile Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama have all established laws meant to promote and encourage greater energy efficiency among consumers.
On the local front, government, through the Ministry of Public Utilities and T&TEC is also promoting and facilitating energy conservation and energy efficiency.
In May of last year, Cabinet appointed an Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency (EC&EE) Inter-ministerial Committee, to develop an EC&EE Policy and Action Plan. That Plan, once implemented would lead the way towards reducing Trinidad and Tobago’s energy consumption.
In its fiscal 2020 budget, the Government announced several initiatives in support of the EC&EE Policy and Action Plan, which covers a five-year period. And in fiscal 2021, Government further allocated financial support for 2 more initiatives. I will now outline some of these projects, which are in various phases of implementation.
1. The LED Lightbulb Distribution Programme and T&TEC’s Energy Management Application were launched just last month. The distribution programme involved the procurement and distribution of 1.6Million LED lightbulbs to be distributed to T&TEC’s 400,000 residential customers. While T&TEC’s Energy Management Application will assist households in managing their electricity consumption. Both initiatives are meant to increase public awareness around the issues of electricity conservation while providing consumers with concrete tools and strategies to enact change in their electricity consumption.
2. As announced in the 2020 National Budget, the MPU is facilitating a Level One Energy Audit and Retrofit of Tower C, at the International Waterfront; this project is nearing completion and was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. The newly retrofitted building will improve energy management and reduce electricity consumption at Tower C.
3. The country is also presently in discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS) to promote and use the Caribbean Renewable Energy and Efficiency building construction (CREEBC) codes in new construction. These standards, which will cover both residential and commercial construction, will increase adoption rates of more effectual technologies for renewable energy and energy conservation.
And as Mr. Deryck Omar, CEO of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), noted, their adoption will “go a long way toward allowing [CARICOM member states] … to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate.”
He continued to say that “it also demonstrates the importance of bringing quality measures into the region’s energy sector and the potential benefits that can accrue when that happens.”
4. As important as these measures are, Government understands the importance of long-term planning and implementation. And as such, has mandated the development of an Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan (IRRP) for the electricity sector of Trinidad and Tobago.
That initiative, funded by the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, will guide decision-making on the appropriate electricity mix for Trinidad and Tobago over the next 25 years. The IRRP will be completed by 2022.
5. It should be noted that Government’s position on Utility Scale is 10% RE by 2021and 30% by 2030. To this end, we are currently facilitating the implementation of a 112 MW Utility Scale Solar Project, which will add to the overall energy generation capacity.
6. Other initiatives include:
To facilitate the proper integration of these and other renewable energy sources into the energy mix, a Feed-In Tariff Policy must be developed and implemented.
The Ministry of Public Utilities is currently on an inter-ministerial Committee (chaired by the Ministry of Energy) to implement a Feed- In Tariff Policy to promote the integration of Renewable Energy sources of power into the national electricity grid. That committee will soon be finalising the policy.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Public Utilities is progressing the required legislation to facilitate residential and commercial uptake of RE via the feed-in tariff.
All of these initiatives fall under the umbrella of a wholistic climate change agenda. That agenda, guided by the National Climate Change Policy, sets up the enabling administrative framework for addressing climate change in Trinidad and Tobago, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
The Ministry of Planning and Development, through its Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, is responsible for coordinating the implementation of that policy and agenda.
An important aspect of that agenda was the development of a Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS) in 2015. The CRS informs the reader on the measurement of Carbon Emissions from the business as usual (BAU) scenarios in the power generation, the industrial and the transportation sectors of T&T.
That Carbon Reduction Strategy was used to develop the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of T&T, wherein the country committed to a 15% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, conditional upon leveraging international climate finance. It is noted that the NDC was ratified in 2018 as T&T’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
The Carbon Reduction Strategy also contains projections of carbon emissions up to 2040 for both conservative and optimistic scenarios in the same three sectors.
A suite of mitigation actions was studied and proposed for the reduction of greenhouse gases in those sectors. I have already drawn reference to some of these actions, since they are already being implemented.
Mitigating the effects of climate change is one thing, adapting to it is another. To this end, T&T is using a customized Climate Change Adaptation approach which allows identification of intervention measures in the short to medium term. It also enables the revisiting of these measures based on T&T’s exposure to climate risks.
Climate Change Adaptation Measures currently being implemented by Trinidad and Tobago involve the completion of a climate risk vulnerability and capacity assessment for all sectors in Trinidad and Tobago. This includes:
✔ Incorporating identified climate risks in the various sectors;
✔ mapping of vulnerable areas;
✔ Addressing climate risks activities in the agricultural and water sectors with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and
✔ A pilot project to increase the climate resilience of the Toco Health Centre wherein a solar system is to be installed and an upgrade to the sewer system is to be implemented using a rainwater harvesting system. (This pilot is to ensure that the Centre can operate and offer basic health care in the event of a climate related disaster).
As you can see, from the plans, strategies and initiatives that I have laid out before you, our approach to climate change and its causes is as wide as it is deep. And it encompasses all of the sectors and levels of the national community, including of course, the commercial sector.
We value your support as we move forward with this national thrust.
Our survival and success depend on everyone working together towards the common goal of a resilient national community fuelled by a sustainable energy sector. Together, we can do it!
I thank you for your time and attention and wish you all a successful and productive exhibition.
24th Annual (VIRTUAL) HSSE Conference & Exhibition
Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s 24th Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition.
By now many of you have grown accustomed to our new rules: wearing a mask, sanitizing your hands, and social distancing. This is 2020 and our world has definitely changed. Welcome to our new reality.. our new normal.
I would so like to have been able to greet you all in person rather than not even being able to see you all at all.
But it is what it is. We’re having this Conference in some very difficult and uncertain times. Many have lost a job, a business or a loved one – we have each experienced a lot of pain and heartbreak. The future is uncertain. Even though we’re here, many of our minds are straying elsewhere. Speaking of which, I wonder if my nieces are logged on to their classes?
But how do we pick ourselves up from this state of perpetual despair? That is the question both individuals and nations are confronting these days. And that is the question we hope to answer over the coming week through a series of stimulating leadership sessions with some of the most influential and innovative leaders that are revolutionizing the field of HSSE today. That’s why we chose the theme RESILIENCE this year.
The essence of the human spirit is to survive and thrive. To build back better. We have a chance to do that here in T&T and the Caribbean. I listened to Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s inspirational speech over the weekend, a speech that spoke to the essence and strength of the Caribbean. A belief that not only can the Caribbean recover from the pandemic but that we can be global leaders in tech, manufacturing and services. And why not?
To get there we do have some consolidation to do. We do need to ensure that our people are able to manage mentally; that our plants and businesses can run safely; that our activities do not destroy the environment and that we are resilient to the very real physical and cyber threats that threaten us and our companies every day.
So, even though we are virtual this year, AMCHAM T&T has not dropped the ball when it comes to offering knowledge, sharing industry best-practice advice, and championing cutting edge theories, ideas and concepts that will transform how we look at business operations for a new normal.
So, the question is: how can we adapt to a new normal that is characterized by many as uncertain and highly disruptive?
Answering this question reminds me of the ancient proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is right now”. In other words, we must immediately plant the seeds for short, medium and long-term survival, TODAY, to achieve growth and success. But to do this, will require a strong measure of RESILIENCE in our efforts to move past this pandemic.
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. That’s why this year, I want to focus on a few specific issues rather than the traditional, more generic focus on HSSE.
What I would say to my private sector colleagues is that now is not the time to cut back on training or HSE. Remember to ask yourself whether the cost of not training outweighs the cost of having an untrained or undertrained employee in the role. I think we all know the answer. And as an absolute rule – we either do it safely or not at all.
Switching back to my other points, for businesses to be able to bounce back or at least start planning for a recovery, we require predictability. Therefore, 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.
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. We should also have clear and reasonable criteria for the re-opening of borders.
Measures like mask wearing, social distancing and no mass gatherings will obviously 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.
That’s on the health front. On the environment front, we are facing an imminent environmental disaster of gargantuan proportions in the form of the Nabarima. That floating offshore storage vessel needs to be offloaded. What happens to the oil after, can be worked out but we believe our Government should use every available avenue -including international pressure if necessary – to ensure that the Venezuelan Government and the Italian company ENI, offload the oil and stabalise the Nabarima to protect our environment.
Should a spill occur if the vessel were to sink, the environments of several countries including T&T, Guyana, Suriname and possibly some of the OECS countries would be in grave danger. The effects will be felt for decades and even maritime traffic would be affected. We simply cannot allow this to happen. Our Government must act and let the country – indeed the international community – know what is being done and by when to avert this potential environmental catastrophe.
The final point I will make, is one with which you all are very familiar as safety professionals and leaders. 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.
But who sacrifices what and why? What is our end goal? Where are we going and how will we know if we’re getting closer to that destination?
Some clear milestones and both short and long term objectives in the context of an overall plan are required. Simultaneously we need meaningful engagement with stakeholders. And stakeholders will sometimes have suggestions that are not apparently supportive of the measures being implemented.
It is said that in assessing the health of a relationship, do not be concerned when there is disagreement and even quarrelling. Rather be concerned when there is silence.
It is precisely because people care; precisely because we want the best outcome for our country that we offer opinions and suggestions for better outcomes.
What is needed now, therefore, is collaboration, dialogue and meaningful engagement. With that, we can build back better. Build back stronger. And together, we will create a better, brighter future for our country.
Before I close, I want to take this opportunity to thank our Title Sponsor, Atlantic for once more partnering with us on our HSSE Conference and Exhibition. Thank you to our Platinum Sponsors: the NGC Group of Companies, BP, Shell, BHP, and Pro Man. And our Gold Sponsor Nu-Iron.
I am grateful to our HSE Committee lead by Chairperson Ms Cindi Nandlal and assisted by her co-vice chairs Balchan Jadoonanan and Travis Gayah for all their hard work. Thank you to the CEO and Board of Directors of AMCHAM T&T for your input and hard work. But really, special thanks must go to Melissa Pierre, our Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work that they have been doing behind the scenes to coordinate our very first VIRTUAL HSSE Conference & Exhibition.
Thank you to all our long list of international and local speakers who will be here with us this week. We thank you for sharing with us this commitment towards promoting HSSE awareness and ensuring that HSSE policies don’t just make good business sense but can also save lives.
And to everyone who will be joining us this week: Thank you for your participation. Everything we do here at AMCHAM T&T is for our members and for the wider public which is why we are always eternally grateful for your support.
Finally, to all our exhibitors who have taken the time to share their products, services, and expertise, we thank you for being a part of this year’s exhibition and I encourage each of you here to visit our VIRTUAL Exhibition. I guarantee you will enjoy it!
We know this year has been very challenging for many, but two things which stand out as truly remarkable for me during this period are:
Those are the seeds we need to keep planting if we hope to meet with success when we confront the next crisis. So please, let's continue to follow the health guidelines to flatten this curve resiliency for a bright and prosperous future for our families, our companies and our nation.
Be safe and have a great conference. Remember to use the chat and connect features of the platform to get the most from the experience. Thank You for your time and attention.
AMCHAM T&T’s ANNUAL POST BUDGET FORUM 2020
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s Annual Post Budget Forum.
I want to begin today by taking you back to our first AMCHAM event for 2020. At our Economic Outlook Forum in January, I reported some sobering statistics concerning how we ended 2019 as it relates to our crime rate, ease of doing business ranking and corruption perception index rating.
Despite these figures there were some positive signs that showed T&T moving in the right direction to once more becoming a resilient economy, even though we knew we had a lot of work to do. The past seven months have not been easy for anyone. So much has either been changed or disrupted. There is no telling how long it will take for us to get past this pandemic, either economically or emotionally. But we cannot afford to lose hope. We must continue to show strength, agility, and resilience in our efforts to bounce back and rebuild what we lost –even better.
We knew this budget wasn’t going to be the quick fix to all our problems. We understood that the Government is facing a herculean task to right this ship and return T&T to a path of growth and prosperity. And we knew our physical and economic survival meant having to put aside our differences and start the process of working together. That’s something we needed to do before the pandemic and especially after a vaccine is discovered.
Against the backdrop of another deficit budget and a projected contraction of the economy, estimated at 6.8 percent for 2020, we still feel optimistic for the future. The budget statement delivered by the Minister of Finance on Monday has outlined some promising initiatives that could set the platform for future growth.
This is where I want to really begin my analysis. Our theme for today’s Post Budget Review is: “Recovery to Transformation”. Given where we are today because of this pandemic, the goal moving forward is really about stimulating the economy, enhancing social development and improving the business environment. How do we accomplish this amidst declining oil and gas prices, and a pandemic that has disrupted supply chains, elevated social unrest, and crippled economies around the world?
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
Improving the Ease of Doing Business is now key. As a pre-requisite of a more attractive business environment, our country’s Economic Recovery Plan must have clear objectives related to improving quality of life and social harmony. We listened attentively to the Minister’s statement and while we reserved clarification on some matters, we were also pleased with some of the measures laid out to improve the ease of doing business in T&T.
As many of you would know, AMCHAM T&T has been leading the conversation around digital transformation. Before COVID, it was our advocacy on this subject through the hosting of the nation’s first-ever Tech conference, and several informative Webinars this year which have magnified the push for the digital transformation of the private and public sector.
Government’s commitment to the digital transformation of the economy in their budget statement is a welcome and positive step that will ensure increased growth and revenue. But we must get it right! Digitizing parts of our public sector cannot just be part of the short-term goal to recovery. We must build a fully digitally based, enabling economy that will not only improve the ease of doing business but secure our nation’s economic future through the creation of new and exciting jobs, boosting of entrepreneurship, and building the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness.
The incentives in the budget through grants for start-up businesses, and tax credits to businesses to invest in tech start-ups or new tech businesses will act as a viable source for revenue, open the job market to many young professionals, and commit our nation’s future to a digitally-based economy where the opportunities seem endless. These are all great initiatives we have championed, and we are proud to see the government move in this direction.
Additionally, government’s commitment to an e-payment gateway for government services, national e-identity, a unique national identification number and the use of virtual courts can all be transformative for both individuals and businesses in all sectors. These are all key steps we have recommended many times before and which we believe will be dependent towards building a digital-based economy that will improve the ease of doing business in T&T. We trust that the Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation will give specific timelines for implementation, inclusive of appropriate and meaningful consultation with stakeholders.
Further commitments to tackle specific impediments to the ease of doing business such as the time taken to get permits, modernization of the Port of Port of Spain and liberalization of the fuel market, which we trust will be done in an orderly and transparent manner, are all welcome.
We look forward to hearing more during the budget debate on the reform and modernization of Customs. Critical in this is a robust and effective risk-based framework that would remove from the examining officer the discretionary power to inspect packages except in very specific circumstances. This will discourage corruption and enhance efficiency.
Further, we strongly recommend the introduction of a diminimis value of USD 400 for imported items and a return to the 2011 system that allowed commercial packages with a value of less than TTD20,000 not requiring a customs entry. These too will improve the ease of doing business and have a minimal impact of government revenue.
Collaboration must be our new watchword if we are to realize this recovery to transformation goal. We cannot fulfil any of these policies if there isn’t greater collaboration by way of meaningful dialogue between all the stakeholders i.e. the state, business sector, labor and civil society. We know we have said this before, but the current situation is demanding that we put aside our differences and work together to ensure all sectors of the economy have a fighting chance against the impact of this pandemic. Often all of us want the same things but would like to take different routes to get to our destination. Through dialogue and the building of trust, we will rebuild better and stronger.
For any of this to happen we must ensure the recovery efforts are centered on a sound legislative agenda that compliments many of these projects. Tax collection will have to be enhanced in order to widen the tax net in order to realize projected revenue.
Now is a time for leadership. Not just in the Government but by all in positions of authority. Therefore we cannot underscore, once again, the importance of the government and the opposition working together particularly at this crucial time to pass critical pieces of legislation to enable more efficient tax collection, the full operationalization of the public procurement legislation, the creation of the National Statistical Institute, passage of the Bail Amendment Bill and overall improvement in the ease of doing business.
Diversifying the energy services sector as a key source for sustainable growth with the plan to develop T&T as a regional hub for energy services, particularly in the emerging markets of Guyana and Suriname will bode well for our longevity in the sector.
However, we urgently need to make critical decisions around the gas value chain to keep investment flowing into the upstream as well plants operating in the mid stream and downstream in the medium term.
As we set to host our 24th Annual HSSE Conference later this month, we are also happy to see government’s re-commitment to the Paris Accord through the implementation of the renewable energy electric power grid which would be the largest solar project in the Caribbean, and the introduction of green petrochemicals. We also hope to see the introduction of feed-in tariffs to allow the true opening up of the sector. We look forward to hearing more about these projects particularly in reference to the creation of sustainable jobs.
Still, while all of this rings positive, AMCHAM T&T remains cautious about the Minister’s revenue projections given that we only managed to raise $32.5B in fiscal 2020 and we are still being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Admittedly, without access to all of the information that the Minister used to calculate his revenue projection, we are somewhat worried that this target is overly ambitious and may force the government to undertake further borrowing or mid-year cuts that could undermine the attempts at recovery and transformation.
In closing, we understand that there are some challenging times that lie ahead for our nation. But we also know that our stable democracy, strategic geographical location, business sophistication, and innovative people will provide the right ingredients to help us weather any storms that we may face.
We look forward to the rest of the discussion today and to working with all of you and the various arms of the government as we seek to make T&T an even better place to do business and to live!
Thank you for your attention.
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP MENTORSHIP PROGRAMME:
“BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND”
with Golda Lee Brooks
Patricia Ghany, AMCHAM T&T President
Good morning Ladies and gentlemen,
I am Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to welcome you to a special session on “Building Your Personal Brand” with our class from the 3rd AMCHAM T&T/IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme.
I want to begin this morning by extending my sincere gratitude to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for their continued partnership with the Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme.
As everyone knows, this programme is very special to me because it allows us at AMCHAM T&T to walk-the-talk when it comes to promoting gender parity and ensuring women’s leadership in business – which happens to be one of the major pillars of our work at AMCHAM T&T.
Today’s session we are going to talk about the importance of building a personal brand. We chose this topic because we understood how vital it is for female professionals today to build a personal brand when they are looking to move up the corporate ladder in their related disciplines.
We know that there is a leadership gap when you compare the number of men versus women in positions of power and authority. We know that women are often overlooked for promotions and paid less than their male counterparts in certain industries. And we know that a woman’s gender is often used against her in many ways as she attempts to prove her ability and accomplishments.
We see this everyday in the workplace as women try to climb the ladder while juggling longstanding gender stereotypes that forces her to “stay in the box” and to “know her place.” It’s these outdated gender norms that creates this “likability conundrum” where women are expected to be “agreeable”, “warm” and “nurturing” or be penalized when they make a tough decision, share a strong opinion or even promote themselves which are often considered a violation of these gender norms.
Perhaps this is why so many studies often find women less likely to speak of their accomplishments or credit themselves for the success of their team. We often see women downplaying essential parts of themselves to fight off the criticism of being labelled “too aggressive”, or “ice-queen” or even the “b-word”. But when we do this, what is the image are we projecting to future employers and clients?
This is where personal branding comes into play!
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. Today, I want to challenge each of you with the question: what first impression would you like to make on a work colleague, supervisor or potential future employer? What are the traits and qualities do you wish to be defined by?
We must realise that we, as women, have the power and control to define this narrative that the world places on us. When we do this, we are building our personal brand that communicates to the world who we are and how we want to be defined. Rather than subscribe to outdated gender norms, our personal brands should be built on our talents, skills and accomplishments while staying true to those many unique feminine traits that proudly defines who we are as women.
When you pay close attention to some of the greatest female leaders we have today, you would recognize that they each have a personal brand that goes beyond their professional titles. Think of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – she is arguably the most powerful woman in the world today – but behind that power is a personal brand that communicates a meticulous, systematic, adaptive approach that has instilled trust and confidence in her citizens who have elected her to serve as the first female Chancellor of Germany for a fourth consecutive term in office.
Serena Williams is known as the greatest athlete in the world with a record 23 Grandslam titles but behind her many accomplishments is a personal brand that is all about how women can be equally “Strong, Sexy and Sophisticated” both on and off the court.
And then there is Oprah Winfrey who have built a self-made TWO-billion dollar empire on a personal brand about being honest, authentic, genuine and real with her audience and fans around the world.
So, what can we learn from these pioneers?
First, closing the gender gap in the workplace means we must support each other as women. When we support each other, it will help us to build our personal brands to show confidence, stability, empowerment and values that will widen our networks, highlight our achievements and ultimately help each other to accelerate our career growth.
These are just a few of the many great benefits of having a personal brand and it is why I believe companies should take the lead and encourage their female employees to develop and build their personal brands.
So often we hear about personal branding competing with the corporate brand. But this does not have to be case. When companies allow their employees to be their best authentic self in support of their careers, their team and the company, everyone wins. We know this to be true because of high employee retention rates and when the corporate brand produces hefty profit margins annually. So, companies should offer training and development programmes to assist their employees, particularly women, to realize their personal brand.
This is why the Women in Mentorship Leadership Programme is very important to us at AMCHAM T&T and it is why we are delighted to have Ms Golda Lee Bruce here with us today to help us build a personal brand that will put us on a path towards continued success in our careers and in life.
CEO CONVERSATIONS with
DOMINIC RAMPERSAD – PHOENIX PARK GAS PROCESSORS LTD.
Opening Remarks by Patricia Ghany - AMCHAM T&T President
I am Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T and it is indeed a great pleasure for me to welcome you to our second CEO Conversations with Mr Dominic Rampersad, President of Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited and Director at the Unit Trust Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago and AMCHAM T&T.
AMCHAM T&T will be hosting our 24th Annual Health, Safety, Security & Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition on October 19th through October 23rd and we thought what better way to get you ready for the Conference than through this fun and interactive series of CEO Conversations.
Our hardworking HSE Committee developed this Webinar series with the aim of providing you (our audience) an opportunity to learn from the insights of some of the country's most prominent CEOs who are leading our nation’s largest and most innovative companies.
Right now, we are all facing tremendous burdens associated with the community spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many of us are struggling as we try to navigate a healthy work-life balance, stay safe and protect our businesses and loved ones. This period undeniably calls for strong leadership and cooperation from everyone to do what is right and responsible.
At AMCHAM T&T, we have spent 24 years promoting HSSE excellence in business and in our wider society. Today, we are seeing firsthand the major importance of health and safety on our businesses and society, particularly as it relates to the lives of our employees and citizens. That’s one of the major reasons why we felt we needed to host this year’s conference. We must support each other even if that means doing it at a distance. Therefore, I am proud to announce that this year’s conference is 100% VIRTUAL because we must stay safe and maintain social distancing.
But I also want to reassure you that "virtual" doesn’t mean you will be losing out on any of the fantastic content from our past live Conferences. In fact, if you noticed, the dates this year have been extended to five days – that’s three more days of exceptional content, dynamic speakers, interactive exhibition booths, and opportunities to network and make those important business contacts. And the good news is, you don’t have to wait in long lines to enter the Conference this year. Yes, digital transformation as its best!
I believe the goal this time around shouldn’t be to just flatten the curve but to crush the curve, once and for all! It’s usually in our most difficult moments we see the greatest displays of humanity by our citizens. When we are all facing the same challenges and roadblocks, we see normal everyday citizens stepping up to the plate and showing strength, courage and compassion. This speaks to the resilience of our citizens and our nation. And that’s why this year we felt that word: RESILIENCE would make an appropriate theme for this year’s Conference. We cannot wait to welcome you! We have an excellent line-up of speakers waiting to greet you this year and REGISTRATION is now open so PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT WWW.AMCHAMTT.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Before we begin our conversation, I would like to thank our HSE Committee for their hard work and continued commitment they have shown with these Webinars and our Conference. I also would like to say thank you to our sponsors:
· Our Platinum Sponsors: The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NGC); bpTT; and Shell
· Our Gold Sponsor: Nu Iron, Trinidad and Tobago
· And also, a special thank you to our Title Sponsor – AtlanticLNG who have once more agree to partner with us as we continue to promote leadership and excellence in everything HSSE through our upcoming Conference and Exhibition.
CEO CONVERSATIONS with
DR PHILIP MSHELBILA – ATLANTIC LNG
Opening Remarks by Nirad Tewarie - AMCHAM T&T CEO
I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and it is indeed a great pleasure for me to deliver this morning’s welcome remarks to the Launch of AMCHAM T&T’s 24th Annual Health, Safety, Security and Environment Conference and Exhibition.
At AMCHAM T&T, the promotion of excellence in health, safety, security and environmental management remain one of our key tenets. Today we are launching the HSSE Conference and Exhibition with the theme: Resilience - a topic I am sure needs no explanation as to why we see this as a critical issue particularly given the challenges we are facing today.
Ladies and gentlemen allow me to remind you that this is the best opportunity locally and perhaps even within the Caribbean region to attend an HSSE Conference and Exhibition of this scope and quality. We will host the Conference and Exhibition over the course of one week - 19th to 23rd October, 2020 - and this year we are indeed going VIRTUAL to maintain social distancing and the safety of all our guests. Therefore, this means you have the opportunity to log on at specific times to participate in the Conference webinars. We also have a second-to-none virtual platform which will allow you to interact and network with our exhibitors, conference attendees and walk-ins - just as if you were physically at the Hyatt ballroom interacting with the guests. Yes, digital transformation as its best! We have an excellent line-up of speakers and over the course of the next few days, we will start accepting registrations.
I would also like to thank our HSE Committee who envisioned and designed the Conference and this series so that you will be able to glean insightful knowledge from the stories of success and challenges of building an organization through the unique vantage point and the perspective of the CEO. Our HSE Committee is one of our longest serving committees at AMCHAM T&T, and I would have to say, one of our most active and innovative committees.
This series of Pre-Conference Webinars was created to give you a sneak peek into the Conference this year. The session this morning is the first in our CEO Conversation series. We are happy to launch this new event because it allows us to get up close and personal with many of the major players in our business sector. We have deliberately kept the number of participants small so that you can interact with the CEO, so don’t hesitate to ask a question during our Q&A.
They say every CEO has a story to tell that speaks to their success and leadership style. Through this series, you will hear from the men and women who are leading dynamic companies across all industry sectors and making thoughtful decisions that ultimately have a major impact on our lives and the country. They will share with us the visionary leadership styles that have helped them to build their companies and offer sound advice that will hopefully inspire each of us to build our own successes in business and in our lives.
Today we are featuring the CEO of AtlanticLNG which is one of the world’s largest producers of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Dr Philip Mshelbila is no stranger to us here at AMCHAM T&T – having been involved with our annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition as the title sponsor for many years. Based on this measure of support and leadership, it felt like a no-brainer to have him as our first guest in our CEO Conversation series.
Before we begin our conversation, I would like to say thank you to our platinum sponsors:
Click here to watch a video from the CEO Conversation with Dr Mshelbila as he speaks on the topic of leadership.
LAUNCH OF AMCHAM T&T’s Pre-CONFERENCE WEBINARS
Pre-Conference WEBINAR – Human & Organizational Performance (HOP) in Practice
WELCOME REMARKS by NIRAD TEWARIE – CEO of AMCHAM T&T
Good morning everyone!
I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and it is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome you to our first “PRE HSSE Conference Webinar” series.
Let me thank our Conference sponsors - Atlantic- title sponsor and platinum sponsors- NGC, BPTT and Shell.
Today we have a dynamic speaker who is here to address Human and Organisational Performance (HOP) principles that are human-centred – and can improve reliability, performance and safety culture.
As many of you will know, AMCHAM T&T believes it is important that companies create a strong safety culture in their business operations which is the reason why we have championed the promotion of HSSE as best practice to our membership and the wider national community for many years.
When we had to adjust to this new normal, what was very evident is that safety is of paramount importance not only for our business to succeed, but it is necessary to be able to protect our lives. COVID-19 made it very obvious to most, if not all of us, that we must protect our employees and even more importantly, we must each take responsibility and protect ourselves.
Many times, when accidents occur, we often blame it on human error or the failure to do the right thing when something bad happens. So, our focus is always meant on “fixing” the worker when they make an error after an incident occurs as opposed to “fixing the system” in which the error occurred.
Or, as Dr. Todd Conklin writes in his book “Pre-Accident Investigations: An Introduction to Organizational Safety”: “Fixing the worker gives the impression of an immediate solution to the problem, but it probably fixes the wrong thing. Punishing the worker is a fast and easy way to “solve” the problem, with the only issue being that it unquestionably fixes nothing at all, not even the worker in question. Because the whole failure will inevitably happen again with a different worker…. (However) fixing the system…will fix the right problem, and will ensure that the facility [doesn’t experience the same problem again].”
This is why we wanted to highlight the approach of Human and Organizational Performance, also known as HOP. We felt it was important, particularly in this time of COVID, to continue to adopt new approaches, new designs, new philosophies to protect employees in the workplace while redefining what the safety culture should look like. And that’s what today’s session will be focused on.
We know that humans will fail i.e. make errors and break rules with a known frequency that is affected by known influencing factors. But if we appreciate this proven fact, we can design better systems i.e. better rules, and better methods of discipline to solve a problem. That is why we say HOP is not just a program, it is an entire philosophy, which when adopted in the right way, we can establish a local safety culture change in business and in our society.
This philosophy will call for management and CEOs to change their attitudes and challenge their biases when it comes to adopting the right safety measures for their businesses. It is the difference between asking the right questions to find a better solution and being stuck in our biases towards error and blame. It teaches us how we ask questions, how we create rules, how we react to failure, how we treat people. It will directly impact our business performance in the future and result in better system designs that rewrite the rules of how we do business with each other and even how we interact in our personal lives.
When errors occur - and they will occur - we learn how the error was made or why a rule was broken. And we understand that a similar error or broken rule could have happened if we were doing the same job. So how do we fix that problem? Well fixing the problem comes with acknowledging that the failure will inevitably be repeated unless we improve. Once we are able to do that our working relationships with our staff and our ability to solve problems improves.
So that’s what we are hoping to gain from today’s session. Given the changes that COVID has presented us, we have recognised that our role in the national community is even more important, and we must be open to new changes, new teachings and practices that will help us mitigate some of the impact of this pandemic. We hope to use technology to facilitate much of this change which is why we were able to secure Kym, who is joining us today from Australia, something that would have been logistically difficult under different circumstances.
We hope that what she says here today will challenge some of your biases and attitudes to adopt a safety philosophy that builds relationships and facilitate meaningful conversations between those that do the work and those that design the work to share operational intelligence and improve system design.
We have been working on a very exciting Conference agenda and have finalised about 50% of our speakers. This year we are taking the Conference and Exhibition - virtual. I look forward to you all participating.
I also need to thank the very hard working HSE Committee, who very quickly mobilised when we had the stay-at-home orders and brought us Webinars to assist companies in retooling their operations to adjust to the current situation. The committee also worked on the Conference agenda and the National HSE Awards- which incorporates a new category this year for companies – a Pandemic Award. I am advised that the deadline for submission is Monday - so those of you who would like to submit - there is some time to fill out your screening forms on our website.
Thank you to our HSE Committee members who are online this morning, and of course a special thank you to the committee chair Ms Cindi Nandlal.
In closing, I want to reiterate, AMCHAM is here to support you. We are open to initiatives and ideas from you, so just simply reach out to us. If you have suggestions for webinars, topics or speakers, please let us know.
AMCHAM T&T – AAIUH 2020
Summer Internship Programme
Sustainable Development, Entrepreneurship & Advocacy
Good morning Ladies and gentlemen, AND boys and girls.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago.
I would like to begin with a quote by Arthur Ashe who once said: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”
I wanted to start with this quote by the man whose name the institution that is facilitating this lucrative summer internship programme is named after. Thank you to all the kind and caring folks at the Arthur Ashe Institution of Urban Health. Without your support for this initiative, none of this would be possible.
This quote reminds me of the work that AMCHAM T&T is doing and why we are here. So much of what we "get" allow us to continue to do the great work that we do. The support we receive helps us to provide thoughtful leadership and value to our members through our events, advocacy work and general support we provide on a host of issues. But that’s only what we receive or get. It is what we give back that determines the quality of life we afford to other persons.
That’s why we are happy to be partnering today with the Arthur Ashe Institution of Urban Health which was facilitated by our friends at the US Embassy. Together with their support, 20 students from our nation’s secondary schools will greatly benefit from training on an array of topics and will conduct research projects in collaboration with various local organizations through this internship programme. I simply cannot wait to see how this is going to change the lives of these students.
As you know this is all part of our National Youth Productivity Forum (NYPF) which remains one of our marquee events on the AMCHAM calendar because we believe that creating a better economic future for our country means taking an active role in the development of the youth of our nation. That means giving our young people a chance at a life where they can fullfill their dreams and make a life for themselves.
Every year we invite secondary students from schools around the country to participate and engage in healthy discussions on various national issues at our annual NYPF. At the end of the forum, we offer summer internships to students at the companies of our members.
This year, with COVID-19 impacting on the lives of so many of us, we were forced to be nimble in our approach to ensure that we were in a position to give back to these students.
Cancelling the programme might have been the easy thing to do given the disturbances caused by COVID-19. But as Mr. Ashe said “it is what we give that makes a life” so we knew we had to be resilient and to ensure that we didn’t let down these kids. That’s why we partnered with the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health on this year’s summer internship programme because through their resources we were able to make this year’s programme entirely virtual.
We believe this will be an ideal platform that will help students to remain safe while affording them an opportunity to grow by gaining valuable work experience. It also helped us to put our digital transformation agenda to the test. We have been promoting the need for digital transformation to introduce new opportunities for business and reliable services to benefit citizens. While this year’s internship allows the students to work remotely, we are also creating an even more diverse work environment through different geographical settings. This way students need not worry about fears associated with COVID-19 while still acquiring skills that will positively contribute to their future growth and development.
That’s why I want to encourage all our students to embrace the opportunities that you received from this internship programme. It can and should change your life but only if you take full advantage of it. Not only will you learn new skills, but you will also gain valuable knowledge from your co-workers and bosses.
I implore you to digest all the knowledge you are taught in this new environment. Don’t be discouraged when things seem too challenging. Seek guidance from your bosses and fellow co-workers. And always remember to ask questions.
Yes, ask many questions even when you think or feel it will make you look or sound stupid. No! Remove that thought from your head. Don’t let fear or doubt control your thoughts. There is no such thing as a stupid question. So, if you are unsure about something or you don’t understand, simply ask a question. It’s something I do every day. And I can assure you that there is always someone around to offer guidance or assistance in the workplace. And that’s how you really learn and grow.
Opportunities like this can help you develop a different work ethic that will prove beneficial to how you approach your studies and perhaps even inspire new goals for your life and future career. It will allow you to meet many influential people who might have a lasting impact on your life. So, use this to network and build your contact lists beyond your Facebook friends list.
At AMCHAM we are not only about promoting trade and investment into T&T. We believe in order to achieve this we must build and strengthen relationships with clients, investors and our members. We have to establish those connections that will have us make a living, but more importantly, give back so we can help make a life for many others. That’s what is really important to us. So, I encourage you to be respectful to everyone you ever encounter. Always lend a helping hand wherever you can. Be kind to others and stay engaging. Prove that you can be a team player, excel at whatever tasks that are assigned to you, embrace new opportunities, even when they seem challenging, and continue building your resume.
As young people, I know most of your interaction revolves around likes, tweets, snaps, and now TikTok. I am always very impressed by the ingenuity and creativity by our young people particularly by how quickly they are able to embrace new technologies and make something “go viral” or the new trend. And that’s the commitment and enthusiasm I hope you take with you to build your personal brand.
Yes! Everything you post online is part of your personal brand that is meant to tell the world something about you. I’m sure you have heard the warnings about being careful what you post online. I don’t need to rehash that but what I would tell you is how you can use those very platforms you enjoy to create a brand for yourself that will make you the envy of your friends and more attractive to future employers.
Instead of sharing a pic of that delicious meal you are having for lunch, why not share a selfie with the caption “first day on the new job”. Think how impressive that will be to your friends. And instead of resharing that funny meme because everyone is doing it, why not share a post about accomplishing a difficult task with success. Think of the many people you can inspire when they read that post.
This is what building your personal brand is about. It allows you to show a history of strong values that proves your dedication, commitment and resolve to accomplish your goals. This is the language employers love to listen to. So, know that whatever you post, you are communicating to people that are outside your friend's list and who may have the power to influence and change your lives.
In closing, let me extend my sincere gratitude to the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health for partnering with us this year to facilitate the internship programme. I also want to thank our friends at the US Embassy for their continued support on so many of our initiatives. Thank you to all the companies who have agreed to accept our interns this year. I know they will add positively to your respective organisations so I hope you will make good use of them. Thank you to the Board of AMCHAM T&T for their leadership. And thank you to Melissa Pierre, our Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, and the rest of the secretariat for their commitment and dedication towards the NYPF programme. And finally, to this year’s class of interns I leave you with this final nugget of advice: “Absorb the knowledge and experience you will receive from this internship programme, make good use of it, and whatever path you choose for yourself, always remember it’s more important to give back.”
COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATION SERIES:
“Stories from Tech Start-ups”
OPENING REMARKS by Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO
I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and it is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome you to our “Coffee Shop Conversation” series.
Today we have three dynamic speakers who are leading the tech revolution in T&T through the innovative work and services they are providing to the public.
As many of you will know, promoting technology as a viable means for both enabling growth and a sector of growth is a major pillar of our work at AMCHAM T&T. We definitely see an opportunity through technology to stimulate our economy by creating new and exciting jobs, boosting entrepreneurship, and building the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness. Moreover, we firmly believe that the tech industry can be significant source of investment in T&T in the very short term.
To achieve these objectives though, we need a wholistic approach. Next door, Barbados’ open-door policy, allows people to work from Barbados for up to a year, hassle-free and is already attracting application from highly-skilled tech workers. Undoubtedly, some of these people will form partnerships that will help Bajan companies internationalise. Some of them will stay in Barbados and create businesses. Barbados has created a regulatory sandbox for fintechs and they are undertaking significant economic reforms. My point is, to create the kind of dynamism that a viable, globally competitive tech industry needs – indeed all businesses need – the government and institutions need to be dynamic.
This is why today’s conversation featuring “Stories from Tech Start-ups” will show us how these experts are leading the tech industry through their innovative work. How did they do it? How could their journey have been easier with a more facilitatory environment?
But first, why are tech start-ups so important? It’s because countries and cities that have invested in tech start-ups have witnessed a major tech revolution that has improved the quality of life for citizens. Once priority was given to tech-driven start-up economies, cities have seen development in areas such as transportation, clean energy and the emergence of other innovative industries that have positively contributed to overall GDP growth and productivity. Tech start-ups in Britain are helping to improve the quality of emergency services by alerting medical professionals to emergencies near them who can then respond even faster than the emergency services. In Argentina, I have a friend who has developed an e-platform to collect food that is edible but about to go to waste and delivering it people in need. So enabling the tech sector is not just about enabling business for profit – which isn’t a bad thing – but the tech community in any place that there is a cluster, also focuses significantly on the provision and enhancement of social goods.
So that’s why we believe technology has the potential to improve the quality of life for citizens. The quickest way to influence this will be through creating an enabling environment for a tech ecosystem, of which start-ups are an integral part. This is why we are saying that there needs to be an environment that will encourage and promote innovation and creativity.
It’s part of the reason why we launched the business accelerator programme for tech entrepreneurs before last year’s t.h.i.s. conference in partnership with the IDB and CARIRI. The accelerator programme was meant to foster growth in the technology sector in Trinidad and Tobago because we recognize that entrepreneurship is a driving force for growth and innovation in any economy. It was also part of a wider initiative to create a truly connected tech ecosystem in Trinidad and Tobago that will drive real change and make us more competitive globally.
When we look at some of the countries that have invested in developing their start-up ecosystem we see how quickly they have transitioned from underdeveloped to developed status. Just think of Estonia and Israel for example. They are home to companies like Skype, TransferWise, Wix, Waze, etc. Estonia is now known as “the most advanced digital society in the world” after more than two decades of government leadership in digital technologies. And the same can be said for Israel, which was once known as an underdeveloped, war-torn nation. A start-up boom helped grow its economy and made it a developed nation, globally recognized as a start-up hub. So it's clear that with the right investment and leadership from both the state and private sector, start-ups can be a key component of leading a nation out of poverty and into prosperity. But they must be part of a wider ecosystem involving business, academia, government, and a range of capital provision services.
With COVID-19 causing many disruptions to our lives and livelihoods, we also have an opportunity here to channel our focus to a more digitally based economy that will help us weather the storm in the coming months. And what better way to do this than to nurture a start-up ecosystem through technology that can boost entrepreneurial activity, create new jobs, increase the talent pool of our younger citizens, and attract foreign investors.
We all know the big 5 tech companies in the US: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (collectively called FAANG. It might be hard to imagine these giants of the tech world as tiny start-ups with brilliant founders just waiting for that big break. But that is what they once were. All it took was the right idea, one that fulfilled a need or solved a problem (even one people didn’t know they had) belief in that idea, the tenacity to make it work and of course, the right leadership climate to attract investors for it to take off and literally change our world. And all of this would have started, first with an idea and then a culture and climate that allowed these ideas to transform our lives and our world, simply from the introduction of small companies doing big and amazing things.
With many in the established tech centres realising that in the race to find the next best thing and attract the very best talent they have to look outside the centre, now is a great time for T&T and the entire Caribbean to leverage the strengths of excellent management of the pandemic, wonderful climate, creative people, great connectivity and so much more to really go after being the tech hub islands.
That’s the message we hope to leave you with today after you have heard the amazing success stories from our three experts. We hope that you allow what they share with you to inspire you to think big, focus more on that little idea you once had but allowed doubt to deter you for making it a reality, and we hope that some of you who have the means will look at these dreamers and invest in the vision they are sharing with you. And remember, AMCHAM T&T is here to help in this journey, so keep in touch with us. Join us and reach out.
Before I leave, I would like to thank our Digital Transformation Committee for taking up this mantle and for creating this webinar series. I also want to thank our speakers for their support and for the insightful information they are about to share with you. And finally, I need to thank our sponsors, Republic Bank, Digicel Business Solutions, PwC, Atlantic and our digital media partner: Trend Media for their continued support.
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