Good morning, everyone
Thank you, Jason, for that introduction.
As some of you may be aware, the National Excellence in HSE Awards was originally called the AMCHAM T&T Awards up until 2010 when it was formally endorsed by the Ministry of Labour in 2011 whereupon it became recognized as National Awards. AMCHAM T&T is once more proud to be the host of these awards because it shows the value and importance we place in our people by ensuring their overall health and safety.
While the head judge of the National Excellence in HSE Awards will give you details on the awards nominating and judging process, I want to take this time and acknowledge that it is not a simple undertaking to just submit your company for one of these prestigious awards. The consideration and nominating process require a lot of essential paperwork and the confidential sharing of your KPIs, and as some of you experienced, some very hands-on and intensive site visits.
What I believe really stands out with these awards from any other in this field is that we do not just rely on your paper submissions. If HSE processes are superficial in your organization, I am very confident that the team of judges we have would be able to see that. Let me also say this program is not one where we reward those who are the best from the applications received - companies must reach a minimum standard for them to be considered.
In other words, we are not obligated to give an award every year - if the submissions do not meet the standard set, then no award would be given. I say this not to scare the finalists before us today, but rather to allow the audience a clear understanding of the rigorous process and standard that goes into recognizing companies for their achievements in HSE leadership. Each of the finalists here today would have exhibited and put forward KPIs which impressed the judges during the first round of judging.
Gerard, I know you would thank the judges, but it would be remiss of me if I did not thank them on behalf of the Board and myself for the hard work and long hours that they put into these Awards. I want to say that AMCHAM T&T is extremely proud to have such a high calibre of judges - these men and women who are volunteers worked tirelessly revising scoresheets and screening forms as well as conducting interviews. They are focused on ensuring that the awards continue to evolve and that best practice is not just something we ask of applicants but is also something we continuously strive toward. Thank you judges for your efforts, and for volunteering your services and expertise towards ensuring the success of this year’s event! You are giving national service as you help improve the level of health and safety both for our people and throughout our nation. Thank you!
Ladies and gentlemen, as I stated earlier this started as a rigorous award process at the end of which you were given a public acknowledgement of your robust HSE Systems and those of you who were not successful were given feedback. You did not always agree with the feedback, and I must say companies that took the feedback and made the necessary changes and improved their systems became eventual winners. Nestle is one such company. And as we talk about continuous improvement, this year we launched the National HSE Award mentorship component - where some of the unsuccessful companies would have the opportunity to be mentored by previous winners. Let me thank those mentors who have volunteered to share their knowledge and expertise.
This year we had 34 applicants for the HSE Awards - and whilst it represents the same number of applications as last year, permit me to take you behind these figures. As many of you know a company can participate in all four categories of the awards since different criteria are being looked at for each award- therefore what this means is that you could possibly win the award for HSE projects but be unsuccessful in your pursuit of the coveted award for Excellence in HSE, and vice versa.
PBS Technologies and Nestle joined some of the giants who have won the awards more than three times in a row, and the representatives of both companies – Darryl Sankar of Nestle and Gail Figaro, who now leads her own HSE Consultancy, Phi-Onyx services, decided that they wanted to continue contributing to these awards in a different but albeit special way. This year Darryl and Nestle and Gail decided to turn up their HSE leadership by opting to become mentors to companies seeking to build and enhance their safety cultures. I call this action out as I think we do not celebrate enough the selfless actions of our colleagues. When we first launched the mentorship program, we were asked, “but what is the cost - give me the bottom line.” To this, we say without reservation that “Mentorship is FREE and completely voluntary!” Yes, this is another definite example of the private sector operating beyond the narrow view of profit motive! And it is an area in which AMCHAM T&T continues to lead.
Before I close please permit me to raise two issues of concern for us at AMCHAM T&T.
At AMCHAM T&T, we always advocate for effective regulation. Light touch but effective. This means that when businesses need guidance from regulators, it should be clear, precise and provided in an expeditious manner. An understaffed OSH Authority will not be able to regulate to prevent incidents, investigate them or and hold errant companies to account. So, we must address the high attrition rate of inspectors at the authority - given the critical role of this agency. While we note recent statements about the Agency being on a recruitment drive, the revelation in Parliament in May of this year that 58% of positions at the OSH Authority were unfilled, including that of the Chief Inspector was alarming. We look forward to a robust but expeditious process of hiring in this regard. If this does happen, the addition of a large number of new people into the organization is both an opportunity and a risk to building the culture you want at the Authority. If AMCHAM T&T can assist in any way, at the very least to deepen the long-standing collaboration that we have with the authority to have more open communication between the Authority and the private sector, we would happy to assist.
Adequate staffing of the authority is important. But without the appropriate legislative framework, the ecosystem won’t be optimal. In this regard, one immediate and decisive action can be the updating of the OSH legislation. We understand that legislation takes time, but we think most would agree that 16 years is too long for us to be discussing an update to the OSH Act. This is an Act that is at the bedrock of protection for our people. Against this backdrop, we are appealing to OSHA and the Ministry of Labour to work with the private and employee representatives and let us update this much-needed piece of legislation and let’s set a reasonable time frame by which this will get done. I must, however, emphasise the need for real, meaningful consultation from the early stages and throughout the process.
Before I leave, I would like to congratulate all the companies that participated in this year’s awards. Whether you won, were named a finalist, or didn’t make the cut, the decision to lead with HSE across your business operations is a strong testament to the putting people first safe philosophy which has brought so much success to many businesses and companies. I hope that no matter the outcome of this year’s awards, the future continues to see you leading with HSSE across every part of your company’s operations and overall workplace culture.
I wish all the finalists huge congratulations on their successes. Good luck to everyone.
Today we are celebrating 26 years of best practice and HSSE Excellence.
Continuing, from what Toni said, because of the quarter century of work we have been doing in the HSSE space, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in T&T, we were able to continue with our HSSE Education and Advocacy for our members. In many instances, we created additional avenues to share information such as a COVID-19 return to work guide and several topical webinars. Indeed, we kept the conference running via an online version for the past two years.
So, today it feels so good to be here with you and to be able to interact physically with everyone at this - the largest, best and longest, continuously-running HSSE Conference in the region!
We have an exciting agenda for you over the next three days. In addition to our usual, HSE agenda in which we will cover many traditional topics through the introduction of cutting-edge thought leadership, we have a full cyber security agenda – a Conference on its own really – running in parallel.
This year, we are also hosting a couple of highly impactful, free educational sessions on the ground floor under the POS Ballroom. Every year at this Conference, you may be accustomed to us lamenting the safety statistics and calling for the need to spread HSE to those sectors that do not exhibit strong safety records. We’ve therefore, extended the Conference to host important educational sessions on key topics related to HSE. These sessions will be held downstairs and are expected to reach 80 companies based on registrations - and whilst we agree it is a small number, we think it is a huge step towards further improving safety culture and performance in the private sector.
And of course, we have an excellent exhibition. So much so that we had to add space – twice and still turn away potential exhibitors. So please take some time and visit the booths.
At these sessions, we will cover hot-button topics such as Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) - a framework which we hope more and more companies adopt when making decisions and assessing performance! AMCHAM T&T is proud of its collaboration with the United Nations toward creating an ESG toolkit that is designed to educate participants on ESG and the framework for governance. Some hard copies are available and we will ensure that all participants get at least a digital copy by the end of the Conference. I must single out the support we got from Mark Thomas, of the UNDP on this. Mark is here- so permit me to again say thank you for your leadership and collaboration on this Mark.
We also have also added another important segment that speaks to the heart of what we do at AMCHAM T&T. We are proud to be the lead in Trinidad and Tobago under the banner of ARISE for building private sector resilience with respect to building a Disaster Resilient Society in Trinidad and Tobago. We are going to have a panel today on Disaster Management as well as we are hosting a training session on BCP. Additionally, our listening exercise tomorrow will be conducted with the public sector, private sector, and insurance companies.
AMCHAM T&T believes that we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to achieving resilience and in re-imagining HSSE. It is important that the private sector, labour, NGOs, and Government move towards a new platform of trust and greater collaboration because what exists today is not solving the problems that affect us all in the ways that we need. No one group holds the solutions and no one group is responsible for where we are today. Let’s start from there and move forward together.
Permit me here to put a couple of HSSE concepts into a national framework. Leadership, culture and psychological safety are absolutely critical to achieving results in a company and in a country.
We seem to have become afraid of big ideas. We are so bogged down by the many challenges we face that we are ignoring too many of our strengths. Who are we and what do we want to be as a country? What’s our place in the world and what are we going to dream of and then act on to get there? Recently Jamaica’s Prime Minister spoke of Jamaica becoming a producer of technology. We at AMCHAM T&T have been advocating that as a country, the Government, Private Sector, Academia and related institutions come together to develop a local tech sector as a new pillar of the economy for at least the past five years.
So, let’s dream and imagine that we will have a top-tier software development centre from one of the major tech companies – Google, IBM, Meta or the like – established in T&T within the next 24 months. We will create the conditions for the creation of 100 tech startups in the next three years. We will facilitate the growth of 25 tech companies so that they each earn a minimum of USD 5 million in revenue from outside of Trinidad.
Imagine that we will reform the education sector to mainstream teaching and learning through multiple intelligences. We will create spaces in communities where the data shows that academic performance is low, to teach coding, build sporting capacity and create performing arts spaces.
Imagine that we will get crime under control so that families can walk comfortably on the Brian Lara, Scarborough and San Fernando promenades late at night while listening to live music as restaurants, bars and café's set up their patios and outside dining.
Imagine that we will deal with traffic so that no one has to spend, in the first instance, more than an hour to get from any point of the highway to another and add metrics for times for highway access from other towns.
Imagine that we will totally eradicate flooding in T&T starting concurrently with the communities that are most frequently affected and the towns which have been most severely affected in recent times. We will implement the feed-in tariff legislation within three months with a goal of having at least 30% of homes completely self-sufficient with their power generation needs within three years. We will become a centre of excellence for carbon credits.
Imagine that government data will be real-time and accessible allowing everyone to make better decisions.
Imagine that we would actually know what the procedures, times and costs for Customs clearance would be for business planning or even the arrival of personal items.
I throw these things out because it often feels like we aren’t sure where we’re going. I say this despite the great work being done by many in the public sector. But the communication, engagement and time lag between the idea and the result, all undermine the effort. Moreover, in building culture, the demonstration of small but tangible results aligned with the achievement of the vision is often missing.
Too often, when people and organisations who want to help or use their lived experience to offer suggestions or advice are dismissed and branded as non-supporters to be ignored.
The reality is that T&T is at a crossroads. The society is deeply fractured and the middle and working classes are under extreme pressure. No one expects the Government to solve all problems and the private sector is more than willing to do our part. We can only do so through meaningful engagement, even if we don’t agree on everything from the get-go.
This, therefore, is an appeal for more collaboration around shared objectives. This is a call to action. A call to make T&T more resilient – socially, economically and physically – not just for today but for decades and decades to come. Let us embrace the big ideas, the healthy tension created by deep and meaningful collaboration across diverse groups. Let us commit to building more trust by taking decisive action to achieve the incremental things that will show progress. Let us commit to listening and consulting more and better to create psychological safety to get more and better ideas so many of us are rowing in the same direction.
And finally, we need to understand how we learn. Toni spoke about not needing another pandemic to spark change and learning, and I want to not only agree but posit that we learn from both positive and negative incidents. Reports are not published at a national level which would allow others to proactively manage risk and learn from these accidents and incidents. We are not asking for the sharing of specifics that may be the subject of litigation, but we are asking for data at a national level to be publicly available. This will also help with trust building.
In closing, I want to recognize the supervisors and business leaders in the room today and those online at their offices or homes. AMCHAM T&T has been able to deliver best practices and provide a platform for the sharing of these ideas which would ultimately lead to the improvement of National HSE. We have done this for 26 years and it is only possible through YOU - who make the time and space for your employees to sit on committees and volunteer their time and share their knowledge. And whilst many companies employ different methods of tracking employee contribution to external bodies - I thank you for making your employees available to create a better Trinidad and Tobago, where it is not just their safety they take time to think about and design processes - but rather they contribute to National service. For those of you who are still wondering if you should give your employees the time to volunteer to initiatives like this- I challenge you that by the end of the three days you would see what we can accomplish with volunteerism. Our HSSE Committee is awesome in that regard. Thank you so much to all the Committee members who give so much. And we welcome volunteers to the many initiatives we are undertaking at AMCHAM T&T to create a better business and living environment for the country.
It is no ‘ole talk’ at AMCHAM T&T, I am proud to say we are fortunate to have committed CEOs and HSSE professionals, who continuously go beyond the call not only for their own companies - but for their industries, colleagues, and us here at AMCHAM and the Government. Again, thank you. I must say special thanks to the team at the AMCHAM T&T who always go above and beyond the make this event a success. But I have to make a special mention of my colleague Melissa Pierre who leads this initiative and has grown with the event over the years.
Good Morning, everyone.
It is my honour to welcome you to AMCHAM T&T’s 26th Annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition. Even though I am disappointed that I am unable to join you today in person, I am also excited that this year’s Conference and Exhibition is a hybrid affair so that we can welcome both our in-person and virtual audiences. And so I must begin by expressing our enormous gratitude to our sponsors, many of whom have been with us for years. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our shared goal of improving HSSE performance across industries in our region.
So this year’s theme is Re-Imagining HSSE. Well, that means we need to build on what we have done well, we need to be open-minded to trying new ways of doing things and quite frankly – it also means we may need to unlearn a few things.
For many of us, the goal in HSSE is to evaluate situations and do risk assessments hoping to avoid an accident or tragedy. This is what keeps us safe and functioning. But what happens when we face problems that we thought were either unimaginable or impossible? Preparing for the unknown is a big part of what will help us to always save lives and keep our companies operating smoothly.
But I don’t need to tell a room full of HSSE professionals about preparing for the unknown. You already know about this, and that’s why you are the experts. The challenge is how we get everyone else on board. Ultimately, it comes down to leadership.
As leaders, we know how important our people are to our organizations. Without them, there will be no profits, no achievements, no results. So, how do we keep “showing up” for our people who have “shown up” for us every day - ready and willing to carry out the tasks that have maintained our company’s survival and success? Over the next few days, I’m asking you to really think about this.
How do we keep our valued employees safe, engaged and happy as we transition into this new era and world of work? It requires Leadership input and commitment to transform both our workplace and mindsets to lead safely. This means harnessing emerging technologies to enhance the protection of our people and the natural environment. Therefore, digital transformation isn't just limited to IT-related functions, it is also an HSSE imperative.
So, let us start using digital transformation to empower our employees to play a more active role in ensuring safety. Remember, going digital doesn't replace employees, it provides the opportunities for employees to have augmented systems to aid them in value-adding work, not just for the organisation, but also for themselves. It helps in reducing risk and in allowing employees to make informed decisions faster, thereby saving lives.
As I speak of risks, none has been more apparent in a digital world than the ones related to cyberattacks. This year, the TT Cyber Security Incident Response Team reported a massive increase in malicious cyber activity targeting local and regional entities. I’m pleased to say that we’ve been speaking about the importance of cyber security for more than seven years at this Conference, and this year we are bringing this even more into focus as we are hosting a parallel cyber security track at our Conference. So I do encourage you to attend sessions on that track.
Re-Imagining HSSE in today's workplace also means placing equal priority on creating psychologically safe spaces as we do on creating physical safe spaces. There is no one "right way" to create a mentally healthy workplace since all workplaces are different, and while legislation is always helpful, we shouldn't have to wait on the law to protect our employees. Instead, as leaders, we must ensure that all levels of the workplace - this includes the Board of Directors, management, finance, human resources, and HSE departments – get involved to incorporate mental health at your workplace.
And there are so many facets that contribute to mental health. For example, what are we doing about stigma and discrimination or harassment, violence, and bullying in the workplace? These are very real but yet not fully ventilated issues that not only impact our employees’ well-being, but also our companies’ cultures. Reimagining HSSE therefore also must address matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which I am thrilled to say we will be discussing with one of our Feature Speakers Stephanie LeBlanc-Godfrey from Google at this year's conference. I hope like me, you are very much looking forward to that session.
So as I wrap up my remarks, let me end by re-introducing my original question: "how do we keep “showing up” for our people who have “shown up” for us every day?" Our staff and our safety professionals have outperformed in the discharge of their duties during some very challenging times. So, I implore you to continue seeking their interests. Continue re-imagining your HSSE policies and processes to build both a physically and psychologically safe work environment for ALL employees, regardless of their background! Continue “showing-up” for your people and letting them know that you care so they will continue to show up for you when you need them the most!
Thank you, everyone, and I do hope you enjoy the next three days of informative thought leadership which will be delivered by our very acclaimed speakers.
I wish you a successful conference!
Good morning, everyone.
I am Nirad Tewarie – CEO of AMCHAM T&T.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s meeting on this very important and relevant topic facing all leaders across every industry today: The Challenges of Hybrid Work To Traditional Organisational Risk Management.
Today we are hosting this session as one of our Pre-HSSE Conference Meetings in the lead-up to our 26th Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition from November 1st to November 3rd at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain.
As we transition into what we hope is a post-pandemic world, we have seen an increase in the organisational risks to the traditional models. There has also been a significant boost in digitalisation in the corporate environment. And we have also witnessed an increase in productivity with employees working from home or other locations. This has had many positive impacts on organisations, as employees have reported feeling less stressed getting to work – having avoided long hours of traffic – and feeling more comfortable working in a familiar, safe, and convenient environment.
Looking ahead, we see the future will continue along this trajectory – we will not return to the ‘normal of 2019 and early 2020’. Life has changed and the world of work is changing. The Prime Minister is probably correct in outlining the current situation in the Public Sector. Many companies in the private sector, including AMCHAM T&T, have already embraced flexi-workplace policies.
As we think about the society that we want to create, the systems we want to implement to increase productivity and even in the context of ongoing negotiations, there is probably an opportunity to explore opportunities for remote work for some types of jobs in the Public Sector. The processes and systems that would enable remote work in the public sector, would also likely improve the ease with which citizens interact with the state.
So, now that the economy becomes increasingly digital, we must also recognize that the growing cyber threat is also outpacing most companies’ ability to manage operations effectively. Today, all types of data being held and stored by companies – employees’ personal information, corporate data, customer information, intellectual property, and key infrastructure – is at risk.
Also, even as much as we have experienced an increase in productivity, the unprecedented changes caused by the pandemic have taken their toll on all of us. The combination of being separated for long periods and losing our loved ones and our livelihoods has had a major impact on our mental health.
This is and continues to be a difficult time for employees, as well as employers who seek to create an environment where their employees feel safe. But how do we access what is going on with our employees when they are working remotely? Can we read non-verbal queues from the little image that comes across our screen? Is it enough for us as employers to wait for employees to reach out with a problem?
Many times, we believe that the well-being of our staff is the responsibility of the HR department - but with rotational work, when HR is not there today - are all of us equipped to help an employee who is at work dealing with a mental health issue?
I look forward to the presentations today which would help us as employers and employees learn some strategies that we can employ - not only at our physical work buildings but also at home - the other place where we work.
Work-life balance - how do you achieve this when work from home has resulted in a blurring of the lines between work and home time and when the office calls are coming in later or earlier? How do we manage this when you are now living where you work? These are important questions that today’s leaders must answer as we adjust to this new world of work.
And as we deal with cyber threats and mental health, we must also balance this with the reality that the working spaces at home may not be the most conducive for work - from the lack of ergonomics to other hazards. How do we deal with a home office or another location that may contain physical and even environmental hazards?
And of course, as we look at all of these things, we should always understand our role as employers. We have a legal obligation, and Catherine would speak to that later today, but I want to advocate something that is a mantra at AMCHAM T&T - we do not aim to do the bare minimum for our employees and stakeholders - we aim to follow the best practices as an investment in our employee's physical and mental well-being - a happy employee is a productive employee. Our workers spend so much of their waking hours doing work for the company - it is our duty to ensure that we make the time enjoyable - even if sometimes the work may not be.
The session today is significant, it is one of our Pre-Conference sessions which are designed to give you a sneak peek into the Conference. The Conference will be held from November 01st to 03rd 2022 and would feature over 40 speakers. I ask that you encourage your supervisors and members of your team to attend. The Safety of our teams is paramount - and I challenge each of you to do as much as you can to ensure that health and safety is at the forefront of your organisation. Of course, one way to visibly demonstrate that is to support the Conference which seeks to highlight the relevant industry information. But I am also advocating that the strategies identified here be something that you make part of your company’s culture, regardless of where the work is being conducted. In the end, our major goal is to protect our employees. I hope to see a lot more of this in a post-pandemic era!
Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for joining us today for the launch of our 26th Annual Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition.
We are very delighted and grateful to have your participation and support today as we seek to build on the work that AMCHAM T&T has been doing for a quarter of a century.
But despite our proud legacy over the last 26 years, this year’s conference is going to have a more futuristic focus. To move forward we must adopt a learner’s mindset – one that will help us to usher in a new era of progress and success. As the futurist Alvin Toffler wrote: "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
This quote is most fitting to what we are trying to do here today and over the coming years because it forms the backdrop of this year’s Conference and Exhibition which speaks to “Re-Imagining HSSE”.
And. let me be perfectly clear: we are NOT saying that we want to “reinvent the wheel” or that we need to start over in any sense.
What we are saying is that NOW we must continue building on the lessons we have learned and use them to transition HSE into a new era.
What does this era look like for HSSE? We see it as:
- an era that is defined more by innovation through the increased adoption of new tools and technologies
- an era that encourages sustainable business practices as we all move towards net zero.
- an era that embraces new perspectives and approaches around HSE compliance
- an era that takes on a deeper philosophical look at accidents and emergencies while still maintaining all the scientific findings that have driven our decision-making.
This year, the Conference will put some of these changes in clear focus and highlight the innovations in the industry and show how these new tools and techniques are reducing fatalities and protecting the environment.
AMCHAM T&T’s drive behind the HSSE Conference is simple - we want to save lives and livelihoods. We want employees to have workplaces defined by a culture of HSSE awareness and compliance. We want children to return to schools where they feel safe and protected. We want to ensure that HSE is not viewed as a checklist item, or one determined by cost factors but instead, HSE must be a core priority of ALL industries and ALL companies.
The pandemic brought into focus the importance of mental health - a topic I am pleased to say that we have been focused on since 2015. This year, we are exploring the topic once more, but we are re-imagining and evolving with the current trends. No longer are we addressing mental health in the workplace from the sole perspective of making sure employees have access to good mental health resources, but from the perspective of ensuring that there is no stigma attached to accessing these resources. We will be having conversations about mental health through personal stories which show vulnerability from leadership.
Also, we can’t ignore the health and safety impacts when we lead with exclusion or discriminatory practices in our workplaces. Therefore, we are saying that in HSSE, issues of diversity, equity and inclusion must be addressed if we hope to create a psychologically safe work places that empower our employees and help prevent unhealthy situations that may lead to undue stress and trauma.
To create safe spaces for our employees, we will be addressing issues of leadership - we must be able to create strong leaders who can support our people - these are matters that we will address head-on in this year’s Conference.
I also want to mention that we are also launching the 12th Annual National HSE Awards which will evaluate companies for their robust HSE systems. This award program is awarded by judges with over 30 years of experience in HSE and provides companies with coaching to fill existing gaps in their HSE arsenal.
I am also happy to say that this year, the Awards would also include a mentorship component where companies who are not successful in the first round of judging will be given one-on-one coaching for a maximum of two (2) years. The aim is to assist companies to improve their HSE systems, with an end goal of improving HSE nationally.
So now, I want to recognise our SPONSORS who are helping us to build and Re-Imagine the HSSE culture.
Thank you to our TITLE SPONSOR: Atlantic LNG – We thank them for their continued partnership and support of this conference which dates back to 2018. Also, we thank our PLATINUM SPONSORS: NGC Group of Companies; bpTT, Shell, Proman, Digital Era Group, Yara and Woodside Energy as well as our GOLD SPONSORS: Nu Iron Unlimited; Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited, Heritage Petroleum Company Limited and Hitachi Systems Security Inc for their unwavering commitment to this issue.
This year the HSSE Conference will be a hybrid affair from November 01st to November 3rd – the first two (2) days will be in person at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain and the third day will be virtual. We have once more gathered a diverse mix of talented and highly accomplished speakers who will be delivering excellent content and information around this year’s theme: “Re-imagining HSSE”.
Helping us to start this conversation is the renowned keynote speaker and author Bill Sims, Jr. who was recently selected as one of the top ten speakers by the National Safety Council. Bill has created positive reinforcement systems with companies such as Dupont, Siemens VDO, Coca-Cola, and Disney to inspire better performance from employees and increase bottom line profits. He will be joined by a list of regional and international HSE experts and leaders at this year’s HSSE Conference.
Also, I would like to thank the hard-working AMCHAM T&T HSE committee - chaired by Balchan Jadoonanan and vice-chairs Travis Gayah and Camilla Arjoonsing, and our very own, Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist at AMCHAM T&T for their strong leadership and commitment on the coordination of this year’s Conference & Exhibition.
Let me remind you to check out the official 26th Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition Website at https://amchamtt.swoogo.com/HSSE2022. There, you will find all the information about our speakers, sponsors, agenda, sessions, topics, registration details, and much more.
We hope to see you on November 1st – November 3rd for AMCHAM T&T’s 26th Annual HSSE Conference & Exhibition.
It is a pleasure to be speaking to you today here at Shirvan Road Police Station in Tobago at this INL eBike Handover Ceremony.
At the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T), we have a strong desire and record of delivering quality service to our members, their communities, and our nation. This handover ceremony serves as another amazing example and a reminder of how collaboration, mutual trust and commitment to a single cause can build bridges and unite people and organisations around an initiative that will benefit the wider interest of the community.
When AMCHAM T&T first got the call about this initiative, there wasn't a moment of hesitation about whether we should get involved or not. Initiatives such as this which hold the dual purpose of positively impacting the quality of life of our citizens while simultaneously improving the ease of doing business will always remain a top priority for us at AMCHAM T&T. Therefore, we are very happy to be partnering with the US Embassy, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, and the many agencies whom you see here today on this very worthy initiative.
Against this background, I take great pleasure to thank the US Embassy and Chargé d'Affaires Shante Moore for providing an opportunity for partnership on this noble venture initiated by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
I must also extend my personal gratitude to Amerijet International Airlines - one of AmchamT&T’s loyal members - for their partnership and support with the construction and outfitting of the E-Bike Recharging Station that will be delivered to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Tourism Oriented Police Unit (TTPS TOPS) at the Shirvan and Roxborough Police Stations.
The introduction of these solar-charging eBikes as a solution to combatting crime while incorporating technology is a major step forward in our nation's anti-crime arsenal. I want to personally thank the TTPS for their progressive stance to lead with technology as they continue their challenging work to combat crime in our nation.
We are very fortunate to be living in a digital era right now where almost every part of human functioning has an element of technology that makes life much easier, simpler, and more efficient. Therefore, technology must remain a critical means of crime prevention strategies and policies to keep citizens safe.
The deployment of these eBikes will serve multiple purposes in crime prevention and the police response to criminal activity. Citizens can feel assured of better engagement with their law enforcement officers in their communities through increased neighbourhood patrols as well as the eBikes will also help law enforcement to move more efficiently in spaces where a vehicle would be more cumbersome or dangerous and respond to emergency situations a lot quicker - bringing a measure of relief to all citizens.
This is particularly important here in Tobago with its scenic beaches and unique flora and fauna, it is important that we conduct business inclusive of crime prevention, in a manner that is ever mindful of this pristine environment.
Additionally, with the unique cultural events and festivals that are known to draw record crowds every year, these eBikes will ensure an added measure of safety and protection to patrons and spectators at these events.
At AMCHAM T&T, our partnership and support of this initiative are both necessary and strategic. Necessary, because crime is a problem that affects everyone both directly and indirectly. Our quality of life is hampered, our businesses suffer, and ultimately, our nation pays the price when we are unable to attract both tourists and investors to our shores.
It is also strategic for us because partnering on this venture complies with our mandate to promote technology and greater attention to the conservation of our environment across all industries and sectors to ensure our nation's sustainable growth and development.
Moving forward, we need a lot more of these private-public partnerships as we seek to combat some of these big problems with even bigger solutions to drive progress in our nation. And so as I close, I reaffirm AMCHAM T&T's commitment to working with all our stakeholders on initiatives such as this one so we can create a safer society for all citizens of our beautiful twin-island republic.
Welcome to DAY TWO of THIS (Tech Hub Islands Summit) presented by AMCHAM T&T and Republic Bank.
I just have a few little messages that I wanted to share with you all this morning.
Yesterday, we were talking about AI becoming sentient, what that means, and how dangerous that could be for us.
But I would argue that we are facing a greater danger today. A danger that the system overwhelms us. And the inertia that we talk about or the things that we don't get done or why life is hard or not good. This system is overwhelming us. But what is the system?
The system is you. The system is me. We are all nodes that make up that system. So how do we see ourselves? Do we see ourselves like the big strong dog who sees himself or herself as being incapable of doing anything or do we see ourselves like the cat is a tiger?
I think that's a fundamental question. Because we often ask who should do something. Why not you? Why not me? Why should somebody else do it? And that's what we're trying to do here at AMCHAM T&T as we build the Tech Hub because we have a problem.
I don't know how many of you caught this. But the SEA results this year show that of the 19,000 children who wrote the exam, the majority of students got less than fifty percent in Math and English - and by the way, the SEA exam is now whittled down to Math and English only, and no other subjects such as social studies and science.
Okay, so we have a problem. But life is about us turning problems into opportunities.
So how can we take this problem and turn it into an opportunity? So, instead of thinking, "oh my gosh, Tech is going to take away jobs". Why not talk about how Tech is going to help us get better jobs and improve social justice and social mobility in Trinidad and Tobago, and the world? That should be our goal.
In 2019, when I give this speech, this slide was a picture of some CPEP workers, and the next slide was a picture of tech workers in data science and so on. What we should be thinking about today is taking the people who feel they have no opportunities in the traditional system and creating opportunities for them while using technology as an enabler and as an industry, in and of itself, to be able to do that and to also solve the problems that we have of inequality and injustice around the world.
If we define our problem, if we say, we are going to be part of the solution as AMCHAM T&T is, as all of you are, then we can say, you know what, let's use some tools or let's create some new tools to solve our problems and to make our whole space better because that's what it should be about.
So, when we talk about the various industrial revolutions and we no longer have as many people in the developed world involved in manual labor - and we talked about using technology for business efficiency - shouldn't we also be talking about technology, in terms of quality of life and maybe even reducing the work week and reducing work.
Can we create the conditions where technology does some of the things that we do now that maybe we don't have to do? We tease the lawyers about it and talk about the bots that are giving you better results than the lawyers because they are able in a short time to use the data and algorithms to scan tens of thousands of cases, tell you what the case law is and therefore what's the best outcome. But they are complex things that you still require lawyers for, right? Therefore, if we can reduce some of the busy work or some of the tedious work, can we get better quality of life? Not that we don't want lawyers to have a better quality of life.
For any job set, we can do that. So that is what when we talk about building a tech sector it is not an abstract thing and it is not only a money thing - although that is important because you need the resources to be able to move things along – but it's how do we do this to achieve larger objectives that we have around how we want our society to develop.
And in that vein, we spend a lot of time focusing on government - yesterday, Carina Cockburn from the IDB spoke about cyber security and a possible testing lab within the private sector. But what if our government which has so much to do in their digital transformation journey, sees itself as a developer of IP, where they invite the private sector and they put an open call to solve solutions and become co-owners of the IP that we can then resell on license and that in itself becomes a revenue stream.
My point is, that there's no shortage of ideas, there's no shortage of opportunities. And if we focus only on the problems, we will never create the Trinidad and Tobago that we want. We will never achieve the objectives that we want, and we will always be depressed and upset and angry because all we see is what we can't do or what somebody else should do.
So, let's create the Trinidad and Tobago that we want, and we argue that let's do it in part through the development of a tech sector because "we can make it if we try, just a little harder" in the words of the great poet, the Black Stalin.
Thank you very much.
by Toni Sirju-Ramnarine
WELCOME to the AMCHAM T&T-Republic Bank - Tech Hub Islands Summit (THIS) 2022.
It is a real honor to be with you today live and in-person to kickstart what promises to be three days of engaging and thought-provoking discussions.
Before I begin, I want to start by acknowledging the support of our sponsors. We are delighted to have Republic Bank return once more as our Title Sponsor and for sharing the vision we have of T&T becoming a major tech hub globally.
I must also acknowledge our other sponsors: Platinum Sponsors: PwC; IDB; Digicel; Eximbank; SI Digital; our Gold Sponsors: Guardian Group; NIO Digital; Proman; Silver Sponsor: Balroop Group; Session Sponsors: Visa and the TTIFC; Digital Media Partner: LoopTT and our Transportation Partner: Europcar. All that we are able to do here today is largely built on the support and partnership of these organisations.
Four years ago, when we started the first edition of this, we wanted to amplify the importance of digital transformation to our economy. We are of the firm belief that a tech sector in Trinidad and Tobago can be a critical component of a diversification strategy.
The vision we had for this was to build a national tech ecosystem and marketplace that will allow local businesses to export tech services to international markets.
We also wanted to develop a critical mass of local talent and to put the established businesses in touch with the young disruptors to start collaborating more on problem-solving facilitated by technology.
To accomplish this, we knew we had to first start investing in our people. Bringing together representatives from the private and public sectors and all other stakeholders and interest groups was central to our digital transformation vision. I want to offer my gratitude to AMCHAM T&T's Digital Transformation Committee for their hard work over these past four years which helped us to achieve this goal. And the result is THIS – a conference bringing together these very minds! So you see we’re living the theme of this year’s conference - change in action
Now the question is: what do we do next? The answer is to continue building on what we created. Therefore, "Change in Action" over the next three days will see us highlighting the success stories of the young disruptors and innovators who are at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Their inspiring stories will hopefully channel a new influx of creativity and innovation to show us how technology can underpin a more fulfilling, productive, and profitable way of life.
Today competitiveness is about being innovative. The experiences of the past two years have definitely taught us that. But what does that mean in an ever-changing world? How do we continuously reinvent our business operations, redefine our dreams, and reimagine a future that has us staying both competitive and successful?
THIS 2022 is set up to answer these questions. This year we will amplify the work that needs to be done around building the local Fintech Industry and Financial Inclusion. We will share information to develop a futureproof digital infrastructure and make T&T a real player in the global tech supply chain.
But THIS isn't just a platform for discussions. THIS is a space to foster meaningful partnerships between key stakeholders:
- the private and public sectors
- the key innovators and disruptors with larger and long established, experienced entities
- local talent and internationally operating tech giants
You are all in this room. Jointly, we are here to learn, we are here to collaborate, we are here to form partnerships, and we are here to deliver the technological dream and vision we have for our businesses and our nation.
Let's start by accepting that this is now a "tele-everything" world. Recent global events have deepened our relationships with technology. Today we rely on digital connections for work, education, health, daily commercial transactions, and essential social interactions. This has existed for some time now, became amplified as a result of the pandemic and continues as an extension of the pandemic. And there's no forecast showing that the human connection to technology will change any time soon.
Digital adoption has become the mainstay of our operations and human functioning in recent times. There is no escaping it. But while we evolve with it, we need to make sure that we are building a world that:
1) enhances the quality of life for many families and workers,
2) fueling safety and convenience through the increased use of digital tools, and
3) enhancing interconnectedness to engender empathy, trust, and the administration of truth.
A digital era cannot have us worrying about:
- worsening economic inequality because of the digital divide;
- "big tech" exploiting their market advantage to erode the privacy and autonomy of users;
- or the weaponisation of lies and hate speech to manipulate public perception, emotion, and action to sow hate and discord in society.
Currently, we see a lot of this happening already in our world. What would be new is how we come together to solve these problems even as we embrace technology in all parts of our business operations and lives.
If technology is being harnessed to provide solutions, we will overcome these problems. But we must have a clearly defined strategy with intended goals and leadership buy-in from the decision-makers. Your presence here today suggests you already recognise this. Now we just have to agree on a clear roadmap to build the tech ecosystem and start doing the work.
The work must start with ensuring that digital transformation in the private sector does not outpace the rate at which it happens in the public sector, or vice versa. A true return on investment from digital transformation requires a coordinated and simultaneous approach between both private and public entities.
AMCHAM T&T, through THIS and the work of our Digital Transformation Committee, has outlined several key policies in the past to help fulfill our digital agenda. I don't want to sound repetitive, but we would like to see the government take swift action on these policies to fully reap the benefits of digital transformation.
We remain hopeful that the unique national e-identification will be operationalised soon so that we can simultaneously track the state's interactions with citizens while ensuring equitable access to public benefits and services for every citizen. Recently at our AGM Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning indicated that the Government is working on this and another of our recommendations, a data interoperability framework for the Government. We are hopeful that these will be actioned this calendar year.
Also, we have seen how cashless payment systems and other advanced technologies like machine learning, blockchain, automation, bank lending, or consumer lending have digitally transformed many businesses elsewhere. With Trinidad & Tobago having the largest financial services industry in the English-Speaking Caribbean, we can leverage this to develop a thriving fintech ecosystem. This way we can boost innovation, advance financial inclusion, strengthen public financial management systems, and promote positive economic transformation. With the right mix of incentives, policies, and legislation to promote growth, innovation, and adoption, we can build this fintech ecosystem.
If we are going to invest in technology, then we must make sure that R&D is at the core of our growth strategy. This is how we will drive economic growth or spur innovation, invention, or progress.
In fact, one of the recommendations to the Government for inclusion in the upcoming budget is to support R&D in private companies through the allowance of a write-off of 75 % of the working capital used to support innovation against chargeable income tax, up to a limit of 2% of a company’s annual revenue in the prior year. We hope this recommendation will be taken into consideration.
Nearshoring is another sector that can provide a great return on investment considering recent global events such as the pandemic. Trinidad and Tobago’s immense resources and talent create the ideal environment to position itself as a world-class nearshore provider for foreign companies seeking to establish operations in new locations.
Currently, our close proximity to North America, English-speaking talent pool, favorable economic climate for investment, and relative ease of doing business are just some of the key factors that make T&T a prime destination for the emergence of a nearshoring sector. We believe this is what will keep us attractive to foreign investors seeking to fill their digital transformation gaps as they look to outsource their operations to other territories.
Indeed, we have held meetings with the Ministers of Trade and Digital Transformation on this proposal and are pleased to say that both Ministries have agreed to work in collaboration with us on the initiative. Further, last week, we convened the inaugural meeting of a Technical Working Group on this initiative and on Friday, we will have a wider meeting with stakeholders, as part of t.h.i.s., to brainstorm ideas to create a tech hub in T&T.
Finally, it's important to note that developing a tech ecosystem will not reap the intended benefits in the absence of the regulatory and legislative environment to facilitate its success. With many businesses now relying on technology and software to provide key services and collecting vast amounts of data from their customers, keeping the information secure has become a major priority. Therefore, our digital transformation dreams require a strong and robust governance framework to guide this tech ecosystem. We will need more efficient cybersecurity networks and the implementation of the Electronic Transactions Act, Data Protection Act and the Transfer of Funds Act coupled with policies to protect the free sharing of open data to ensure the vital success of our digital journey.
As I close, I want you to know that AMCHAM T&T's focus on technology doesn't stop at the end of this summit. We will continue to do the work that is necessary to improve our business functions, enhance the quality of life for citizens and drive economic growth and sustainability from everything that technology has to offer.
We recently hosted another BreakbeatCode hackathon – which teaches coding through music – for 50 young people in T&T. We expect to do another such hackathon this year to be followed by a longer 12-week course for more intense coding training.
Our digital skills gap study with the IDB is almost completed. The findings will help guide the development of training programmes to support the growth of local firms and investor firms as the tech sector expands in T&T. Such a study should provide policy-relevant information on how key actors in the digital economy can better interact towards improving the country’s attractiveness for foreign investment based on an internationally competitive supply of digital talent. It will also examine distinct elements of the digital economy, including gaps in digital inclusion, emerging opportunities for e-commerce, and state responses to facilitate gap closure.
Also, our Security Committee is finalising the cyber-security guidelines which we hope to make available to our members soon. So, the work continues for us as I hope it will for you following this summit.
I hope you feel as excited as we do that digital transformation can be the engine of our economic growth and sustainability. I don’t expect you to have all the answers today or even by the end of this summit, but my hope is that the connections we leave here with will help advance the partnerships and collaboration needed to build the roadmap to our digitally connected future with fewer detours. I hope the information we share with you over the next few days will be useful and rewarding to both your businesses’ survival and our country's future.
Thank you once more to all our sponsors, speakers, and to Ms. Rey-Anne Paynter, TECH Community and Projects Officer at AMCHAM T&T and to everyone at the Secretariat for all their hard work in putting together this event.
Toni Sirju-Ramnarine - AMCHAM T&T President
It is my pleasure to welcome you to AMCHAM T&T’s 29th Annual General Meeting and Business Forum.
I have to begin by saying how wonderful it is to be joining you here today IN PERSON after two years of virtual interactions. I know personally that it was difficult for me to take on this Presidency last year in the virtual space and have to deliver these remarks to a camera from home at the AGM, so I am indeed delighted to be here.
Let me assure you that these in-person and hybrid events are something we are intending to do more of now. Our Board and I are very much looking forward to having the opportunity to interact more with all of you.
And speaking of our Board, I warmly welcome our new and returning Directors to AMCHAM T&T’s Board of Directors. Thank you for the faith and confidence you have placed in me over this past year as President. I look forward to working and growing with you in the coming year.
This is an important year for us at AMCHAM T&T, as not only are we celebrating returning to in-person events, we are also celebrating a major milestone for our chamber.
We are celebrating our organisation’s 30th Anniversary. It may seem difficult to believe it now but the organisation that has faithfully served you so well over the past three decades started as a simple idea during a breakfast meeting among colleagues at the residence of the then US Ambassador.
For those of you who own or manage a company, you know that every great product, service or invention starts with having a simple idea – an idea that can solve a problem, transform societies, or even birth a new nation for a new era. We’d like to think that AMCHAM T&T has contributed significantly to our country’s private sector and the progress of our society.
There are many accomplishments we can reflect on that have added immense value to your businesses and have advanced development in our nation.
Some notable achievements include our 26 years of HSSE advocacy – AMCHAM T&T has been a leader in this sphere, and we can truly say that this has been transformational across many sectors in our society.
We have also hosted important trade missions to boost trade and investment opportunities, and we’ve strengthened our access to AACCLA whose board has consisted of several former and current AMCHAM T&T Directors and on which our Past President Patricia Ghany and our CEO Nirad Tewarie still currently sit.
This association with ACCLA has brought benefits, the most recent of which was securing a speaking spot for Massy Group CEO Gervase Warner at the recently concluded CEO Summit of the Americas three weeks ago.
Our work on gender equity has helped us to reach gender parity on our Board in 2020, which we maintained in 2021, and yet again in 2022. Meanwhile, our annual Women’s Leadership Conference continue to grow and draw widespread interest with this year’s conference having over 500 attendees registered.
More recently, we created THIS, the Tech Hub Islands Summit - our nation’s first major technology conference – at a time when, arguably, digital transformation wasn't yet quite seen as the imperative it is today.
These are all bright and shining examples of AMCHAM T&T's reach, influence, and relevance in representing the business interests of the private sector in an ever-evolving world.
As we celebrate these achievements, we also celebrate our members. Had it not been for your support coupled with the leadership shown by our past and current boards and respective committees, as well as the hard work of our CEO and Secretariat, we would not be able to celebrate these milestones and major victories. AMCHAM T&T thanks each of you for your unwavering support and we look forward to another 30 years of more wins shared with you.
This sets the tone for what I am going to speak about today: enabling recovery, growth, and resilience in the context of sustainable development in our nation.
The past two years have presented many setbacks to our lives and businesses. The impact of an ongoing pandemic, climate change, and recent geopolitical tensions arising both near and far from our region continues to disrupt business. Against this backdrop, companies have been forced to make many difficult decisions to stay alive and afloat. But in the midst of these tumultuous times, many promising opportunities have also arisen. Here is where I would like to speak about what AMCHAM T&T has been working on and will continue to progress this coming year to support our recovery, growth, and resilience.
Investing in Technology is a prime example. Today every company can be called a TECH company. For the past two years, technology has provided the fuel to sustain most of our operations in the wake of such unprecedented challenges. Looking ahead this is not going to change. Already, many companies have made the digital switch or are seeking to invest more in digital transformation.
For any of this to happen, we must start leveraging new technologies and applying them across all sectors of the economy to equally benefit all companies. Doing this will ensure that technology becomes a real enabler for innovation and development.
We have seen how technology can transform the way companies produce and sell their goods and services. We know the potential it has to open up new markets and new business models, resulting in higher levels of productivity, production, and profits to grow the economy.
What we require more of now are the structural changes to promote innovation. Therefore, building a thriving tech sector requires greater investment in research and development, advancing education, bridging the digital divide, and creating an easier regulatory environment to enable our entrepreneurs to start businesses more easily. Both the private and public sectors have to do this together, but we must make this a major priority within our operations and as part of our country’s economic agenda.
AMCHAM T&T’s promotion of technology is mainly to help solve problems by building a vibrant tech ecosystem to fuel the digital economy. In two weeks, we will be hosting the 4th edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit (this), where we will hear from tech giants Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer Emeritus at IBM and David White, Global Technology Team Lead for Infrastructure Modernization at Google Cloud. THIS 2022 will return to an in-person Conference and Exhibition on July 6th – 8th, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain with the option to stream the summit and participate in a virtual exhibition on the virtual platform at techislands.net. We look forward to welcoming you to THIS 2022!
The second major initiative we have been progressing, which we believe has the potential to be truly transformational for our economy and is linked to national digital transformation, is developing a Nearshoring strategy, with a view to diversifying the economy and attracting investment in T&T.
We recently presented a policy paper developed by the AMCHAM T&T's Digital Transformation Committee and our Secretariat to the Minister of Trade & Industry and the Minister of Digital Transformation, both with whom we are currently working, alongside other agencies, to execute the strategies outlined in the paper.
Developing a nearshoring sector amidst the instabilities shaping our world right now may work in our favour as companies seek to move operations closer to home because of ongoing conflicts, supply chain concerns, the issues highlighted by the pandemic and climate change. The potential here for the development of this sector will result in viable export, foreign exchange earning opportunities, and increased jobs.
As we work to develop a detailed roadmap for this sector, AMCHAM T&T wishes to thank the Honourable Ministers Paula Gopee-Scoon & Hassel Bacchus and the teams from the Ministries of Trade and Industry & Digital Transformation for the collaboration and support on this initiative. We look forward to continued engagement to generate mutually desired results.
As we set the stage for recovery and growth towards sustainable development, we cannot ignore how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of climate change have emerged as serious threats to attracting investments. In response, companies are adopting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) measures to thrive today and future-proof themselves from tomorrow's risks. This is why key investors, stakeholders and policymakers are now looking at companies with built-in, measurable ESG policies as a prerequisite for investment - a point made clear in a recent PwC 2021 Global Investor ESG Survey where 79% of investment professionals from 43 territories said their investment decision making hinges on the way a company manages ESG risks and opportunities.
Therefore, I take pleasure in announcing that AMCHAM T&T has established a stand-alone ESG Committee. AMCHAM T&T's ESG Committee will help track how the ESG/Sustainability standards are applied to Trinidad & Tobago while sharing information and best practice advice on current issues affecting the realms of ESG.
Thanks to the tremendous work of Mark Thomas and the UNDP office in Trinidad & Tobago, we will be able to share with our members and the wider business community, an ESG handbook that is tailored to the Caribbean context.
Having reviewed this handbook, I can tell you that it is very comprehensive, and for those of you who are looking to introduce ESG more deliberately into your businesses or to enhance your existing practices, this is an excellent resource.
So, I want you to feel confident in relying on us at AMCHAM T&T for assistance, as you progress this important area of ESG to make your businesses more resilient and improve overall social wellbeing.
That point brings me to the Rule of Law, another area AMCHAM T&T has been progressing. The key to an attractive and welcoming business environment begins with the predictable application of laws, policies, and processes. However, corruption – both actual corruption and the perception of corruption – a painfully slow justice system and violent crime pose major problems to both societal development and the ease of doing business.
We cannot build a resilient and cohesive society or conduct business in the absence of citizen security, fairness, and access to justice. There have been many solutions brought forward to help curb the rise of criminal activity. Ultimately, I believe the situation requires an "all-hands-on-deck" approach, for which AMCHAM T&T is committed to doing its part to help address these issues.
Our soon-to-be-established Rule of Law committee will provide additional resources, skills sharing, and knowledge transfer between the private sector and the government on this important national issue. We are delighted to have Mr Clive Fletcher, Managing Director at Unicomer who will chair this committee which will include representatives from the US Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago, The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute and the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
We must all work together to create a society rooted in good governance and high levels of social mobility and equality so that our citizens are made to feel safe, our businesses can thrive, and the economy becomes more efficient and attractive to investment.
These are very promising initiatives and to help achieve them, we need more meaningful public-private partnerships geared towards national development initiatives.
We need to upgrade the existing infrastructure so that we develop a booming tech hub and drive economic growth derived from nearshoring opportunities.
We need to improve the ease of doing business to attract greater investment by addressing concerns at the ports and with customs.
And as we invest in ESG and Tech, we need to strengthen our cybersecurity frameworks and ensure we have the necessary regulatory and legislative environment to facilitate these objectives.
All of this is possible by working together. AMCHAM T&T will continue to do our part. We... each of us, must do our part.
As I close, I remain optimistic about our future. Current commodity prices give the Government and likely many of our businesses some fiscal space. We must all use this wisely, understanding that this is a temporary situation.
There is no reason why the pathway to recovery, growth, and resilience toward sustainable development cannot lead to a place where social mobility is facilitated; or where inequalities are replaced by greater opportunities; or where our economy is in the top three most attractive places for investment in the hemisphere.
At AMCHAM T&T, these are goals that we have championed over the last thirty years, and goals I promise you, we will continue to work towards achieving over the next 30 years and beyond.
Finally, I say thank you to all our sponsors of today’s AGM and to our hardworking Secretariat. Ladies and gentlemen, I very much look forward to catching up with each of you at our networking cocktails following this meeting.
Good afternoon everyone.
I am Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, President of AMCHAM T&T.
It is my pleasure to wish you a warm welcome to the launch of the AMCHAM T&T and IDB's 5th Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme.
I would like to begin by offering my sincere gratitude to the Inter-American Development Bank for their continued partnership and support to empower women through this mentorship programme.
I would also like to thank our class of mentees. Thank you for recognizing the importance of this programme and choosing to participate this year.
And to our mentors, some of whom, I understand was part of our distinguished list of speakers at our recent Women's Leadership Conference, and others who were part of last year's Mentorship class. Thank you once more for offering your knowledge and wisdom to help support younger women in their future career prospects.
We often hear about the barriers preventing women from progressing and claiming success in their chosen careers and throughout every aspect of their lives. Rather than dwelling on the problems, AMCHAM T&T would like to shift the focus on the solutions.
The goal should always be to remove these existing barriers with more opportunities so that we are empowering both women and men. At AMCHAM T&T, we believe a diverse workplace and society brings about better outcomes for everyone.
Ultimately, this is what we are hoping to both inspire and achieve with this Mentorship Programme. We aren't saying that this is the only answer to some of these issues, but it is one small step we can take to provide the solutions we need.
You might ask how is this possible.
The answers are never easy or straightforward. But together we can counteract these hidden barriers by making conscious decisions every day to simply show up and offer support, wherever we can.
We can change the rules of the game and create a better game plan where we can ALL succeed, together.
For this to happen, as women, we must seek each other's interests. That means reinforcing greater collaboration to eliminate the competition that pits women against each other, and by extension, all women against men.
When we challenge the status quo we are essentially raising the bar for all women to have clearer and easier paths to reach their fullest potential in life. We can achieve this by helping our sisters to have a different vision for their lives, empowering them to continuously strive for better instead of settling for less, and by current leaders leaving a legacy of support and allyship that will continue to uplift women.
Don't ever forget that we are always stronger when we join forces and come together.
Women have the power to achieve this, but we can't do it alone. This is why lifting barriers and reducing inequalities is a job for EVERYONE. Therefore, we are going to need more men to stand in solidarity with women so that our world becomes a lot more inclusive, a lot more diverse, and ultimately, safer for everyone.
That’s why we hope to see more companies investing in mentorship programmes to foster greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, strengthen company culture, and improve employee engagement. Companies that invest in mentorship will see the benefits of higher productivity, fewer turnover rates, better succession planning, and increase profits. Ultimately, it comes down to doing the right thing!
Mentorship also provides a platform that allows women to develop their leadership skills, increase their self-confidence, build their social capital, and take ownership of their own personal and professional development. At AMCHAM T&T and the IDB, we see the value in creating these opportunities for women to grow and succeed which is why this programme is a top priority for us.
I can guarantee you that the mentorship journey will pose some challenges and disruptions. It will make you a little uncomfortable at times as you unlearn some of the old and familiar patterns that have prevented your growth and development. But through the careful direction of your mentors, they will gentle guide you away from those restrictive fears and doubts to a place of greater courage and confidence.
And because of this, I can assure you that the outcomes you stand to gain will far outweigh the struggles and discomfort you may experience. Remember nothing worthy comes easy. But with your dedication and commitment to stand strong and face your fears you will soon realise that the only limitations that exist are the limitations you set for yourself.
So, I encourage you to absorb the valuable advice and counsel from your mentors. Let their knowledge and wisdom force you to rethink so many of your beliefs and attitudes. Let it motivate you to accept new challenges that once posed so much fear and anxiety. And don't be afraid to challenge your mentors as well. Growth is a continuous journey and no one person is better than the other or knows everything. So, offer your ideas and suggestions freely to build a strong relationship with your mentors where you are both learning and growing with each other.
This programme holds the promise for all of this, but you will only realize it if you first BELIEVE it. Your decision to register for this programme coupled with your attendance today already shows a promising first step to achieving these rewards.
I wish you much success as you begin this enriching journey.
Before I close, I want to once more thank all our mentors who have stepped up to offer support and solidarity with women to help them stand firm in their worth and value. Thank you for your willingness and enthusiasm to be part of this year's programme.
And finally, thank you to the IDB for showing continuous support and leadership in this programme, and for these issues.
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