AMCHAM T&T Response to PM’s Update on COVID-19 Restrictions
The announcements today appear to follow the same principles enunciated by the Government since the initiation of the 'lockdown' period. We are glad to see health remaining the priority while additional businesses can be re-opened. We appreciate the acceptance of the principles that registered businesses in the form of registered taxis should be recognised for being compliant and the tangible acknowledgement that the state can find ways to directly assist businesses to weather the crisis.
We encourage all businesses and individuals to follow protocols to stop the spread of the virus. We look forward to more testing in the short term in the hope that there are no further cases of the virus locally so that we can start rebuilding the society and economy.
We are optimistic that businesses that can open will continue to implement the necessary safety controls to conduct business to prevent the spread of the virus. We have already seen many companies who were deemed essential during the lockdown period adopt these new measures and so we encourage businesses to continue these trends, particularly with hygiene protocols both for returning staff and customers, social distancing, and employee travel arrangements.
The slightly earlier re-opening of additional businesses will begin the slow process of kickstarting our economy by securing jobs for employees, continuing trade, and earning much needed foreign exchange. This will also assist the government to continue to provide the much-needed relief measures to assist citizens who are impacted by the ongoing effects of COVID-19.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OPENING REMARKS BY
(Senior Trade & Policy Specialist- AMCHAM T&T)
AMCHAM T&T WEBINAR:
“NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: CYBERSECURITY”
(Tuesday, May 12th, 2020)
Good Morning everyone and thank you for your participation today. I am Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist at AMCHAM T&T, and it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to this webinar.
Today’s Webinar deals with the all-important topic of Cyber Security – an issue I am sure you will be hearing a lot more as companies begin the process of adjusting to this new normal.
As some of you know we have done quite a few of these webinars since our first in March, but today’s webinar speaks to the core of what we have been doing at AMCHAM T&T for a number of years, through our two flagship conferences i.e. HSSE Conference and Exhibition and our Tech Hubs Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Last year at t.h.i.s. we focused on embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution, and this year we will be looking for innovative ways to continue the engagement, dialogue, and information sharing. Therefore, this webinar is part of our Digital Transformation Series which is a series of Webinars we will be having over the next couple of weeks to continue the dialogue, we started one year ago.
Before COVID-19, we all knew telecommuting was an option however very few persons or companies were willing to make it the preferred method for conducting meetings, far less hosting seminars and possibly even conferences. Then we had the pandemic and many of our employees are working remotely simply to keep them safe.
Webinars have now become the usual occurrence. Just think about how many webinars you have participated in this week... this month. Today companies are now asking themselves- if we were to return to work, do we really need everyone to physically be in the office? Do we even need an office space?
We already know that opportunistic criminals and other malicious actors have been using the internet and other rapidly evolving technology such as apps and mobile smart devices to compromise an individual or company’s financial and digital assets. Meanwhile, hacktivists have been flooding websites with traffic, effectively shutting them down, and spies have stolen intellectual property and government secrets. Amidst a pandemic where social distancing, economic disruption and remote working has now become the norm – this has created the perfect setting for these criminals to induce further shocks and disruptions to both our economic and health systems.
It was just a matter of time for hackers to take advantage of a remote workforce, or an unsuspecting customer plugging in company credit card details or other important company information on an unsecured network. That is why we at AMCHAM T&T believe it is important that companies start investing more around cybersecurity tools and policies to protect their digital assets and their workforce.
It is also important that individuals take responsibility for their actions. Companies, should have policies to educate their workforces on cyber threats, and practice retraining if phishing schemes allows data to be leaked, but we also expect employees to take note of suspicious websites, emails and apps which may pose risks for downloading. That means each of us needs to be vigilant.
However, not all news is bad news in this pandemic. There are many lessons to be learned here. For starters, it is good that we are all once more talking about cybersecurity. We should not have to wait for another once-in-a-lifetime pandemic to get us to invest more and start developing policies to protect our assets and will ensure business continuity in times of disasters.
Also, consideration must be given to remote working not just as a disruption caused by a disaster but as the widely accepted norm of the future. The truth is: natural or man-made disasters will always be there. Are we going to simply “close shop” and wait for things to get back to normal? Or are we going to realise that even in a disaster, work and life, can continue once we have the necessary resources and policies implemented to make it happen?
This is just a couple of the reasons why we are bringing you this session today. The road to recovery is going to be a long one from COVID-19 but we must ensure that we find a safe and responsible way to continue to work and operate our businesses. Remember in a pandemic, safety and protection aren’t just about wearing a face mask and adhering to social distancing rules. That’s important but we also have to protect and secure our digital assets so that there are minimal disruptions to our life and work even in a disaster.
In closing, I would like to thank our sponsors Republic Bank, PwC, Digicel and our partners at Trinidad Systems Limited (TSL) for their support to host this Webinar. 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 let us know.
OPENING REMARKS BY AMCHAM T&T CEO
AMCHAM T&T WEBINAR:
“NAVIGATING THE PANDEMIC: THE USEFULNESS OF RISK MANAGEMENT”
(Friday, May 8th 2020)
Good Morning everyone and thank you for your participation today. Welcome to one of the AMCHAM T&T webinars. I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to this webinar. I would like to say a special thanks to Melissa Pierre, who have been working with the HSE Committee to make this Webinar happen.
We have done quite a few of these webinars since our first on March 16th. It is one of the ways we at AMCHAM T&T aims to provide value to our members. These webinars continue our advocacy positions as well as provide information to assist you in making decisions, in what are truly unprecedented times.
Today’s session is different from the other sessions that we have had in the past. We have chosen the topic “The Usefulness of Risk Management” to provide vital information and additional resources that will help each of us to navigate our lives and businesses through this pandemic. Normally, this would have been a topic featured prominently at our annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition, but some would say, these aren’t normal times. So we are happy to have the expert speakers deliver presentations on this topic today.
We understand that many companies are struggling to cope in these times due to the major disruptions caused by the response measures to stop the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine.
We wonder, how many times in the past couple of weeks we have asked the question: what more could we have done to limit some of the effects on our businesses? Or could we have prepared for this?
And while this is not the time to play the blame game or the ‘what-if’ scenarios. Even Nassim Taleb – author of the Black Swan – is on record as saying that COVID-19 is not a Black Swan event as it was entirely predictable, yet many of us were almost totally unprepared to respond to it. So, we knew it was coming. We just didn’t know when and how.
So the reality is that this virus is going to be with us for some time, at least in the immediate future, but we also have to find a safe and responsible way to ensure that we can conduct and operate business during these challenging times. And, we also have to allow this pandemic to act as a teachable moment that shows us where we fell short in preparing for it and how we can do better – not just as businesses but also as societies. How can we do better as societies and how can business contribute to that better society that will emerge hopefully out of this pandemic.
So, we must come together and start developing practical solutions – if we haven't done so before – that will start looking more closely into our crisis management plans and business continuity plans and interactions with employees and customers as we move to what everyone is calling the new normal.
We know that there are many associated risks to business which are impacted by COVID-19, for example: Reputation risks, Supply Chain risks, Health & Safety, Cyber and Fraud risks, to name a few, so it’s important that companies continue to invest more towards improving their risk landscape that is changing every day because of this pandemic. We may have to perform more new risk assessments and continually adjust of control measures to contain those new or heightened risks which are often interconnected. It may simply mean performing a better job of trying to anticipate what we can’t anticipate.
If the impact of COVID-19 on business has taught us one thing is that we cannot wait for our annual ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) updates or audit plans before we act. We have to ensure that these risks are on management's radar now to allow your teams to take these into consideration when making decisions and for management to be cognizant of the importance of proper risk assessment and planning. The agility of our compliance programs will help us to quickly identify and respond to new risks which will ultimately determine our survival as well as the survival of the organization.
But we continue to not panic. What has been truly amazing in these times, in spite of the many disruptions to our lives, is how fast people around the world have quickly made adjustments to their lives and to work. Of course, a lot of that is attributable to the advances made, and our access to technology. But it is still our ability to adapt, even in the most challenging times, that has helped us to survive and thrive.
In this situation, as it relates to business, we just have to start identifying and accessing those risks and ensuring that there are sufficient control measures put in place that will elicit the least amount of disruptions to our lives and livelihood.
As I close, I just want to add that even whilst we recognise the limitations posed on us by COVID-19, AMCHAM T&T has never been an organization to sit back and relax and wait for things to return to normal. As a matter of fact, no one can tell us with any certainty when that would be, so we cannot wait. Just to be clear, we operate within the law at all times, however, we embraced the need to change and recognised we need to innovate and continue to deliver a higher standard of value to you. We are ably assisted in this by the BOD and our committees- so special thank you to the BOD and the committees, especially HSE committee logged on today- this session would not be possible without your support and expertise.
I hope you would appreciate that the session today is small to allow for maximum participation and networking. Our feature speaker, Mr. Nippin Anand has assured us that he will stay online as long as you have questions to be able to respond to them. So whilst you won't be able to sit with him at lunch at Hyatt (like you would have had at the Conference), you are able to more easily interact with him in this Forum. We also want to thank Col. Lyle E. Alexander for taking the time out to be with us today and we look forward to his presentation.
AMCHAM has continued to reach out to you to find out if we can assist in any way possible, and we have been pushing the private sector agenda forward on your behalf. We are thankful for the robust suggestions you have given us in our surveys.
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 let us know.
AMCHAM T&T Response to Phased Re-Opening of Business
AMCHAM T&T once again would like to place on record our congratulations to the Government for its containment of COVID-19 in T&T. The decisive measures, based on available data and science, that were taken to this point have undoubtedly saved countless lives and made the requirements of ‘total lockdown’ much shorter than if there had been significantly greater spread of the disease locally.
We appreciate the caution being exercised at this point in the phased reopening. While we do not advocate for greater easing than has been announced at this point, the reality is that all businesses are hurting badly – most with zero sales in April and now zero for most of May. The Government’s interaction with businesses around support – both non-financial and financial - has been inadequate.
There are some other businesses that should be considered for exemptions to allow them to operate and we urge the Government to put in place a clear and transparent process for them to apply to do so.
What is a little more concerning is that fewer than 2,000 people have been tested so far. This means that an accurate assessment of risk is not entirely possible.
More broadly, the reason the Government did so well in managing the health side of the pandemic, is because they acted decisively, took responsibility, made decisions, and turned those into action. For the country to recover from the dangerous economic winds swirling around us, they must now take responsibility, act quickly and decisively and collaboratively with stakeholders to make the economic environment more conducive to doing business and attracting investment.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
Speech by AMCHAM T&T PRESIDENT
Ms. Patricia Ghany
Girls In ICT Day Conference 2020
(Thursday, 23rd April 2020)
Good morning everyone and thank you for having me here.
Before I begin, I want to congratulate the Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) team headed by Mr. Raj Ramdass for making the decision to proceed with this event, especially in these uncertain times.
With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the entire world, today, I feel we are finally one community that is no longer separated by borders and oceans.
This pandemic has shown us that we must look out for each other even if that means we have to socially distance or self-quarantined ourselves from each other.
I want to thank everyone who is logged on today for doing their path and for realizing that an important event such as this must go on. It is in these times we must seek alternative avenues to ensure business continuity which is why AMCHAM T&T is proud to be a partner of this event.
As President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago, I want you to know that the International Girls in ICT Day is an initiative that I am personally very passionate about.
It gives me great pleasure to represent an organization that have made both gender parity and advancing our nation’s tech sector as two equally important issues that we have been proudly championing over the last few years.
For us at AMCHAM T&T, we see these two issues as intersectional in our measures of support and advocacy. By this, I mean, if we are to develop our nation’s tech sector, we cannot do this without addressing the gaps that keep girls and women at a disadvantaged state.
As one of the fastest growing sectors in the world ICT has many benefits, namely creating a wide range of exciting jobs with unique skills and technical know-how for everyone.
For women in technical fields and girls who are aspiring to have ICT jobs, this increases their opportunities for employment in fields such as software development, teaching at ICT, computer engineering, space development, electronic and electrical engineering.
However, the data keeps telling us that there is a disproportionately low number of female students who are given access to pursue higher education in technical fields such as math, engineering, computing and sciences, for a number of reasons.
There is also a body of evidence to show that the tech sector is currently, male-dominated, especially at the senior levels. Think, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zukerberg, Jack Dorsey, and the list goes on. I am sure those names sound familiar to you, but does anyone notice a trend here? Won’t it be more apt to replace these names with super women, female pioneers in ICT such as Ada Lovelace, Marissa Mayer, Grace Harper and Sheryl Sanderg.
This is what I meant when I said we must address the existing gaps, and why advancing the tech sector is married to advancing the opportunities for girls and women everywhere. We simply cannot achieve one and ignore the other.
This is also why the International Girls in ICT Day, and this event is so important to us at AMCHAM T&T. This day allows us to highlight these issues and expose the next generation of female leaders to increase opportunities. We hope this empowers them to enter ICT knowing that there is a bright future ahead for them in this field.
When we increase the educational opportunities in ICT for girls and women, and develop a more gender-balanced tech sector, we are lifting women out of poverty by offering them opportunities for jobs and access to move up the career ladder quicker in their respective fields.
We are also helping girls and women to create their own space and agency. ICT helps women to gain better status within their society and to excel professionally, according to their own choice.
So, as we all sit behind our computers and mobile devices, I want you to soak up the information shared with you today. I believe there are sessions that will expose you to other young girls and women who are making waves in the tech world. You will learn how to deliver presentations and develop your critical and design thinking skills. You will also be taught about entrepreneurship and leadership.
This information will open many doors for you in the future. What you learn here today may inspire you to create your school’s first robotics club, or lead you to develop the next great app that everyone is talking about, or perhaps become the CEO of your own tech company that is changing the world. This is the power of ICT and this is why we need to ensure girls and women have equal access to it.
22nd March, 2020
Hon Paula Gopee-Scoon
Minister of Trade and Industry
Dear Hon. Minister,
AMCHAM T&T compliments the GORTT for the whole of Government's approach to attempting to “flatten the curve” by promoting and enforcing social distancing through a range of measures. As difficult as these may be, we agree that the best available science shows that this is the only effective way to halt the spread of the virus.
The Economic fallout of this is already severe. However, this will be much worse if the virus spreads exponentially in the population, as we see in other economies.
The world and the global economy have changed forever. We must therefore adapt.
The main objective of the Government now has to be to build and maintain confidence.
As such, following decisive action around social distancing, in the short-term what is required is a targeted but robust economic programme designed to mitigate the short-term economic fallout. As such, we have listed some recommendations hereunder.
While this is not a time for long diatribes, we are compelled to point out that short-term measures will at best, only be effective in providing the room to stabilize the economy.
We acknowledge that these are short-term suggestions that will put a strain on the treasury. Consequently, we are cognizant of the fact that revenue generating measures need to be developed in phase two. We accept that all will have to share in the burden of recovery, including the business community.
Recovery is going to depend on close and constant collaboration among Government, civil society, labour and business. The most effective way to ease the ‘pain’ quickly is to have collective buy-in. Let’s do this together.
Recovery, will also require the Government to use this opportunity to significantly improve the ease of doing business, primarily through the adoption of digital technology in the government services. We will also need to radically re-engineer the education system in time for the 2020-2021 academic year.
We appreciate that the next week is critical in the stabilization phase. Once there is some confidence that measures around this have been put into place, the country needs to start looking at recovery and how we may best position ourselves to respond, mitigate and even benefit from the changes in global value and supply chains. Therefore, we suggest the establishment of a private sector team to work with the designated members of the Cabinet to develop on these initiatives.
1. Waiver of Green Fund and Business Levy through September 2020.
2. Corporation tax payment deferral to end Q3 to allow for taxes to be paid on actual amounts due as opposed to last year’s sales figures. This will help businesses substantially manage their cash flow.
3. Adaptation of already-announced unemployment payments to become wage support – 75% Government / 25% business for workers from week three once businesses are willing to keep people employed with no more than a maximum of 20% wage reduction. With this, businesses may seek to utilise this time for training or experiment on new products or services.
4. NIS benefits to kick in after week two for sick leave.
5. Defer VAT Payments through June 2020.
6. Grants for businesses employing fewer than 20 people.
7. Pay outstanding VAT refunds in full (minus interest owed).
8. Pay outstanding trade bills.
9. Any person or business applying for benefits must have a BIR number. Where individuals seek to benefit from wage support, they should be asked to identify their employer and that employer should either have or be made to register for a BIR number (but the latter should not prevent the individual from accessing the benefit). Government should consider waiving penalties on taxes and use this opportunity to have more people and businesses come into the tax net moving forward.
10. Increase taxes on “luxury” imported items in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange. However, these should not be across the board taxes on imported items as broad taxes will likely affect everyone negatively and result in price increases for ‘every-day’ items therefore higher inflation.
11. Grants for teachers to pay Internet service charges once they show evidence of teaching classes online (not extra lessons).
12. Grants for anyone with access to land to either boost production or begin cultivation of crops that will be ready to harvest within 12 months. Priority should be given to registered farmers in the first instance.
13. Co-financing of labour in the agricultural sector to compliment grants identified earlier and provide some opportunity for people who may have lost their jobs.
14. Waiver on stamp duty for loans through December 2020.
15. Waiver on penalties and interest on stamp duty currently owed but not yet paid through July 2020.
16. Waiver of penalties and interests for current tax payments for:
(A) final corporation tax for income year 2019 due on April 30, 2020, until June, 2020
(B) quarterly corporation tax, Business levy and Green Fund liabilities due on March 31st, 2020, until June, 2020
(C) PAYE, Health Surcharge and National Insurance due on the 15th of April and each succeeding month until June, 2020.
(D) Value Added Tax due on the 25th April and each succeeding month until June, 2020.
AMCHAM T&T’s Annual
Economic Outlook Forum 2020
(Thursday, 30th January 2020)
A Vision for 2020 & Beyond
Good morning Ladies & Gentlemen
It is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome each of you here today to our Economic Outlook event “A Vision for 2020 & Beyond”.
‘Vision’ is a word often associated with 2020. Fifteen years ago, Trinidad and Tobago was introduced to Vision 2020 – an ambitious plan to guide our country to developed nation status by the year 2020. We were to invest in sound infrastructure, establish a sustainable business environment, and improve governance structures.
Now we’re standing in the year 2020. Whether we agreed with the initial vision or not, we have to ask: was that vision realized? Where did we succeed? And, where did we fail? If we didn’t agree with that vision and wanted to see a different model of development back then, have we even achieved that?
This look back through the lens of the past is not about bemoaning what some may see as our lack of progress. We do, however, need to understand where we came from so that we can move forward. After all, what we truly want to focus on at this Economic Outlook Forum, is a vision for the future. Kristi Hedges of Forbes magazine claims that a strong vision must be future-oriented. Hedges writes, “Leaders need to stay aware of current objectives, but they must also be looking out toward a future that lies further ahead.”
So, I want you to imagine something: take a few seconds and imagine our country’s future.
Personally, I imagine a society that is inclusive, innovative, productive and resilient.
We at AMCHAM T&T, see a country that will be safe for all our young people to live, work and grow. We see visionary leaders and good governance. We see a flourishing business community where investors and entrepreneurs work together to create a booming economy that works for all our citizens. We see high levels of social mobility and equality.
We’ve said before that we need more collaboration at the political level. We understand that politics involves some level of one-upmanship and we are not utopian in our thinking, to believe that all decisions will be made by putting politics aside but, surely, some big decisions can made. Some consensus can be fostered.
Surely our government and opposition, political, civic, business and labour leaders can come together and agree on some key crime reduction initiatives, initiatives that will continue regardless of which party is in Government.
Surely, these same groups can come together to agree on some initiatives to reform the education system, prepare citizens for the future of work and increase productivity.
Surely, we can develop a coherent, long-term population management strategy to address the declining, aging population and the impact of migration.
Surely, we can come together on environmental protection and enhancement.
Surely, when we strip away the surface layers and short-term goals, we want a better Tobago and Trinidad.
You might dismiss this all as wishful thinking. But a vision for a better future is instrumental to the work we do at AMCHAM T&T. We need to see the forest first – and then we can focus on the trees. Put another way, we need to see our country as we would like it to be and then we need to work out how to make our vision a reality.
Maybe sometimes we focus too much on the small things. Maybe because that’s what we think we can fix. Yet by tinkering and shying away from the big, transformative issues, we ended 2019 with the following sobering statistics:
The results of the Business Survey AMCHAM T&T conducted in collaboration with Ernest & Young over the past two months, shows that our professionals continue to leave, there is scant medium-term confidence in the dollar. And that a clear vision and plan for our country is a top factor in encouraging investment.
You might think, in the face of that data, it’s ridiculous to imagine a society that’s safe and fair, innovative and dynamic. But the opposite is in fact true. It is because of this data, these outcomes, that we need to do better. We say, if we can’t even imagine our ideal society then we will never be able to build it. We need to define and work toward our vision of the future more than ever before. We need to believe that we can be agents of change. And we need to act to turn that vision into a reality. I have no doubt that the business community in Trinidad and Tobago is committed to this cause. In fact, the results of the survey show exactly how committed the business community is to our country.
But our country is at a crossroad. And ours is a tiny, rural crossroad, several miles away from the large, geopolitical crossroad. Our tiny region is already a key actor in the global aspiration of the big powers of the USA, China and Russia. We need to have a clear strategy to know in which direction to head. So, we need to do things differently. We need to think about our country and our development very differently than we have in the past.
And turning the ship of state 180 degrees is possible. In 1993, Time magazine named Colombia’s Medellin “the most dangerous city on earth”. Just 20 years later, in 2013, Medellin was celebrated as “the most innovative city in the world” by the Urban Land Institute. A city once known for cocaine and murder is now known for entrepreneurship and innovation. If Medellin can transform, so can we.
In the absence of a clear vision and therefore, direction, we are reaping the havoc of virtually standing still. Our Caribbean neighbours, Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada are actively changing the structure of their economies and acting with a sense of purpose. So, we have to do better. Or at least do some things and stick to them.
I’d like to focus on just two areas that will be instrumental in building the society we envisage: technology and public procurement.
First, let’s imagine, a digitally enabled Trinidad & Tobago.
How much easier would your life become?
AMCHAM T&T is working to make this vision a reality. Last year, AMCHAM T&T held the first ever Tech Hub Islands Summit (this) as part of our goal to build a tech hub right here in T&T. We are encouraged by the ways our partners are also embracing technology.
For example, the Ministry of Trade and Industry recently announced that, as part of their e-commerce strategy, the public will soon be able to pay online for government services.
We applaud this change both as businesspeople and as citizens, looking forward to increased productivity.
But we need to remember that these are the first steps. Technology will need to permeate many more aspects of our lives before we can be a truly digitally enabled nation.
Secondly: public procurement. In order to have a society that is inclusive, safe and productive, we must also build a society that is fair and transparent. In such a society, opportunities would be available to everyone and not just to those who have the right connections. To this end, AMCHAM T&T has repeatedly called for the full proclamation and operationalization of the Public Procurement Legislation. This legislation is a powerful weapon in the fight against corruption and crime.
We were disappointed to learn of the government’s decision to proceed with proposed amendments that would limit the authority of the Procurement Regulator as it relates to Public Private Partnerships and government to government transactions. In order to build a truly fair and transparent society, we must have oversight over all institutions.
Therefore, AMCHAM T&T wholeheartedly supports our partners in the Private Sector/Civil Society Group (PSCSG) in calling for no amendments to section 7(2) of the Act. Even after attempts to justify the changes, we remain resolute that amendments to this section of the act will put the country in a disadvantageous position and leave much room for corruption.
Further, we believe that there should be no more delay in proclaiming the sections of the Act which do not require proclamation of regulations. We can all agree that we need a fair and transparent society – let’s put that vision into action. Let’s start building the society we want today.
According to the Harvard Business Review,
A useful vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see. So, let’s get on with it!
Thanks for your time and attention.
Standing here, on the cusp of a new decade, I hope that AMCHAM T&T can be more than just a beacon of hope. I hope that we can contribute to inspiring the nation’s vision. I hope that, through our actions, we can show who we are as a people and what we stand for. We look forward to working with our partners and our members to build the future we all want to see.
(AMCHAM T&T's Economic Outlook Forum 2020 - (l-r) Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO, Gregory Nicholas Hill, Managing Director, ANSA Merchant Bank Ltd., Justin Ram, Director of Economics, Caribbean Development Bank, Wade George, Executive Chairman, Ernst & Young, Patricia Ghany, AMCHAM T&T President, Joel 'Monty' Pemberton, Founder and Managing Director, DeNovo Energy Limited, Greer Quan, Chief Executive Officer Caribbean, Pan-American Life Insurance Group, and Zach Nadur, Partner, Ernst & Young.)
Speech by AMCHAM T&T CEO
Mr. Nirad Tewarie
AMCHAM T&T’s Water Pollution Rules
(Tuesday, 28th January 2020)
AMCHAM T&T is regarded as the number one Business Service Organization in Trinidad and Tobago. We are the first stop for foreign investors seeking information and alliances, a value-added partner for domestic companies, and a powerful private sector lobby with the Trinidad and U.S. Government. Our strong mix of formidable local and international member companies, strong networking links, close association with the U.S. Embassy, alliances with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA); all ensure rapid access to what you need to compete effectively both locally and in overseas markets. We can therefore secure for members strategic information on doing business in a particular country; as well as set up introductions to the right business organizations or companies in the U.S. and throughout the Western Hemisphere.
This morning's seminar is one of the many ways we provide value to our membership and businesses in Trinidad and Tobago - bringing issues that affect us to the forefront and facilitating discussion. This Breakfast Seminar is focused on Water Pollution Rules. We are here today because we all agree that the Water Pollution Rules (2019) and the Water Pollution Regulations that came into effect in November 2019 will affect our operations in one way or another.
AMCHAM T&T is in full support of any legislation that would ensure good, clean water and the Polluter Pays Principle. We agree that our environment, and in particular our water resources must be preserved and valued. This is why we endorse the notion that those who pollute should bear the cost of remediation and more so, that businesses of any kind and of any service do no harm to the environment. In addition, we believe that a sustainable economy requires us to value wastewater and find ways to maximize its potential.
We must acknowledge that while our outputs may be a small amount from a point source, it can still affect miles of waterways which eventually lead to marine and water-dependent ecosystems such as rivers, mangroves, wetlands, and even the sea. We must, therefore, take responsibility for our actions. Not only paying for our pollution but by making every effort to reduce the number of contaminants we release into our country's waterways. This is a necessary step in creating positive change that will benefit Trinidad and Tobago and the environment for many years to come.
In April 2019, AMCHAM T&T, through its HSE committee, hosted a stakeholder consultation where a number of questions and concerns about the proposed Water Pollution Rules were raised. We were fortunate to have the Environmental Management Authority partner with us at this consultation, making it an interactive session, addressing some of those issues as they arose.
Following this consultation, we wrote the EMA highlighting some of the issues and concerns and recommended changes to the legislation. We are pleased to see, in the final version of the rules, that some of the highlighted issues were considered and appropriate changes were made, including:
· Adjustment of the annual fee equation; and
· Removal of the number of employees from the fee structure for the Monitoring and Inspection Fee
Many of you who were present at the consultation, are here again today - cognizant of the fact that these Water Pollution Rules will impact the operation of our business and that we, therefore, need to be clear on the major changes; what these changes mean for our organizations and how we can be compliant.
AMCHAM T&T maintains its call for the Water Pollution Rules to effectively deal with all who would pollute our waterways. All companies and sectors that pollute should pay to remediate and more importantly be held accountable as a disincentive to damaging the environment. We must also be cognizant and deal with non-point sources of discharge which also contributes to the overall lowering of water quality, so that companies that are seeking to be compliant are not made to solely, even unfairly bear the brunt of penalties.
We are fortunate again, to partner with the Environmental Management Agency to clear up some of our issues and answer our questions and erase any misconceptions that we may have about this legislation. It is our hope that when we leave here today, we are clear on how we are expected to comply with or even benefit from this legislation.
We are also grateful to our HSE Committee, who is very active and keeps their fingers on the pulse of safety, security and the environmental issues that affect us. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Secretariat, in particular, Melissa Pierre and Rey-Anne Mendez for all their hard work in not only making this event possible but in creating the positions to lead to better, more effective advocacy from AMCHAM T&T. Thanks to our sponsor the National Energy Corporation who like us saw the importance of creating a forum where the EMA could educate stakeholders on the changes to the Water Pollution Rules and interact with us and address some of the lingering issues.
Thank you and we do hope that this proves to be informative and beneficial.
(At AMCHAM T&T's Water Pollution Rules Breakfast Seminar (l-r) Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, AMCHAM T&T, Varsha Ramharrack, Chair of AMCHAM T&T's Environmental Sub-Committee, Wayne Rajkumar, Manager Technical Services, Environmental Management Authority, Cindi Nandlal, Chair of AMCHAM T&T's H.S.E. Committee, Camilla Arjoonsingh, Manager H.S.S.E. National Energy Corporation, Hayden Romano, Managing Director, Environmental Management Authority and Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T, CEO.)
AMCHAM T&T’s 11th Annual
National Youth Productivity Forum 2020
(Wednesday, 22nd January 2020)
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome each of you here today at our 11th Annual National Youth Productivity Forum - otherwise known as NYPF. Every year I look forward to this event for the message it conveys and the hope it inspires particularly for the future of our nation’s youth.
So often we are bombarded with negative headlines as it relates to our young people. Whether we are speaking of crime, violence at schools or lack of opportunities to fulfill the dreams of the next generation - today our nation’s young people are more at risk than any other generation.
But what has been most reassuring is the courage and strength displayed by our young people in the face of adversity. Rather than be bogged down by the swarm of obstacles that lay ahead, today we are witnessing a generation that is more “woke” and action-oriented than ever before as they fight for change to cultivate the roadmap to their own futures. We witness this every day with the voices of young people leading the charge on hot-button issues such as climate change, criminal justice reform, and other human rights violations.
At AMCHAM T&T, we do our very best to provide a platform that speaks to a business climate shaped by greater accountability, transparency, and good governance. Even as we work assiduously towards creating the ease of doing business in T&T so that we can attract more free trade and investment, we are very well aware of the ripple effect this can have for our future generations. We know that to create a good business climate, our vision must be directed towards the levels of impact this is going to have on the future - particularly our children’s future, and their children’s future.
Today’s generation has shown that they are not willing to be silent partners in the decision-making policies that they will inherit from their leaders. Instead, what we see as most promising is the level of engagement and participation from a generation that is more socially conscious and aspirational towards ensuring change happens in their lifetime, instead of waiting for tomorrow.
This is why our National Youth Productivity Forum remains one of our marquee events on the AMCHAM calendar. It is the standard-bearer we hold for direct engagement with our nation’s youths on issues that they will confront as they transitioned out of the classrooms and into the corporate board rooms of the world.
Our tracer study on past cohorts substantiated the many benefits the NYPF has had on past participants. The findings of this survey revealed that 97% of respondents stated that the critical thinking component of the program aided their studies after they participated in the program. Respondents also spoke favourably of the analytical, listening and communication skills they developed from having to work in a team and being exposed to new areas of knowledge.
Due to the impact that the NYPF had on the past participants, 100% of the past participants strongly recommended that the program should continue since they experienced significant benefits. Because of this, the students believe that other young persons should be afforded the same opportunity to develop their skills which are derived from being a participant in the NYPF.
This year we have chosen the theme: “An aging population and pension security...toward a more productive Trinidad and Tobago” For some of you, the thought of ageing and securing a pension for retirement may be the last thing on your mind at your age. But I don’t want you to dismiss this topic. We chose this theme because we believe this is an issue that should be addressed at your age. And since your generation has been at the forefront of so many pressing issues challenging our world, we hope to learn something from you by making you an active participant on this issue.
The United Nations defines a country as “ageing” when 10% or more of its population is over the age of 60 years. And the 2019 UN Report on Population Ageing, showed that Latin America and the Caribbean was among the fastest regions in the world where Population ageing was reported (from 5 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2019).
You may ask why is this important? When we are facing the reality of an ageing population, we need to pay attention to the impacts this will have on our society and more importantly, how we can prepare for it. This is why we speak of pension security. The number of persons over the age of 60 is projected to almost double over the next 50 years from 215,855 in 2016 to 408,806 by 2066. Meanwhile, the working age population (15-59 age group, who contribute to the system) will decline by almost 25 percent over the same period. The ratio of pensioners to contributors will thus decrease from 4 to 1.6. This demographic trend will negatively impact the sustainability of the NIS, as expenditure on the retirement benefit is projected to increase substantially, while the number of persons in the contributory base is set to decline (NiB’s 10th Actuarial Review).
With an ageing population that is only expected to increase we need to ask ourselves how will this impact on eradicating poverty, ensuring healthy lives and well-being at all ages, promoting gender equality, ensuring full and productive employment and decent work for all, reducing inequalities between and within countries, and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. As you know, these are all parts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which maps the policy directives of every nation. What I am saying is that we can’t just celebrate the success and not prepare for the impacts.
Therefore, we are asking our young people to think critically about issues related to an ageing society and why pension security is important. How are we to access the living conditions and living arrangements of older persons? How are we to address their continued productivity and other contributions to society? How are we to protect their human rights as it relates to social protection and access to health care? How is this going to impact on the state and private sector now that our population is ageing?
These are the questions we want you - our future leaders - to start to think about and to develop concrete solutions for, as we continue along our pathway towards sustainable development.
I know this may seem challenging, but I am confident that each of you possesses the required skill set and knowledge to more than deliver. I am anxiously looking forward to the robust debates that will emerge from this theme and to the entrepreneurial plans that you will develop.
Before I leave, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and pay my gratitude to our patron of this worthy and prestigious forum. All of us at AMCHAM T&T remains humbled and eternally grateful to the Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago and especially to Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes and her predecessor before her, President Carmona. Prior to that, it was former U.S. Ambassador to T&T Mrs. Beatrice Welters. Without their support, the National Youth Productivity Forum would not be the informative and educational platform it has become not only for our students but for our nation.
I should point out that some of the winners of the President’s medals have also been past winners of the NYPF - not to add any further pressure on you, my fellow students. Also, let me remind each of you that AMCHAM T&T also seeks to attain internships for the participating students during the July/ August vacation period, through our member companies. Therefore, we are providing enough incentives to you to fully support and participate in this year’s program. We hope you jump at this opportunity to claim the many rewards it will bring to you.
Finally, I would like to thank our sponsors for this year’s NYPF. Our title sponsor First Citizen’s Bank has continued to show their support for this youth initiative and for that, we are truly grateful. We have also partnered with Massy Technologies InfoCom (Trinidad) Limited and the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago.
A heartfelt thank you to all the participating schools, principals, teachers and especially to the students who will be leading the conversation this year. I want to leave you with a quote by Nelson Mandela who once said:
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
I hope each of you takes the opportunities life blesses you with and go out into the world and do good! You have the power to change and create the future you desire. Utilize this, not just for your personal benefit, but for the collective i.e. your families, your communities and your nation.
Thank you and I wish you good luck!
AMCHAM T&T Signs ARISE MoU with UNDRR
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) signed an agreement with The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to support the Private Sector Alliance for Resilient Societies (ARISE) project initiative.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today by Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR at the 23rd Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Conference and Exhibition hosted by AMCHAM T&T at the Hyatt, Regency.
ARISE is a private sector initiative, which in conjunction with the UNDRR, works towards a resilient, prosperous future where fewer lives are lost to disasters; capital assets and investments are risk-informed; and infrastructure is resilient to natural and man-made hazards.
Citing the damage and destruction caused by recent natural disasters and inclement weather patterns to affect Trinidad and Tobago, Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T said in her opening remarks, “Our nation needs a comprehensive disaster resiliency plan that integrates climate change considerations into priority sectors to allow for the appropriate interventions.”
“While the greatest facet of our humanity often emerges in these perilous times it goes without saying that the relief from natural disasters should not be left solely to the charitable acts from private citizens and companies,” Ghany said.
Mariana Guzmán Vargas, Public Private Partnership Advisor for the UNDRR said “With AMCHAM T&T as the national network for ARISE in T&T we are now able to develop new capacities towards accessing disaster risk management and to create action plans to implement tangible projects according to the Sendai Framework which is the connective tissue that can allow us to enhance resilience towards disaster and help us towards achieving the SDGs.”
The MoU is a joint venture between AMCHAM T&T, the UNDRR, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
By signing this document, the Parties will be responsible for the implementation of the National ARISE Network in Trinidad and Tobago which would perform the following activities:
AMCHAM T&T will provide the coordination mechanism link between the UNDRR Regional Office for the Americas and the global ARISE initiative and in coordination with the ODPM and CDEMA will facilitate the scaling up of initiatives and impacts at the regional level. The ODPM as coordinator of the national emergency management system in Trinidad and Tobago, of which AMCHAM T&T is a valued stakeholder, will encourage the continued strengthening of disaster risk management capacities in the local private sector.
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