Three Key Steps to Move T&T in the Right Direction
Trinidad and Tobago is at a pivotal moment in its social and economic trajectory since our independence. The ability of the oil & gas industry to power up and lift the country’s nose over the waves of external economic realities is fading fast, and we believe that Trinidad and Tobago as it is currently configured, will not sufficiently alter its decade long trajectory of decline, both in nominal GDP and in social cohesion, as evidenced by the decrease in total economic output since the peak of hydrocarbon production in the last decade, reduction in productivity, the recent and continuing closure of several plants in Point Lisas and the increases in the incidence rates of serious and violent crime.
Trinidad and Tobago is a vulnerable, small island nation state with a small population. We do, however, enjoy a stable democracy and strong historical international and multi-lateral partnerships. Positive directional change will almost certainly require Private Sector, Government, Labour and Civil Society to develop a new “joined-up national team”; restore and elevate our functional relationships with our key allies and trading partners to that of VVIP status, create new economic spaces and become obsessed about improving what we have. We believe the following three key next steps will move us in the right direction.
ESTABLISH AN “ACCOUNTABILITY COUNCIL” TO ENGAGE AND ACCOUNT TO THE PUBLIC AND OUR EXTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS ON THE COUNTRY’S TRANSFORMATION PLAN.
Transformation efforts although well-intentioned, are often derailed by various roadblocks known or unknown at the time. Without constant communication this leads to unmanaged expectations and broken promises on a large scale. Accountability drives focus and therefore potential for real action; we believe what we have seen in the last few months can work on a larger scale. We have seen the success of the current administration in its management of the Covid-19 epidemic by formulating policy based on data and science, taking quick and decisive action, and creating a forum for those accountable engaging with the national population at a cadence we have never seen before, and which created a strong sense of alignment in the nation around this issue. We believe true transformation can only occur in the right climate and that is one in which we have an aligned “management and engagement” of the country’s transformation agenda with the people who are accountable to make change happen. We see this as a joint effort with Labour, Civil Society, Government, and Private Sector reporting (at the most senior levels) to the public on a regular cadence on what is being done and why, with opportunities for citizen engagement and responses to questions and concerns. Creating these high level objectives, specific milestones, pre-defined metrics of success and communicating the progress are the ever-present responsibilities and job of leadership, and it is only through collaborative engagement can we be responsible and accountable for this and make it real. This can be achieved by repurposing existing tri-partite institutions such as the NTAC or through the creation of an additional body.
PRIORITIZE EFFICIENCY, TRANSPARENCY, STABILITY AND PREDICTABILITY in our political and economic climate and improve our scores vis à vis those who we benchmark against in this region (and we should see the hemisphere as our region) regarding Ease of Doing Business and the Rule of Law.
AMCHAM T&T’s immediate priorities are the fast-tracking and implementation of the following areas of legislation, old and new: Public Procurement, The Bail Bill, Transformed Tax collection and administration, Customs and Immigration transformation including full implementation of the ASYCUDA system, the adoption of a single national identification number, full acceptance of electronic signatures by the GORTT and fully-implemented legislative arrangements and processes for e-payments., We are convinced that these measures will collectively revolutionize the ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago. We must simplify and not remain in bondage to age old bureaucratic practices which originated pre-independence.
RESTORE AND ELEVATE THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR TRUSTED INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS.
Our multilateral and bi-lateral relationships must be underpinned by the principles of transparency, adherence to the rule of law, respect for labour, and management of the environment. These must be geared toward attracting investment that is mutually beneficial and sustainable for both the investors (and investor countries) and Trinidad and Tobago. As such, we should give primacy to our relationships with countries which are likely sources of FDI and who also espouse and uphold our governance and business values. Specifically, we should engage the United States of America to develop initiatives that could form the basis of investment for growth under the America Crece programme and formalize this via an MOU through the US Embassy in Port-of-Spain. Simultaneously, we must continue to support the development of the economies of CARICOM and work towards the full implementation of the Single Economy. This must however be done with the recognition that CARICOM is not going to pull us out of where we find ourselves, and with the near total collapse of the tourism industry, several Caribbean countries will themselves need innovative stabilization and growth strategies over the next decade.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) To Improve Safety Culture in Business
AMCHAM T&T launched the first in a series of Pre-Conference Webinars aimed at providing key insights into our upcoming 24th Annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition by highlighting the importance of “Human & Organizational Performance (HOP) in Practice”.
HOP (also called the “New View” or “Safety Differently" in some circles) is a global movement towards using the social sciences to better understand how to design resilient systems. Cindi Nandlal, AMCHAM T&T’s H.S.E. Committee Chair, who moderated the Webinar, says the HOP approach “tries to create a forgiving system by designing failure into the process and allowing the failure to be successfully intervened by controls and safeguards. It also approaches workers as the solution and not the issue to be resolved.”
AMCHAM T&T has championed the promotion of HSSE as a best practice to business for many years and this is where we believe HOP can play a vital role in shaping the safety culture of many companies. With COVID-19 remaining an imminent threat to human health and disruptive to business, companies will need to invest more in advancing the safety culture of their operations. That means we expect to see companies adopt new approaches, new designs, new philosophies to protect their employees in the workplace while redefining what the safety culture should look like.
Speaking at the launch, Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO said while humans are known to fail by making errors and breaking the rules, by utilizing the HOP principles these failures will allow companies to design better systems with better rules and methods of discipline to solve a problem. “Many times, when accidents occur, we often blame it on human error or the failure to do the right thing when something bad happens. So, our focus is always meant on “fixing” the worker when they make an error after an incident occurs as opposed to “fixing the system” in which the error occurred.”
“That is why we say HOP is not just a program, it is an entire philosophy, which when adopted in the right way, we can establish a local safety culture change in business and in our society,” he says.
Tewarie said HOP will call for management and CEOs to change their attitudes and challenge their biases when it comes to adopting the right safety measures for their businesses. “It is the difference between asking the right questions to find a better solution and being stuck in our biases towards error and blame. It teaches us how we ask questions, how we create rules, how we react to failure, how we treat people.”
Kym Bancroft, Health and Safety Manager, People & Safety at Queensland Urban Utilities HQ in Australia who was the Featured Speaker at the Webinar says the HOP principles can help companies design resilient systems to improve the safety culture within their organizations. She says making an error is normal because even “the best human makes a mistake occasionally,” and therefore “blame fixes nothing because it takes up a significant amount of emotional and intellectual space with little added value to us.”
She says companies should follow the HOP principles where “context or systems drive behaviour” and management should look at “why did that person choose to do that in the context that they were working in and how can we discover that? How can we spend time with the worker to really find out their local rationality and what's driving their behaviour?”
Bancroft also added that “learning and improvement are vital to the health of an organisation and to its future success. So, a culture of learning is both strategic and an operational choice.” She says the response of leaders’ matter so they must be “highly cognizant of how they respond to failure when it occurs and how they are going to respond to incidents and an error.”
Bancroft said companies can best use these ideas to improve their safety systems and save lives by “being curious, demand evidence and think critically, and then go away and put it into practice.” She recommends companies should begin with conducting research to discover the causes of worker’s frustration in relation to their safety which would provide opportunities for companies to resolve these problems. She says companies should then design education awareness around the HOP principles but recommends allowing opportunities for employees to challenge it so that the system can be improved and work for everyone.
“I cannot overstate the importance of this if you've got something important to tell your people like the HOP principles, give them the opportunity to hear it, to debate it, to challenge it, to pull it apart and then give them the invite and say, 'look you may not agree with this but just give it a go.' This will allow them time to unpack it and put it into practice,” she says.
She warns there is no point in investing in training that is new and interesting but not useful. She says three tools that should be introduced on the back of the training is 1) Decluttering which refers to the accumulation of safety procedures, roles and activities that are performed in the name of safety, but do not contribute to the safety of operations. 2) Work insight which examines work as imagined contrasted with work as done i.e. how work actually happens, and 3) Restorative Culture which looks at changing the workplace culture from blame and accuse to learn and grow to make safety, safer for everyone.
The “Human & Organizational Performance (HOP) in Practice” Webinar is the first in a series of Pre-Conference Webinars organized by AMCHAM T&T’s H.S.E. Committee that will offer key insights into our upcoming annual HSSE Conference and Exhibition in October. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank Ms Cindi Nandlal, Chairperson of our H.S.E. Committee for moderating the Webinar and to our Title Sponsor: AtlanticLNG and our Platinum Sponsors: NGC, Bp and Shell for their support to host this Webinar. AMCHAM T&T remains strongly committed to our members and the wider business community as we continue to work on your behalf through these challenging times.
Tech Start-ups to Boost T&T’s Economy
AMCHAM T&T hosted the Webinar: “Stories from Tech Start-Ups” as part of our “Coffee Shop Conversation” series to promote technology as a viable means to stimulate the economy and enable growth.
AMCHAM T&T believes a tech eco-system that promotes start-ups and entrepreneurship will boost the tech industry to be a significant source of investment in the short term for T&T and ultimately create new and exciting jobs, boost entrepreneurship, and increase the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness.
AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie said countries and cities that have invested in tech start-ups have witnessed a major tech revolution that has improved the quality of life for citizens. “Once priority was given to tech-driven start-up economies, cities have seen development in areas such as transportation, clean energy and the emergence of other innovative industries that have positively contributed to overall GDP growth and productivity.”
He says government and institutions need to be dynamic in their approach to create a viable, globally competitive tech industry. “Next door, Barbados’ open-door policy, allows people to work from Barbados for up to a year, hassle-free and is already attracting applications from highly-skilled tech workers,” Tewarie says. “Undoubtedly, some of these people will form partnerships that will help Bajan companies internationalise. Some of them will stay in Barbados and create businesses. Barbados has created a regulatory sandbox for fintech and they are undertaking significant economic reforms.”
He says the established tech centres have to look outside the centre if they want to stay in the race to find the next best thing and attract the very best talent. “Now is a great time for T&T and the entire Caribbean to leverage the strengths of excellent management of the pandemic, wonderful climate, creative people, great connectivity and so much more to really go after being the tech hub islands," he said.
Gerard Thomas, Head of Innovation and Business Development at Agostini Ltd. and CEO/Founder of Launch RockIt Community says entrepreneurs need to look at opportunities that focus on really helping people before they try to sell a solution or idea. “We have seen in the technology space about really understanding customers, and though we have great solutions and ideas, many times entrepreneurs come forward with the approach of ‘I have an idea’ but the direction should be “what problem can I solve and who has this problem and how can I help them’.”
“So my advice to anyone building a tech start-up would be, even though you have an idea, try to find the right people or organizations that have challenges and really understand their challenges to see how you can help them,” he says.
Leslie Lee Fook, Managing Director, Incus Services says there needs to be a more collaborative environment to really catalyse growth and development of tech companies in T&T and the wider region. “Jamaica and Suriname have a fantastic ecosystem where there is a lot of collaboration among young entrepreneurs, developers, coders but this is not apparent in T&T.”
He says it comes back down to the Total Addressable Market (TAM) where a product is developed and there isn’t a wide enough market. “When we build products and solutions, know that we build them on a global level, and we could market them globally. And we aren’t worried about our next-door neighbour stealing our secrets. We want to work with them a little closer, evolve our products and solutions and really create a stream of foreign direct investment into the region.”
Aldwyn Wayne, CEO, WiPay says acceptance and understanding from the different generations are the biggest barriers to the adoption of technologies being mainstreamed. “The acceptance coming from the legacy players is what we always have to overcome. Fortunately for us, the younger generation has grown up using technology, so these things are not foreign to them and it’s not going to be as risky for them to try and use.”
He says more collaboration is needed between the legacy players in the financial space and smaller tech entrepreneurs/companies. “The biggest challenge is to walk that line but at the same time work with the legacy players like central banks and other financial service providers to let them know that you are moving towards a technology solution in that financial space and it is not always going to be a risky thing if we take it in increments.”
The “Stories from Tech Start-Ups” is the second part of AMCHAM T&T’s “Coffee Shop Conversation” series which was envisaged and designed by AMCHAM T&T’s Digital Transformation Committee. We would like to thank our sponsors: Republic Bank, Atlantic LNG, PwC, Digicel and our Digital Media partner, Trend Media for their support to host this Webinar.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accelerating the Digital Government
To push the digital transformation agenda forward within the private and public sectors, AMCHAM T&T recently launched its “Coffee Shop Conversation” series on the topic: Accelerating the Digital Government.
AMCHAM T&T has been advocating a transformation of Government to a digitally-enabled government for several years as this would result in greater efficiency, improved services, better accessibility of public services and more transparency and accountability within government.
Three of the main recommendation of the AMCHAM T&T have been the implementation of a Unique National Identification Number; accelerating the adoption of e-payment for Government services and acceptance of digital signatures. In this regard, AMCHAM T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie complimented the Government for implementing e-payment for some services such as payment of taxes at the BIR and the acceptance of the need for the Unique National Identification number. However, even with taxes, companies are unable to pay their quarterly taxes online despite the BIR being able to facilitate online payments for personal income tax.
“There are two types of people. Those who see a solution for every problem and those who see a problem for every solution. COVID 19 has shown us that we have to be the solution seekers. There is nothing but lack of will preventing the implementation of a Unique National Identifier, acceptance of e-signatures for government transactions, e-payments across ministries and government agencies, a fully computerised Customs entry system and open data," says AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie.
“We have been talking about these things for too long while our ease of doing business has been falling. Sure, there a million reasons we can hide behind to say “why?” but let's be the people who say, "why not?" and then go make it happen!”
Vashti Maharaj, Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs says recent amendments to various laws to digitize public services at the Court, Registrar General’s Department and Intellectual Property Office will give momentum to and create a crescendo effect across government.
“The amendments to recent laws to digitize certain government services will lay the foundation for other dynamic and innovative initiatives such as the use of a unique personal identification number across government to access services as well as the launch of the national e-money policy that will pave the way for the use of digital wallets and encourage the development of a burgeoning Fintech economy within Trinidad and Tobago,” she says.
Glynis Alexander-Tam, former Chair of the e-Business Roundtable and CEO of Info Link Services Limited says there needs to be a common-sense approach of accelerating the government’s ICT plan particularly with the impact of COVID-19. She argues the digitization approach must be collaborative and should not reinvent the wheel on what already exists within the private sector.
“There are large companies that have digitized a lot of their services across the board. Government should, in fact, be engaging private sector companies to see what has been done before and where information can be leveraged, and partnerships developed to push some of that digitization process into the market space. Because what we are talking about is not only work “SMART” but also working smarter.”
Kirk Henry, CEO of iGovTT also participated in the event and indicated that the current environment of a global pandemic emphasizes the need to move services online by preparing the supporting infrastructure in a manner that is sustainable and secure. “This involves around managing risk associated with implementation to ensure availability of the system, to ensure accuracy in terms of processing the data that is captured, the agility to quickly respond and rollout solutions and finally accessibility.”
“We want to ensure the systems and the services that we digitize, provide and present in an online fashion is handled in such a way that the right people have access to it and we are always mindful of the bad actors who are attempting to subvert the process.”
AMCHAM T&T believes the aim should be for the entire population to fully benefit from the digitalization of these services which would require digital inclusion policies to address digital literacy, access to ICT and enabling the digital workplace. Therefore, the gaps need to be closed in ICT availability, affordability, and adoption for a large cross-section in society, through public and private sector policies and initiatives.
The “Accelerating The Digital Government” is the first part of AMCHAM T&T’s “Coffee Shop Conversation” series which was envisaged and designed by AMCHAM T&T’s Digital Transformation Committee. We would like to thank our sponsors: Republic Bank, PwC, Digicel and our Digital Media partner, Trend Media for the support to host this Webinar.
AMCHAM T&T Extends Condolences on the Passing of
Mr. William "Bill" Aguiton
Date: September 11, 1938 - June 12, 2020
AMCHAM T&T is saddened by the news of the passing of one of our founding members, William “Bill” Aguiton.
An ever-present and active member of AMCHAM T&T, he was admired and respected as being both a loyal and devoted member of the AMCHAM family, having served with distinction on the Board from inception in 1993, until his retirement in 1999, from Hilton International.
He is fondly remembered for facilitating AMCHAM T&T with our first offices, situated at the Trinidad Hilton in Port of Spain. We are eternally grateful to have enjoyed his leadership, commitment, and support in helping to build our organisation into the preferred private-sector business organisation for the stimulation of free and fair trade and investment within and between the Americas and the Caribbean.
William Aguiton was recognised as AMCHAM T&T’s first Honorary Member, after a stellar 37-year career that saw him earn plaudits for his devotion to professionalism and contributions to the hotel industry, having been appointed the only Trinidad and Tobago national to hold the position of General Manager of the Trinidad Hilton Hotel, and the first to be named "Hotelier of the Year" by the Caribbean Hotel Association. He was also the recipient of the Humming Bird Medal (Gold), and served as President of the Hotel, Restaurants and Tourism Association and Chairman of the Hospitality and Tourism Institute of Trinidad and Tobago.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and all those who like us, feel a deep sense of loss, on the passing of this exemplary gentleman.
May his soul rest in perfect peace.
AMCHAM T&T Responds to Mid-Year Budget Review 2020
The mid-year review did not contain any surprises. AMCHAM T&T once again places on the record our congratulations to the Government for its containment of COVID-19 in T&T. As a country, our handling of the crisis is indeed the envy of many.
Further, while we are of the firm view that the support to business has not been comprehensive enough, we acknowledge that the Government has managed to maintain social stability and cushion the impact of the pandemic on significant sections of the most vulnerable.
We are concerned, however, that the Government is misdiagnosing the current situation. The contraction this year is likely to be much larger than the 2.4% contraction predicted by the Minister of Finance. In that context growth of 5% in 2021 also seems optimistic. We say this considering that natural gas production over the first six months of 2020 is slightly lower than the comparable period in 2019 while gas prices are significantly lower. In addition, the closure and idling of several plants on the Pt. Lisas Industrial Estate and significantly depressed petrochemical prices combined with the significant losses since March are going to have an extremely significant negative impact on GDP.
In this context, we are extremely concerned about the continuing inability to take decisions about the natural gas value chain that will give long-term confidence to the sector at the various points on the value chain.
We also readily acknowledge that the Minister of Finance has a very difficult job, made worse by the impact of COVID-19, however, the lack of focus on digital transformation of government services, customs reform and passing references to the improvement of the ease of doing business suggest that, at this point, more specificity is required around the initiatives that will be implemented to return the country to growth.
And while the Minister spoke about how many people received support but operate outside of the tax net, he did identify how these people will be brought into the system. We have been urging the Government to use this opportunity to ensure that such people are registered with the BIR and NIB from this point onward and sincerely hope they will do so.
We therefore eagerly await the presentations of individual Ministers and the final Roadmap to Recovery Committee report.
As always, AMCHAM T&T remains committed to collaboration with the Government and other stakeholders as we represent our members’ views and work collectively in the interest of our country.
Patricia Ghany re-elected as AMCHAM T&T President
at 27th AGM
(Patricia Ghany, President of AMCHAM T&T)
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) re-elected Patricia Ghany to another term as President of the Chamber at its first-ever virtual Annual General Meeting held today.
Speaking on the theme “Business in the New Normal” in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ghany laid out the Chamber’s vision and plans both for society and the role for business. “Our success as a country cannot be measured simply by GDP growth. Neither can our businesses’ success be measured only by profit. From what I have seen in my more than two decades as part of AMCHAM T&T and in my own business, for the most part, the business community has always taken an interest and supported both fence-line communities and the national community,” she said.
“Now, we may need to do a little more and, quite frankly, communicate what we do a little better. This is beyond CSR. It’s about building resilient communities and contributing to the overall sustainability of the country and, hopefully, the region.”
Even in the new normal, Ghany says the old, fundamental rules still apply, especially the rule of law. “Fairness and access to justice are key to developing a conducive business environment but so too are they to building a resilient and cohesive society. In the old normal or the new normal, strong adherence to the rule of law is key.”
“As a country, we need to do a better job of fixing the systems that inhibit social mobility and perpetuate inequality. We cannot fool ourselves by talking about outliers who emerge successfully from structural inequity and try to hold them up as examples that can be easily replicated. As citizens, we should have a vested interest in making our society better. And as businesses, we should see that if the rule of law is assured for those who are often most invisible and on the “margins of society” it will be assured for business too, making the entire economy more efficient and attractive.”
Ghany said to fuel and reward the innovation shown by companies, government, non-profits, and individuals in response to COVID-19 challenges, it will require an acceleration of our country’s digital transformation. “The COVID-19 situation has ripped the band-aid off the need across the public and private sector to enable teleworking and remote learning across most households. To support this new normal, gaps need to be closed in ICT availability, affordability, and adoption for a large cross-section in society, through public and private sector policies and initiatives.”
“We congratulate the GOTT on accelerating the offerings of e-payments for statutory tax payments such as Corporation tax, Green Fund. We look forward to the implementation of a unique National Identification Number system which will allow for the provision of government services in a less disjointed manner and instant verification of information provided by the customer.”
Ghany also recommended that the GOTT recommit Trinidad and Tobago to the Open Government Partnership and provide more data available in a manipulatable format to allow the private sector to extract economic value from our data. She says this should be done with the appropriate privacy protections supported by data privacy and data transparency laws including the full proclamation of the Data Protection Act.
She also urged government to urgently address the deficiencies in the education system as it relates to the appropriate use of IT in the teaching-learning process, the teaching of tech-related skills specifically, and, at a base level, differentiated approaches to teaching to most effectively facilitate learning across the widest group of students.
Ghany said it is imperative that we address issues around the energy value chain since the energy sector will remain the mainstay of our economy. “The Government and private sector have to work more closely to further develop the export capacity of the energy services sector, in recognition that if our petroleum resources were ever to be depleted, we could still have a vibrant, foreign exchange-earning energy services sector.”
On climate change, she says building the new normal will require the integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities to create a stronger business strategy moving forward. “If we do not take action to protect sensitive habitats and species; conserve water, forests and other natural resources; and lobby for more stringent environmental protection enforcement, our ecosystems will collapse.”
At the AGM, the Chamber elected its new board:
· President - Patricia Ghany, Finance Director - Esau Oilfield Supplies Co. Ltd
· Vice President - Gregory Hill, Managing Director - ANSA Merchant Bank Limited
· Vice President - Mitchell De Silva, Citi Country Officer T&T Hub - Citibank
· Secretary - Glenn Hamel-Smith, Partner, Head Banking and Finance - Hamel-Smith
· Treasurer - Dominic Rampersad, President - Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd.
· Bruce Mackenzie, Group Strategy Officer, - Massy Group Vice President
· Caroline Toni Sirju Ramnarine, VP, Corporate Operations - Atlantic LNG Company Limited
· Giselle Thompson, VP Corporate Operations - BP TT
· Simon Aqui, Business Development Executive, Caribbean Financial Services Sector - IBM Trinidad
· Greer Quan, Chief Executive Officer, Caribbean - Pan-American Life Insurance Group
· Katishe Serrette, VP-AML/ATF Compliance - Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago Limited
· Karrian Hepburn, Chief Customer Relationship Officer - Trinidad & Tobago Unit Trust Corporation
· Nicholas Galt, Chairman - Trinidad Systems Limited (The TSL Group)
· Ravi Suryadevara, CEO - Trinidad Valve & Fitting Company
· Jason George, Country Sales Manager - Trinidad, Jamaica and Other Islands United Airlines Inc.
· Richard Look Kin, Group Chief Risk Officer - First Citizens Trinidad & Tobago
Ex-Officio position - H.E Joseph Mondello, Ambassador U.S Embassy Trinidad & Tobago
Ex-Officio position - Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T
E-zone & the NGC Group of Companies are the Platinum Sponsors of the AGM while PALIG, Atlantic, bpTT & EOG Resources are Gold Sponsors. PWC is a Silver sponsor and Microsoft and Velsoft are Technology Partners.
For more information, interested persons can visit www.amchamtt.com.
AMCHAM T&T To Host Virtual Annual General Meeting
MEDIA RELEASE 09/06/2020
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) will be hosting its first-ever virtual Annual General Meeting on June 10th, 2020. The virtual AGM is in keeping with the organisation's commitment to maintaining social distancing measures with respect to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The AGM, which is now in its 27th year, will introduce the new President of AMCHAM T&T who will outline the organisation’s priorities for the coming year, and provide thoughts on the current and future business environment here in T&T.
The theme for this year’s AGM is “Business in the New Normal.” Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T said businesses in T&T will have to make the necessary adjustments to survive in this new normal. “The reality is that we will be dealing with the impact of COVID-19 long after a vaccine is developed and there is full immunity. Businesses will have to make – are already making - tough decisions to transform their operations to adapt to the current reality and to the challenges that a post-COVID world will present. Our AGM will explore not the challenges, but the opportunities offered by this new normal.”
Julie Chung, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the United States Government will deliver the Feature Address. She will discuss the opportunities for deeper engagement between the US and Trinidad and Tobago in this “new normal”.
As we know, geo-political and global supply chains shifts are likely to influence changes in the hemisphere that would be important factors in business planning. In that context, should we anticipate any major shifts in US Government policy that could affect business in the hemisphere but specifically between our two countries?
Also speaking are Basil Khalil, FedEx’s VP Operations for the Caribbean and Central America and Dr. Nadir Hirji, Digital Services Leader, PWC Canada.
FedEx is one of the largest logistics companies in the world with operations throughout the hemisphere. What changes are they seeing in the types and quantity of packages being shipped since the start of the spread of COVID-19? What are the emerging issues that they think businesses should take into consideration as they plan their short, medium and long-term strategies? Mr Khalil will address these and other issues in his presentation.
A now-ubiquitous joke is: who did more for your company’s digital transformation – your Chief Information Officer, your CEO or COVID-19? Undoubtedly the pandemic has significantly accelerated the implementation of digital transformation in companies and industries. PWC is one of the world’s largest consulting firms. Their Canada practice is one of the leading centres of digital expertise. So, what are the ongoing digital trends that will affect business? What emerging technologies should we be watching and, quite frankly, adopting? Dr. Hirji will explore these and other topics in his address to the audience.
AMCHAM T&T’s Annual General Meeting begins at 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM with the members-only portion while the Business Forum begins at 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm during which the incoming President will make their inaugural speech.
AMCHAM T&T/IDB Launch 3rd Women in Leadership Mentorship
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) hosted a virtual launch of the third Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme earlier today.
The AMCHAM T&T/IDB Mentorship Programme is part of AMCHAM T&T’s continued commitment to working towards achieving gender parity and promoting women’s leadership in business.
At the launch, President of AMCHAM T&T, Patricia Ghany said we may find the solutions to these big problems by taking a collection of micro-actions and concrete steps. “The Women in Leadership Mentorship Program is an example of AMCHAM T&T taking these micro-actions and concrete steps to create opportunities for women to advance their chosen career paths whilst building the next generation of female leadership in the business sector. We must put action to our words and ensure that we lead by example at all levels of our organisation.”
“I am very proud of this programme, because we have created a space for young female professionals to have guidance and counsel that will prepare them for the next step in their career paths. And what better way than having senior executives – both male and female – acting as mentors to the next generation of leaders?” said Ghany.
She also spoke about the impact COVID-19 is having on women across the world. “Before COVID-19, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report estimated that it will take another 99.5 years before the global gender gap is closed across 107 countries. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this gap is expected to widen even further.”
She says the impact of COVID-19 could see an estimated 195 million jobs eliminated globally according to figures by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Many of these jobs are from the informal sector and non-essential services industries which mainly employ women.
Rocío Medina Bolívar, Country Representative for the IDB Group to Trinidad and Tobago says her organisation remains committed to achieving gender equality. “The need for more women in leadership positions is not unique to T&T. The overall number of women in leadership positions are really still low. We have seen some of the statistics in the Caribbean where we have 18% of the world members and 29% of women in leadership positions, which may indicate growth from previous years but there is still a lot of work to do.”
“So this latest edition of the mentorship programme with the IDB and AMCHAM T&T renew our commitment to empowering women whose increasing role in leadership aren’t only good for businesses but also contribute as a catalyst for the social development of the communities that they belonged to.”
AMCHAM T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie reaffirmed AMCHAM’s commitment to providing more opportunities for women and girls in these uncertain times. “Our philosophy on equality has always been: we don’t view this as a male or female issue but an issue of fairness that just happens to also make good economic sense and is a necessary element towards building a fully democratic and progressive society.”
The programme was originally conceived from feedback at our annual Women’s Leadership Conference which typically attracts more than 300 participants, mostly women, every March in commemoration of the International Women’s Day.
Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the programme would be held entirely virtually this year with a class featuring the highest number of participants in the programme’s three-year history. Thirty-seven (37) women working in various fields across the private sector signed up to be matched with a mentor aligned to their career goals.
Originally, mentorship was offered for female professionals mainly in the areas of Science & Mathematics, Technology, Engineering and Economics but since 2018, AMCHAM T&T had added the field of Occupational Health and Safety as part of its continued commitment to adding value to the state of H.S.S.E. in Trinidad & Tobago.
The third edition of the Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme will run from June through November 2020. For more information on the program, please visit our website www.amchamtt.com or contact Rey-Anne Paynter @ email@example.com.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cybersecurity Essential for Conducting
Business During COVID-19
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) is encouraging companies to invest more around cybersecurity tools and policies to protect their digital assets and workforce in light of changes to the way people work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a Webinar hosted by AMCHAM on “Navigating The Pandemic: Cybersecurity” Senior Trade and Policy Specialist, Melissa Pierre said the pandemic has created new opportunities for criminals to disrupt business. “We already know that opportunistic criminals and other malicious actors have been using the internet and other rapidly evolving technology such as apps and mobile smart devices to compromise an individual or company’s financial and digital assets. Amidst a pandemic where social distancing, economic disruption and remote working have now become the norm – this has created the perfect setting for criminals to induce further shocks and disruptions to both our economic and health systems.”
“It was just a matter of time for hackers to take advantage of a remote workforce, or an unsuspecting customer plugging in company credit card details or other important company information on an unsecured network,” she said.
Vernon Jeffery, Chief Strategist at Readiness Associates which provides disaster and emergency preparedness services to healthcare organizations, says while no one could have foreseen entire companies going remote, the pandemic has created its own unique set of cybersecurity challenges.
“Ultimately, to protect their teams of employees and company sensitive information, organizations should endeavour to implement a singular cybersecurity policy that will follow a person around wherever they go; on every device that they use, that will protect them from everything from malware to ransomware to nation-states, who are trying to steal their credentials, and as well can protect the company from bad behaviour if it should occur.”
Shanna Utgard, Success Manager at Defendify, which is a cybersecurity platform designed specifically for small businesses suggested five (5) top tips for companies to secure their remote workers during COVID-19. They are:
1) Secure and test remote connections – Hackers frequently exploit out-of-date firewalls and VPN connections. Companies should ensure all devices on their network are up-to-date and “patched” i.e. messages received to update apps or operating systems on phones and other smart devices. The connection tool i.e. VPN or tunnelling tool coming from the employee’s home and back to the
corporate network should be secured and using a two-factor authentication in addition to just a password.
2) Run a Cybersecurity assessment – When working from home, companies will need to perform self-assessments to walk through the cybersecurity controls; and identify what has changed with their infrastructure and overall IT posture.
3) Set work from home expectations – It is important to set various policies and plans when working from home.
4) Train your team – Due to distractions at the home, companies should invest in training employees to use new technology at home that they are unfamiliar with to prevent information from being stolen.
5) Revise the Incident Response Plan – Companies should create a culture for employees to know what to do if they suspect an incident and to report issues when they occur. It is recommended that companies provide clearly defined support communication channels and a paper copy of the incident response plan to employees.
Utgard stated hackers have tried to infiltrate the networks of users through suspicious registered domains and phishing schemes since the onset of the pandemic. “There have been more than 40,000 new registered domains that reference coronavirus terms. These attackers are buying up these domains and they're starting them up and making these malicious websites and they're also using these domains to send these phishing attacks. First, it was warnings from the CDC and the World Health Organization, then it transitioned to new cases that were reported in your area.”
Hackers are also aiming their sights on information regarding social relief assistance programmes as countries start to flatten the curve. “We're starting to see the attacks transition into disaster relief. So, a lot of the theme of these emails now are related to Grants and Loans, small business relief, paycheck protection, all of those types of attacks,” Utgard said.
Anthony Subero, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer at Hitachi says T&T will have to accelerate its digital transformation because of COVID-19. Outlining the Transition and Transformation Tracks cited in the government appointed “Road to Recovery Committee’s” preliminary assessment report, Subero says, “If you look at the second block in both tracks, the digital transformation track plays a key enabling component to that road to the recovery strategy.”
“What that inter-connectivity and movement of data and storage of data mandates is the need for proper cybersecurity, but it also drives the conversation towards data privacy and protection of confidential data for your consumer. Once you move into the Internet, you are open at two levels: one is for an increased number of attacks and as well as the ability to compromise your data or shut down their service. To mitigate these threats, you have to adopt more effective cybersecurity and privacy programs which are strongly embedded in the Enterprise Risk Management framework.”
With more people working from home and exchanging in the sharing of information online, Daniel Gaudreau, Executive Consultant at Hitachi says companies need to be able to evolve with their digital environment as the technology is evolving. He says companies must also build trust with consumers during this exchange of information particularly as they manage their digital transformation journey.
“Cybersecurity and privacy need to be part of the basic requirements of any business that is moving forward to the digital transformation. If you are making use of Technologies, you are making use of data and you need to make sure that protecting that information and privacy of your customers and employees are part of what would be considered on a day to day basis.”
The “Navigating The Pandemic: Cybersecurity” Webinar was envisaged and designed by AMCHAM T&T to help companies adjust to the disruption caused to business by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also, part of our Digital Transformation Series which we are hosting over the next couple of weeks to continue the dialogue, engagement, and information sharing we started at last year’s Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference. AMCHAM T&T would like to thank Ms. Zia Patton, Partner at PwC for moderating the Webinar and to our sponsors Republic Bank, PwC, Digicel and our partners at Trinidad Systems Limited (TSL) for their support to host this Webinar.
For further questions or comments please contact: Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
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