NYPF 2020 - CEO's Speech (Opening Ceremony)

National Youth Productivity Forum 2020

Welcome Remarks by Nirad Tewarie (CEO of AMCHAM T&T)

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 boardrooms 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 Citizens 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!


[1] http://www.social.gov.tt/divisions/the-division-of-ageing

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