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Income gap hampers growth, report warns

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 03:26

PARIS—The widening gap between haves and have-nots in much of the developed world not only raises concerns about the fraying social fabric — it’s also dramatically holding back economic growth, according to a new global study.

Far from a rising tide lifting all ships, income inequality increases in good economic times as well as bad, the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says.

The OECD, a global watchdog, says that not only has social and political implications but also economic ones.

“Put simply: rising inequality is bad for long-term growth,” the OECD concluded in its report, In It Together, Why Less Inequality Benefits All.

An increase in income inequality between 1985 and 2005 knocked 4.7 percentage points off cumulative growth between 1990 and 2010 on average across a range of its 34 member countries, the OECD said.

The problem is particularly acute in the US: Between 2008 and 2013, real average household disposable income at the top ten per cent rose 10.6 per cent, while in the bottom ten per cent it fell 3.2 per cent, the OECD said. Austria, Denmark and France are other countries where rising income at the top has been accompanied by falling incomes at the bottom. (AP)

Plipdeco up by $0.03

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 03:25

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 11 securities of which two advanced, two declined and seven traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 59,230 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $853,444.18. FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd was the volume leader with 30,000 shares changing hands for a value of $150,900, followed by Trinidad Cement Ltd with a volume of 10,169 shares being traded for $27,964.75. First Citizens Bank Ltd contributed 6,893 shares with a value of $246,769.40, while Angostura Holdings Ltd added 5,785 shares valued at $80,411.50.

Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation Ltd enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.03 to end the day at $3.80. Conversely, Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd suffered the day’s greatest loss, falling $0.05 to close at $1.45. Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 840 shares valued at $18,908.40. It declined by $0.02 to end at $22.51.

Labour system won’t improve without talks

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 03:19

An attorney has warned that there will be no real improvement in T&T’s industrial relations system until meaningful consultations take place on proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA).

Keith Scotland, who spoke at the 55th Annual General Meeting of the Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA) at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, said based on what he has seen, the amendments currently before Parliament for debate were proposed without any meaningful consultation with the relevant stakeholders. 

In recent days there have been complaints from many sectors, including trade unions, the ECA and several business groups in the country, that they were not allowed to weigh in on the legislation before Labour Minister Errol McLeod piloted debate in the Lower House on May 8.

Scotland noted that the bill sought to amend the IRA and strengthen the industrial relations system in T&T by making it more efficient and expeditious in several areas, including the recognition of trade unions and dispute settlements. 

He said that the administration of justice in labour disputes was no less important than the administration of civil and criminal justice.

“It is only right therefore that consonant with expressed political promises about consultation, government seeks to consult with these stakeholders in the labour law realm before considering any changes to the laws that govern labour relations,” he said.

Scotland said the consultations must not just be a window dressing and must be genuine.

“For it to be meaningful the stakeholders must be engaged in a qualitative manner. Their views must be heard, listened to and taken into consideration.

He also warned about negative events in T&T’s history being repeated, noting: “After the dialectic of consultation, consensus may or may not be arrived at but no party can say that they were not consulted beforehand as opposed to being confronted with a fait accompli as happened with the bill that was the fastest ever passed—the Industrialization Stabilization Act. Do not let negative events repeat itself in our history.

“During an open forum at the AGM, among the clauses in the bill with which employers expressed their dissatisfaction deal with extension of time for reporting disputes from six months to two years; certification for recognition of short term projects; and the ability of aggrieved trade union members or represented workers to petition for the decertification of a trade union.”

However, the proposed legislation is being defended by labour consultant Robert Giuseppi. The former trade union leader disagrees with trade unionists who have called the bill “anti-worker.”

He told the T&T Guardian: “I cannot see how people are saying that the Industrial Relations Bill is an attack on workers and the trade union movement. I want to believe that the amendments are a way forward. I do not understand how they could say that this bill is anti-worker. 

“There are some employers who are saying the Bill is biased towards workers and now on the other side there are trade unionists who are saying it is against workers.”

Giuseppi, who represented civil society on the advisory board which drew up the proposed amendments last year, admitted he was only there in the last phase of that exercise. 

The advisory board was made up of representative from labour, Government, employers and civil society, he said.

While the major trade union groups said they were never consulted, Giuseppi claims the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) was represented at the meetings and there must have been a communication problem with its representative there.

“Apparently Natuc was not getting any information from their representative who was supposed to be reporting back what had happened,” he said.

‘Bank-card fraud on the rise’

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:42

Chairman of the Interbank Anti-Fraud Committee of the Bankers Association of T&T (Batt), Antonio Ventour, says fraud is on the rise in T&T and the latest illegal activity involves deportees who are selling credit-card data online. 

Ventour, who spoke at a seminar hosted by the Energy Chamber of T&T, at Cara Suites in Claxton Bay,  yesterday, said citizens can safeguard against fraud by adhering to certain policies and standard procedures. He also urged businesses to educate their employees about fraud.

He said credit-card skimming, which involves a small device that can easily be hidden and used on unsuspecting customers, is becoming more prevalent.

“When they skim the cards they send the information to the Internet and sell it to the highest bidder. We believe the skimming device was first brought into T&T by deportees,” Ventour said.

With the increase of online banking, he said, highly-intelligent malware are now being used to reroute funds from one account to the other.

“In 2013 McAfee detected 14 million banking malware which are now used to scam unsuspecting people of millions of dollars in cash,” Ventour revealed. He advised business owners to be wary of suspicious cardholder behaviour.

“Look for someone who shops willy-nilly with a card and that would be your first red flag. It is also important to compare the signature on the ID and the one on the receipt. Monitor the payment area or workstation for skimmers and lost cards.

“Let employees know you have a fraud policy and once you present that to employees, it acts as an immediate deterrent,” Ventour said. 

He said it was not wise to rely only on a police certificate of good character when hiring staff—background checks are necessary.

“Letters of recommendations and references are always complimentary. Background investigations reveal what police certificates of character do not. Exercise caution when dealing with new clients and always know your customers.”

Ventour also recommended that people use only one device for financial transactions. He said a 2015 survey found that the greatest threats to businesses are cyber-related.

T&T Chamber to lead trade mission to Cuba

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:40

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce will be leading its first trade mission to Cuba next month.

CEO Catherine Kumar confirmed that the mission would take place June 11 and 12. She said Cuba is an attractive market for T&T, especially as an economic partnership agreement is in place between the two nations.

Kumar said the time has come for T&T businesses to capitalise on the Cuban market. Following a seminar on Cuba hosted by the Chamber earlier this week, Kumar said a new foreign investment act would stimulate investment on the island. 

“Businesses will be able to take advantage of some of the incentives. 

“A very attractive one is the reduction in corporation tax on profits,” she said.

Kumar said market access was important, so talks on air transportation had started with Caribbean Airlines.

She said: “Right now to go to Cuba, the most feasible way is to use Copa Airlines via Panama then to Cuba. It takes a while. If we can get a direct flight to Cuba it will help with some of the logistics, make life a lot easier and make flying time a lot easier as far as getting there and returning.”

Kumar said a combination of several factors was making Cuba a more attractive market for T&T business. 

“Even though the US has removed some of the restrictions, eventually removing the embargo would be a great incentive to open up Cuba. What made it difficult to do business with Cuba is the restriction. If you are doing business with the US you cannot do business with Cuba,” she said.

Icann chief to step down next March

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 01:37

The head of the non-profit group that oversees all Internet addresses will step down in March 2016.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) president and CEO Fadi Chehadé sent notice to the board on May 21, telling them he would leave after an annual meeting to be held in Morocco in March.

Hours after the news broke, Chehadé addressed representatives of the regional Internet community gathered in Lima for an annual conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (Lacnic). He said during the remaining ten months of his tenure, Icann will redouble efforts to give greater power to the global, multi-stakeholder Internet community of governments, businesses, organisations and users, so that no single entity would have the authority to determine the future of the Internet.

Chehadé has been overseeing Icann’s transition from this longstanding arrangement away from US-centred control toward a more global oversight of Icann’s core responsibility for the Internet.

Chehadé had earlier commended Icann staff for moving the organisation from a predominantly US-based operation to a global institution with offices and relationships spread around the world.

At stake in the transition process is the control of a vital stake in the rapidly growing global digital economy, which could exceed US$4.2 trillion by 2016, according to a Boston Consulting Group study.

“As the digital economy grows, the pressure to take control of things will grow as well, and it is incumbent upon us to show that we are prepared and mature and ready,” he said.

Chehadé's resignation will take effect shortly after the US government receives a plan to implement the transition of the IANA stewardship function to Icann and the global Internet community, including regional Internet registries such as Lacnic. 

Icann chief to step down in early 2016

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 17:02
Hours after announcing his resignation, Fadi Chehadé, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, left, fields questions from members of the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (Lacnic) at the Lacnic 23 conference, held in Lima, Peru on May 21. At right is Oscar Robles-Garay, CEO of Lacnic. Photo: Gerard Best

LIMA, Peru—The head of the non-profit group that oversees all Internet addresses will step down in March 2016.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) President and CEO Fadi Chehadé sent notice to the board on May 21 telling them that he would leave after an annual meeting to be held in Morocco in March.

Hours after the news broke on Agence France Presse (AFP), Chehadé addressed representatives of the regional Internet community gathered in Lima for an annual conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (Lacnic).

He said that during the remaining 10 months of his tenure, Icann would redouble efforts to give greater power to the global, multistakeholder Internet community of governments, businesses, organisations and users, so that no single entity would have the authority to determine the future of the Internet.

Chehadé has been overseeing Icann’s transition away from the longstanding US-centred arrangement toward a more global oversight of Icann's core responsibility for the Internet.

Chehadé had earlier commended the Icann staff for moving the organisation from a predominantly US-based operation to a global institution with offices and relationships spread around the world.

At stake in the transition process is the control of a vital stake in the rapidly growing global digital economy, which could exceed 4.2 trillion US dollars by 2016, according to a Boston Consulting Group study.

“As the digital economy grows, the pressure to take control of things will grow as well, and it is incumbent upon us to show that we are prepared and mature and ready,” he said.

For the last 25 years, Icann has been contracted by the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration to manage the assignment of Internet names and numbers globally. That collection of responsibilities is referred to as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship function.

Chehadé's resignation will take effect shortly after the US government receives a plan to implement the transition of the IANA stewardship function to Icann and the global Internet community, including Regional Internet Registries such as Lacnic. A release from Icann said Chehadé would remain available to support the transition to a new leader after March 2016 as well as to advise the board on the IANA transition.

"I am deeply committed to working with the board, our staff, and our community to continue Icann’s mission as we still have much to accomplish,” Chehadé told AFP.

"I think this is the right time and the right thing to do.”

Chehadé has also also overseen the launch of new top-level domains, such as .google and .cricket. That process that has increased Icann revenues under his tenure and brought the operations of the nonprofit agency under heightened global scrutiny.

Chehadé said he has accepted a job in the private sector, outside of the domain name space which ICANN supervises. He said he would disclose the name of his new employer later this year.

Scotiabank shares down by $0.49

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 00:46

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 10 securities of which six advanced, one declined and three traded firm. 

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 38,873 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $862,424.95. Guardian Holdings Limited was the volume leader with 16,854 shares changing hands for a value of $239,300.66, followed by Agostini’s Limited with a volume of 12,611 shares being traded for $217,539.75. First Citizens Bank Limited contributed 7,017 shares with a value of $251,209.10, while Ansa Merchant Bank Limited added 1,000 shares valued at $38,920.

Clico Investment Fund enjoyed the day's largest gain, increasing $0.03 to end the day at $22.53. Conversely, Scotiabank T&T Limited suffered the day's sole decline, falling $0.49 to end the day at $62.51. Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 1,285 shares valued at $28,946.35. 

Cemex executive is new TCL CEO

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 00:45

Jose Lius Seijo has taken over vrom fellow Cemex executive, Alejandro Ramirez Cantu, as the new CEO of Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL). Seijo, who was named head of TCL group on May 4, says cement company will be investing in its plant and people to add value and grow capacity.

The new TCL CEO was previously Cemex’s regional head of strategic and financial planning for Spain and the Mediterranean. His other job assignments have included Mexico—corporate strategic planning; Israel—chief financial officer; Bangladesh—chief executive officer; and Latvia—chief executive officer.

Cantu had been acting TCL CEO since last August following the forced departure of Dr Rollin Bertrand who was let go after a takeover of the company’s board by minority shareholders. “With TCL’s financial restructuring near completion, Mr Seijo’s focus will be on value creation for the company and its stakeholders,” TCL said in a statement.

Seijo said he would focus on increasing capacity and market growth. “The TCL Group has huge potential. My immediate job is to tap into all our resources—essentially to mobilise the skills of our workforce against a backdrop of improved operational efficiencies and prudent investments to ensure a sustainable future,” he said.

Seijo was educated at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, with a background in mechanical engineering and finance. Cemex is the largest owner of TCL group with 39.5 per cent holdings, through subsidiary Sierra Trading, a near doubling of its stake since March of this year.

Chambers join forces on IRA amendment

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 00:44

The country’s biggest business groups, the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AmchamTT), Energy Chamber, T&T Chamber of Industry of Commerce, T&T Coalition of Services Industries and T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) have joined forces to call for parliamentary debate on the Industrial Relations Amendment BIll to be stopped.

In a joint statement yesterday, the groups warned that legislation will significantly impact the business sector and the wider national community. “A preliminary review of the amendments has led us to conclude that it will negatively alter the industrial relations environment and hence the operating environment for our members,” they said.

“The aforementioned organisations were individually assured by various ministers and other officials of government that the bill would not progress without due consultation with the business community. To date, no formal approach has been made, nor has any consultation taken place prior to the commencement of the debate in Parliament. 

“A presentation on some aspects of the proposed Bill was earlier made to the Social Dialogue Task Force on which some of the organisations are represented, and opposition to aspects of what was proposed was made clear at that meeting. However, there was no follow-up communication or request for comment. While most stakeholders will agree that the Industrial Relations Act is in need of amendment, such amendment should only be undertaken after deep and mature consideration of all stakeholders’ views and recommendations.”

The chambers want further debate be deferred until there is meaningful review, input by and consultation with the business community and other key stakeholders. They said the “effectiveness of any legislation is enhanced and assured where there is “buy in” from the people it is intended to serve.”

Economist warns: T&T economy headed into precarious position

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 00:43

Regulation of the real estate sector is top priority for the new president of the Association of Real Estate Agents of T&T (AREA), Sally Singh. For that reason, she said, it is the responsibility of stakeholders to promote the Real Estate Professional Bill 2015.

“We must put our heads together and promote the legislative framework which is at its final stage soon to present to the Minister of Trade. We all need to take example and lead the charge,” she said when she spoke at an AREA seminar on Best Practices for Real Estate 2015 at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, yesterday.

Keynote speaker at the event, economist Dr Roger Hosein, said he expected the T&T economy to grow by two per cent but he cautioned the Government to slow down on spending. “For the period 2015 and 2020 I find it difficult to see a growth rate of above two per cent. “This economy is at a new normal. It is really important that responsible people like yourselves take that to the various places that you operate so we will not require unreasonable demand expectation,” he said.

He said the practice of fiscal interventions by successive governments in this country needs to stop. This year, he said, the economy is headed into a precarious position since more workers are needed. “About 300,000 more workers (will be needed) between now and 2030 if we are to increase gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 per cent. We need to start the process of thinking where will we get those workers from. My knee jerk reaction is to try to increase the retirement age,” he said.

Hosein said the Cepep programme is good representation of “where we went wrong.” Had they been constructed, he added, E-teck parks would have provided better opportunities for long-term employment. The economic called for further diversification of T&T’s economy, saying “pressure should be put on the political parties by members of the public” to state their plans are for diversification.

Howai on forex supply: US $$ at banks to meet demand

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 00:40

Finance Minister Larry Howai is satisfied with the actions being taken by the Central Bank to deal with the supply for foreign currency on the local market. “I do not expect any issues in respect of this matter and I am satisfied that the Central Bank has an improved arrangement in place which will minimise the problems experienced last year. 

“Foreign exchange reserves are equivalent to 12 months of import cover, much higher than in many countries. There should be no problem with meeting  demand during the holiday period,” he told the T&T Guardian yesterday. “My understanding is that the banks continue to have sufficient foreign exchange to meet normal business requirements although with a short lag.”

However, Hugh Howard, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AmchamTT) said businesses are still complaining about the shortage of US currency. “Businesses are still complaining. I really do not know what is taking place. After a while people stop complaining when they get no relief. While we have not heard anything further I cannot say that the situation has been resolved,” he said.

“I expect that some action will be taken. Elections will be soon so I do not think the Government will want to go into an election with businesses complaining about shortages in currency.” Daphne Bartlett, president of the San Fernando Business Chamber said she has been getting fewer complaints about the US currency shortage.

“The banks allow people to open US accounts and there is the option of transferring money from your TT dollar account to the US one. This means that when a business owner needs the money, it is there in the US account. Apparently people have been making use of that facility in the bank so the situation is better,” she said.

Barlett said there is also the possibility of a drop in locals traveling during the peak August holiday season, so there would be a less demand for foreign currency. “The economy is not good and Trinidadians tend to hold on to their money during these times. It could just be the case that a lot of people go to Tobago rather than to a foreign country just to try to save their money,” she said.

Timeline

In February 2014, Finance Minister Larry Howai promised to take steps to solve the shortage of US dollars in the local market. At that time he assured: “There are adequate reserves of close to US$10 billion and another US$5 billion in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.”

In July 2014, just before the sharp fall in international energy prices, University of the West Indies (UWI) economist Dr Roger Hosein gave a brief history of Central Bank’s foreign currency injections and stated that in January to May 2013 the Central Bank injected US$490 million to meet excess demand by the public.

Hosein said for 2013, the annual intervention by the bank turned out to be US$1,315 million. For the same period (January—May) in 2014, the Central Bank injected US$610 million into the financial system, which if linearly scaled gives an annual figure of US$1,464 million which is actually similar to the 2013 figure and lower than the injections made by the Central Bank in the years 2009 to 2012.

In December 2014, Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambaran accused some local businesses of hoarding in foreign currency accounts and denied there was a shortage of US dollars.

Exxon Mobil: Oil discovery off Guyana is ‘significant’

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 00:37

GEORGETOWN, Guyana—Exxon Mobil Corp confirmed yesterday that it has made what it calls a “significant” oil discovery off Guyana in waters also claimed by Venezuela as part of a long-running border dispute between the South American countries.

The company and Guyana’s government had said on May 7 that the exploration was showing promise but provided no details. Exxon Mobil now says it is still working to determine the commercial viability of the find at a site within the 6.6 million-acre area known as the Stabroek Block but has reasons to be optimistic.

“I am encouraged by the results of the first well on the Stabroek Block,” said Stephen M Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company. The company says it encountered more than 295 feet (90 metres) of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs in the drilling site about 120 miles (193 kilometres) off Guyana. It said the well was safely drilled to 17,825 feet (5,433 metres) in 5,719 feet (1,743 metres) of water. (AP)

Bharath sees strength in combined Caribbean

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 02:01

The combined population of the Caribbean can be a global resource of tremendous potential for knowledge sharing and competitiveness. This is the view of Trade Minister Vasant Bharath who said collaboration and unifying some aspects of economic policies can “create a larger fiscal space that is stronger to risk and impact and provides more competitive breadth to compete in the global markets.”

He said: “We must find the points of convergence in our policies that can allow us to combine our expertise and resources in order to achieve higher value outputs. In finding those points of unification, we will also find greater possibilities for supporting and sustaining a new era of innovation.”

Bharath said so when he gave the feature address at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) 6th Biennial International Banking and Finance Conference, Navigating Caribbean Business in the New Global Economy, at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre on Monday.

Commenting on the challenges facing Caribbean businesses the minister said: “Our strategies must therefore focus on understanding the nature and cause of risk, finding the weaknesses that are among the first casualties of impact, and shoring up our resilience as nations, and as a region standing together.” 

Bharath said a shift has to be made from training professionals for jobs, to incubating entrepreneurs for corporate leadership. 

“Tremendous benefits and efficiencies are brought by technology. We must explore how we re-fashion our businesses and industries to shift onto ICT platforms to become visible and active stakeholders in a networked global economy. As a region, we must continue to comprehensively advance training and skills development to provide the world with knowledge capabilities,” he said.

“We must also be bold enough to consider whether we are at a tipping point where our growth metrics must shift to different indicators.”

Ramnarine: Heavy oil can boost T&T production

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 01:59

Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine says there is significant potential for heavy oil production in T&T and the recovery of this resource could increase oil production on both land and sea.

He said with the availability of 3D seismic data the time is right for a major heavy oil thrust. To this end, Cabinet has agreed to the grant of $4.5 million to the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT) for two projects. One to quantify heavy oil resources and another on using carbon dioxide produced at the Point Lisas Estate in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects. the grant is funded by the Energy Ministry’s Production Sharing Contracts.

Ramnarine said when the ministry signs production sharing contracts, provision is made for money to be set aside annually by oil companies for research and development. However, this money has never been used for its intended purpose 

In an address to the Energy Chamber at La Romaine, the minister recalled that at the Heavy Oil Technology Conference in Alberta in July 2010, Professor Richard Dawe, Dr Raffie Hosein and Wayne Bertrand said T&T had 1.5 billion barrels of heavy oil on land and a further 3.6 billion, off shore.

“This is a significant resource that cannot be ignored. The potential of enhanced oil recovery has never been fully realised and we believe that this has significant potential to increase oil production on land and in the Gulf of Paria,” he said.

Noting that economics will drive any suh EOR investment decision and better oil prices could be a influential factor, Ramnarine said there is major heavy oil opportunity on land in the Morne L’Enfer, Forest and Cruze reservoirs.

He added: “The time is right at present for a major heavy oil thrust with the availability now of 3D seismic data over the heavy oil areas”

He said the technology has the potential to correct one of the main reasons for the many failed heavy oil projects in the past by defining the complex geology of heavy oil areas in the detail necessary for the design of a successful project.

However, he said, such a thrust has to be supported by a new fiscal framework. 

At the 20th Caribbean Geological Conference hosted by the Geological Society of Trinidad & Tobago, on Monday, Ramnarine said deepwater exploration, the development of heavy oil resources, EOR, and the commercialisation of cross border reserves are all part of the new energy economy.

He expressed confidence that the economics of Loran-Manatee , which has advanced significantly over the last two years, will drive the T&T and Venezuelan governments and the companies involved to develop that natural gas potential over the next five years.

“This is a project that must happen because it is the right thing for the economies of both countries,” he said

Ramnarine said the ministry’s estimates for deepwater oil potential range from a low of 3.1 billion barrels to a high of 8.2 billion barrels of oil initially in place (OIIP). 

“BHP Billiton has shown optimism for the prospects in our deepwater following the completion of the 3D seismic survey in February 2015, the largest seismic survey ever conducted by an independent oil company in the history of the industry,” he said

Ramnarine said Government is willing to assist Barbados and Guyana in the development of their hydrocarbon exploration portfolios. The Barbados government recently signed offshore licences with BHP Billiton and Exxon recently announced the discovery of hydrocarbons in GUyana

“Our vision is that T& T must be at the centre of this emerging Caribbean energy sector,” he said.

T&T Chamber: Halt IRA debate

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 01:55

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce yesterday called on Government to hold its hand on proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) and to have consultations with private sector on the legislation. 

CEO Catherine Kumar said the private sector was left out of consultations on the bill and presentations were made only to committees. She suggested that consultations he held with employees, employers and trade unions.

“Proper consultation was not done. We are certainly calling for a total halt on further debate on that bill and until proper private sector consultation is done. You would have heard the unions, not just the companies, even the unions are not happy with it. 

“We are concerned that the Parliament will be pirogued shortly and that pieces of legislation will be pushed through very quickly. Who knows, with the absence of the People’s National Movement MPs that’s not going to help, especially when the Government has a majority,” Kumar told reporters following a pre-mission seminar on Engaging Cuba in Commerce at the T&T Chamber headquarters, Columbus Circle, Westmoorings.

Commenting on another bill for which there had been calls more consultations, the Cybercrime Bill, Kumar said: “It is a pity it had to get to this stage before proper consultation was done. There are serious implications for the media and otherwise in that bill. it is not as though amendments are not needed, but the Government really needs to see that we do more consultation. “

The Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 2015, which was laid in the House of Representatives on May 1 and on which debate was launched on May 8, has been criticised by the country’s two umbrella labour groups the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (Fitun) and the National Trade Union (Centre), as well as the Employers’ Consultative Association (ECA)

The bill is being piloted through Parliament by Minister of Labour Errol McLeod, a former trade union leader.

Corruption plaguing economy

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 01:51

Emailgate is an example of how corruption and inefficiency are plaguing T&T’s economy, Dr Rolph Balgobin, president of the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) said yesterday.

“The emailgate affair is an excellent case because it was an investigation that was supposed to have been completed a long time ago. That it is not done is a terrible indictment. After millions of dollars spent on policing and national security the citizens of this country cannot know that the allegations are true or not. 

“Look at the recent Auditor General Report on many millions of dollars of questionable transactions. I am certain that no investigation has been opened on anything,” he said yesterday at a seminar on Crafting of the National Competitiveness Strategy of T&T at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, Mt Hope.

Balgobin said the high level of crime is a deterrent to foreign investment in the economy.

“If we want more business we need to stop people having to worry about the security of their staff. This has no value and dissipates energy, attention and critical resources. In other words, it creates an inefficient level at the micro level.”

To add to crime, Balgobin said, corruption is another set back for T&T.

“I often marvel at how one has to ask favours from public officials for what in fact is their job. It makes me wonder what the optimum level of bribery is. Inefficiency breeds bribery and corruption. No one would pay a bribe unless they feel they have to,” he said.

Balgobin said one of the solutions to the problems in T&T is for the state to move back and let the private sector take the lead in the economy.

“There is a state sector that is both too large with an astronomical wage bill and exceedingly corrupt, according to the Auditor General’s recent report. Companies have a critical role to play in the competitiveness and development of T&T. How do we do that in an economy structured to export oil and gas which clouds out everything else?”

According to the TTMA president, there is also a “bankruptcy of ideas” in T&T which has caused over reliance on the energy sector and even that sector has not been very innovative.

“More than 100 years after the first oil well was drilled, it is hard to find ten locally owned energy companies which are competing regionally and globally,” he said.

Despite T&T’s weaknesses, Balgobin believes the country is “not doing badly.”

“We have many of the ingredients to be successful. We need courage, leadership and good governance,” he said.

$2.7m in shares traded on TTSE

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 03:08

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 15 securities of which six advanced, one declined and eight traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 458,648 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $2,739,289.57. JMMB Group Limited was the volume leader with 356,375 shares changing hands for a value of $196,006.25, followed by Sagicor Financial Corporation with a volume of 48,873 shares being traded for $293,235.05. Republic Bank Limited contributed 11,120 shares with a value of $1,278,800, while National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited added 10,587 shares valued at $17,468.55.

Massy Holdings Limited enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.15 to end the day at $64.00. Conversely, Clico Investment Fund suffered the day’s sole decline, falling $0.01 to end the day at $22.55. It was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 43,210 shares valued at $974,413.68. 

Duke backs Natuc on IRA amendments

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 03:07

Officials of the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) yesterday warned that there will be no peace unless Government withdraws the Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 2015.

In a rare display of solidarity with his trade union colleagues, Watson Duke, president of the Public Services Association (PSA), joined with Natuc’s president James Lambert and general secretary Michael Annisette to call for consultations on the legislation before it becomes law.

Speaking at a media briefing at Natuc’s head offices in Port-of-Spain, Duke called for the bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament, to be withdrawn in its entirety. He was critical of a clause in the legislation which allows a worker who does not pay union dues to take the union to court for lack of representation.

“However, the union cannot take that worker to court for non-payment of union dues. It worries me,|” he said. “The PSA with Natuc is calling upon the labour minister, when he is doing the second version of this bill, that he incorporate an agency shop order where every single employee of that workplace must be a member of that union.”

Duke emphasised that unions are “non profit organizations” and can only function with dues from its membership.

Lambert said Natuc wants to see the Industrial Relations Act modernised but is strongly opposed to some of the clauses in the amendment bill.

“Yes, we want the amendment of the bill but when we met on Wednesday we looked at several clauses that are of great concern to the entire labour movement. It is not only Natuc. The next side would have given their disapproval and dissatisfaction. We are calling on the Government immediately to withdraw the bill and meet all stakeholders,” he said.

Annisette said in a participatory democracy important pieces of legation before Parliament must have the input from all members of society.

“Unfortunately this Bill was piloted without any consultation from the Natuc. How in 21st century industrial relations can a worker who is not part of a trade union take that union to have it de-certified? He can demand the union represent him in his dispute notwithstanding the fact that that worker is not a member of the trade union movement. We demand that be taken off the table. We will not negotiate that,” he said.

Annisette, who described the bill as draconian, warned: “There will be no peace if this is not withdrawn from Parliament.”

Govt tackling issues raised by Moody’s

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 03:04

Government is taking steps to address issues raised by Moody’s Investor Services when it downgraded T&T and lowered the country’s outlook from stable to negative.

“We started very aggressively in our diversification agenda which is something which they have talked about,” Trade Minister Vasant Bharath said yesterday. 

“We intend to take note of the report. I don’t want to continue to harp on what has been said in the report, but government has taken note of it. Our ongoing work will correct many of the concerns that they have expressed.”

Bharath, who spoke with reporters during a coffee break at the Sixth Biennial International Business, Banking and Finance Conference at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, St Ann’s, said another rating agency, Fitch Ratings, had described the Moody’s downgrade as harsh, stating that the concerns raised were not new.

“Fitch, which is the third major rating agency in the world, although they shared some of the concerns, they found the rating was far too aggressive. 

“Everything is put into context. Clearly the concerns that have been registered are not new concerns, they have been there for quite some time—the deficit which we inherited and the price of oil and gas over which we have no control,” he said.

Earlier this month, Moody’s downgraded T&T’s bond and issuer ratings to Baa2 from Baa1, citing persistent fiscal deficits and challenging prospects for fiscal reforms; the decline in oil prices and limited economic diversification which weigh negatively on economic growth prospects; a weak macroeconomic policy framework; and inadequate provision of vital macroeconomic data.

Bharath said Government had been reducing T&T’s deficit and plans to balance the budget by 2017. He emphasised that Government was not disagreeing with all the concerns raised by Moody’s since they had existed “for a long time now.” 

However, he said, they had rejected the suggestion that social programmes should be cut.

Asked whether he expected Standard and Poors to downgrade T&T, Bharath said: “No. I don’t.”

The minister said plans to use workers from the Cepep programme to address manpower shortages in the private sector had been progressing and three meetings had been held with the American Chamber of Commerce T&T and the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA). 

“We are going to run a pilot project where we will absorb 750 people out of Cepep into the private sector through 20 firms. They will be given training, they will be paid partly by the private sector and partly by the government. 

“After six months of working with these firms the employee has the option of reverting to Cepep or staying on with the organisation. I am hopeful it will start by August this year,” Bharath said.

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