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Trade Minister on foreign exchange: T&T still in healthy position

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 00:26

Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon does not expect ongoing problems with the availability of foreign currency to affect T&T’s image as an attractive investment destination.

“This is not a deterrent to further business and investment in T&T,” she said yesterday in response to questions from reporters about the situation. “If my facts are right, we still have ten months import cover and when we left office in 2010 it was probably about nine and a half, so we are still in a very healthy position.”

Gopee-Scoon, who was at a breakfast seminar on economic growth hosted by the T&T Chamber of Commerce at Westmoorings, said Finance Minister Colm Imbert has addressed the problem since taking up office in September.

“There has been an injection and he has looked at the system but you need to give it more time. Let me give you the assurance that the Minister of Finance is keeping this one close to his chest and he is working actively. Businessmen will be dealt with and their needs will be met,” she said.

The minister acknowledged that the foreign exchange supply problem is of particular concern to businessmen who import food items and they have warned about possible shortages of some items if they do not get their foreign currency in a timely manner.

“All the needs of the business people, once they are legitimate, will be met,” she said.

Gopee-Scoon said she had received complaints about contraband goods undermining legitimate businesses in T&T and warned that such practices would not be tolerated by the Government.

“I met with A.S. Bryden only last week about the contraband issue with regards to liquor and again it comes back to the question of border control and what gets into a country and what stays out. It speaks about integrity in business as well. When the Revenue Authority comes into place we will have officers out there and these are the things we will be checking on,” she said.

T&T Chamber president Robert Trestrail said the business community continues to be “challenged” by foreign exchange problem

“The money that was injected three weeks ago, that really went to paying historical bills and the membership continues to identify the challenges. Predictable supply is our challenge. What the community needs to be able to depend on is being able to meet their bills on a predictable manner.

Having insertions once every six weeks or once every eight weeks is good but we need to be able to pay our bills on time,” he said.

Trestrail also said it could not be “business as usual” for the country when there is a declining revenue stream.

“Oil and gas continue to have depressed pricing and it is a reality that many people have not woken up to and understood. We need to be responsible in how we choose to spend, where we choose to spend  and how we choose to support our local products and producers,” he said.

NGL up by $0.27 to end at $22

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 00:16

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

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 61,264 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $1,983,169.05. T&T NGL Ltd was the volume leader with 34,957 shares changing hands for a value of $769,100.93. 

T&T NGL Ltd enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.27 to end the day at $22.

S&P downgrades Petrotrin

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 00:16

Financially troubled state energy company Petrotrin suffered another blow to its fortunes this week after it was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) from BB+ (Stable) to BB (Weak).

This comes six months after another international ratings agency, Moody's Investors Service, downgraded the company to Ba1 from Baa3 and changed its outlook to negative from stable and just weeks after Petrotrin’s new chairman warned that the energy company is in danger of going out of business.

The S&P downgrade took place in October but Petrotrin received the credit rating report from the international agency on Tuesday. S&P said it revised Petrotrin credit rating in keep with action taken against energy producing countries and major energy companies around the world. The company was among 16 in the Americas to be downgraded.

In a media release yesterday, Petrotrin acknowledged the downgrade but attempted to put a positive spin on the matter, saying it was committed to building a sustainable business in the face of continued low oil prices and other external factors which “contributed to a less than favorable climate for energy operators around the world.”

“With the fall in oil prices over the past year, Petrotrin has been revising its strategies and lowering capital and operating expenses in all areas of its operations. This remained a key priority for the organization at the start of the new financial year in 2015 October as further measures were proposed to manage cost and improve profitability. Some of these measures will become evident in the coming weeks and months,” the company said.

The statement went on: “Petrotrin continues its renewed focus on the critical areas of cost management and improving the efficiency of its operations. At this time, all options are being reviewed with key stakeholders in a move to identify and implement positive solutions in the best interest of all.
“As a key contributor to the national economy of Trinidad and Tobago, Petrotrin wishes to assure the national public that it remains committed to identifying and exploring all available opportunities to ensure its long term viability.”

In an immediate reaction, the Energy Chamber said the Petrotrin downgrade was not surprising called for urgent action. The chamber said the company must continue to cut costs and improve efficiency

The dire state of the energy company was highlighted by its new chairman Andrew Jupiter shortly after he took up the appointment last month when he warned that unless the trend of spending much more than the company earns is quickly reversed, it would soon go out of business. He said while the company has the potential to be a sustainable business, achieving that goal requires “drastic and urgent change.” 

Warning that it could not be “business as usual,” Jupiter said Petrotrin is “in a perilous state and must take steps to address its current challenges.”

In addition to being severely affected by declining energy prices, the company is struggling with high and increasing debt, low productivity levels and escalating manpower costs. Its total debt currently stands at $13.28 billion and the company is saddled with a US$850 million bond which is payable in 2019.

Another state energy company is also feeling the effects of falling prices. The National Gas Company (NGC) and its subsidiaries has frozen salaries and benefits to staff for the rest of 2015 and 2016 and is cutting bonuses. In a memo to employees last week, NGC said lower energy prices had resulted in “significantly lower revenues and earnings; much lower than have been experienced over the past five years.”

On international markets yesterday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the crude which trades within the range of the light sweer crudes produced in T&T, closed at US$43.04 a barrel, lower than the US$45 on which the national budget is pegged.

Fitun condemns wage freeze call by economist

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 00:14

Outspoken economist Dr Roger Hosein has provoked the ire of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (Fitun) with his call to Government to take a cue from the National Gas Company and institute a wage freeze across the public and private sectors.

In a strongly worded media statement yesterday, Fitun president Joseph Remy described Hosein’s recommendation as a “broad scale attack on the livelihood of workers” which could prejudice discussions between the Government, business and labour. 

“We are convinced, based on our research, that the wage differential between executive pay and ordinary workers’ pay has mushroomed over the years and has reached obscene proportions. In addition, the purchasing power of the ordinary worker dollar has shrunk to poverty level proportions,” he said.

Fitun is demanding that Hosein apologise to all workers in the country and refrain from “making such aggravated and vexatious pronouncements.”

Magdalena is Best Golf Hotel

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:10

The 200-room Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort in Tobago has earned the distinction as T&T’s Best Golf Hotel for the second consecutive year at the World Golf Awards. 

Magdalena Grand was recognised for excellence in managing Tobago Plantations Golf Course, an 18-hole championship course located on the resort’s grounds.

The annual World Golf Awards serve to celebrate and reward excellence in golf tourism, world-class courses and golf destinations. The gala event was held November 7 at the Conrad Algarve in Portugal.

“We are honoured that the World Golf Awards recognised Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort for the second consecutive year as Trinidad and Tobago’s Best Golf Hotel,” said Christopher Forbes, general manager of Magdalena Grand. 

“We have managed Tobago Plantations Golf Course for two years and during that time our entire team has worked to raise the profile of the course and develop it into a world-class championship golf course.”

The Tobago Plantations Golf Course is a Par-72, 18-hole course woven into the landscape of Tobago Plantations Estate, a gated community of luxury villas, condos and bungalows, and meets Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and Championship standards. 

It is a PGA-designed course created by Bob Hunt and Marcus Blackburn of PGA Golf Management Ltd, a design, development and management arm of the Professional Golfers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland. 

The course is a certified member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System, an environmental programme offered by Audubon International. In addition, the course has received certification for its environmental planning.

Golfers can practice their short game on the pitching and putting greens while enhancing their swing at the driving range. 

The club house, situated between the first and tenth tees, features a pro shop, club room lounge, shoes and club rental, changing rooms, classrooms and golf bag storage. The club house restaurant—Fairways Bar & Grill—offers a comprehensive food and beverage menu.

Luxury eyewear come to T&T

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:09

Pier Martino is a luxury eyewear brand manufactured by Atmosphera Eyewear, a company that originated in Europe. 

The company is the continuation of a manufacturing tradition transferred from generation to generation and puts great focus on the uniqueness of style along with a constant research of elegance. 

The Unique Management Services Company (TUMSCO) has obtained exclusive rights for distribution of the Pier Martino brand as well as for Cadillac lenses in T&T and the Caribbean.

The Pier Martino collection is exclusive and exceptionally elegant. 

All Pier Martino glasses are made from precious woods, the best Italian leathers or Swarovski crystals and are dipped in three microns of 24-carat gold plate or a very rare metal known as palladium, which allows one to stand out from the crowd and affirm an original identity. 

At the recent launch, TUMSCO introduced 35 unique pieces to the region.

TUMSCO guarantees the most affordable prices for both the Pier Martino and Cadillac lenses brands as well as more than 50 other luxury brands and lenses. 

All Pier Martino orders come with a box, case, cleaning cloth, certificate of authenticity, warranty, frame, pouch and designer display stand, so it can be the perfect gift for those keen on protecting their eyesight while wearing one of the world’s most fashionable accessories.

Pier Martino frames are rare and currently retail at approximately US$350-$400. 

However, TUMSCO will be introducing the frames to the regional market at nearly half the price.

Interested buyers can visit to place their orders. 

Magdalena is Best Golf Hotel

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:09

The 200-room Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort in Tobago has earned the distinction as T&T’s Best Golf Hotel for the second consecutive year at the World Golf Awards. 

Magdalena Grand was recognised for excellence in managing Tobago Plantations Golf Course, an 18-hole championship course located on the resort’s grounds.

The annual World Golf Awards serve to celebrate and reward excellence in golf tourism, world-class courses and golf destinations. The gala event was held November 7 at the Conrad Algarve in Portugal.

“We are honoured that the World Golf Awards recognised Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort for the second consecutive year as Trinidad and Tobago’s Best Golf Hotel,” said Christopher Forbes, general manager of Magdalena Grand. 

“We have managed Tobago Plantations Golf Course for two years and during that time our entire team has worked to raise the profile of the course and develop it into a world-class championship golf course.”

The Tobago Plantations Golf Course is a Par-72, 18-hole course woven into the landscape of Tobago Plantations Estate, a gated community of luxury villas, condos and bungalows, and meets Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and Championship standards. 

It is a PGA-designed course created by Bob Hunt and Marcus Blackburn of PGA Golf Management Ltd, a design, development and management arm of the Professional Golfers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland. 

The course is a certified member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System, an environmental programme offered by Audubon International. In addition, the course has received certification for its environmental planning.

Golfers can practice their short game on the pitching and putting greens while enhancing their swing at the driving range. 

The club house, situated between the first and tenth tees, features a pro shop, club room lounge, shoes and club rental, changing rooms, classrooms and golf bag storage. The club house restaurant—Fairways Bar & Grill—offers a comprehensive food and beverage menu.

MV Adonia kicks-off cruise ship season

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:06

Trinidad will jump-start its 2015/2016 cruise season today with the arrival of MV Adonia at the Port of Port-of-Spain, followed by the World Odyssey from tomorrow to Friday. 

The MV Adonia and World Odyssey will each bring more than 700 passengers, with many of the visitors expected to explore the capital city of Port-of-Spain and embark on specialised tours to various sites and attractions in T&T. 

Trinidad’s popularity as a port of call is growing, with 26 visits from cruise ships scheduled from this month to May 2016. 

“We are committed to ensuring that every cruise visitor experiences the warmth and vivacity of Trinidad and Tobago and will be deploying visitor guides in and around the Port of Port-of-Spain to assist cruise passengers,” said Keith Chin, CEO of the Tourism Development Company (TDC).

Visitor guides are trained as local tourism ambassadors and are strategically positioned at the cruise ship terminal and in the streets of Port-of-Spain, with maps and information on local points of interest to help passengers make the most of their visit.

Cruise ship passengers disembarking at the Port also enjoy live local entertainment, free wifi, a craft market, a variety of island and community tour options and registered tourist transport provider. 

Cruise lines scheduled to stop in Trinidad this season include the MSC Orchestra, Saga Sapphire, Seven Seas Navigator, NYK Asuka II, Saga Pearl II and Maasdam.

Captain Consumer visits Gulf City

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:05

Gulf City Mall came alive recently when Captain Consumer made his big debut at the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD) of the Ministry of Trade and Industry Christmas on a Budget caravan. 

Consumer advocates educated the public about their rights as consumers, as well as shopping tips for the Christmas season.

More than 500 shoppers visited the caravan, inquiring about the role of the CAD and to participate in the many quizzes about CAD, vying for a chance to win a hamper and branded promotional items. Every hour, from noon, visitors who correctly answered five questions won a Christmas Goodie hamper. 

Shoppers received the following advice:

• When making a purchase, demand a receipt. It is your proof of purchase.

• If you are purchasing an item which turns out to be defective, you can receive any form of redress.

• Clauses such as, “No exchange, no refund” or “Absolutely no refund” or “No refund on sale items” are illegal. 

Look out for Captain Consumer and the CAD Caravan on Friday on the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain. 

Jack: Tobago in need of diversification

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:04

Secretary for Finance and Enterprise Development in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Joel Jack has admitted that growth in Tobago’s private sector is not proceeding at the pace he had hoped. 

He said although millions of dollars in grants and other facilities had been made available to stimulate new enterprise and sustainable jobs, the THA, the island’s largest employer, is no closer to reducing its wage bill.

Jack said the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development had some success in stimulating entrepreneurship in Tobago but faced fundamental challenges in the area of diversification.

Business surveys conducted by the division over the past two years show that the services sector is buoyant and contributes 90 per cent to the island’s growth domestic product (GDP). Data also made revealed, however, that the island is in urgent need of diversification.

“The diversification of the economy has been identified as one of the primary development objectives for the island in the Comprehensive Economic Development Plan for Tobago, but critical to the overall success of our diversification strategy are issues of innovation, productivity and entrepreneurship,” Jack said.

“The Assembly, being a significant player in the Tobago economy, has a critical role to play in creating the enabling environment to stimulate diversification of the island’s economy. In this regard, the Assembly must be supportive, adaptive, innovative and transparent to foster a conducive and enabling environment to improve and advance business activity.”

Jack said the THA is best positioned to create realistic economic development strategies grounded in the specific strengths of Tobago and to mobilise resources for implementation.

“This year, we are focused on the trifecta of innovation, productivity and entrepreneurship as it relates to the further diversification of the Tobago economy. Innovation is a widely recognised driver of economic growth. It is not just about high-tech products, but capacity inculcated early in the development process to facilitate the narrowing of the gap between where we are and where we hope to be,” he said.

The Finance Secretary said innovation will allow the THA to address issues and challenges specific to the island’s location in space and time, while avoiding the seduction of highly competitive sectors in which Tobago cannot gain a comparative advantage. 

Jack said innovation is being considered for low technology sectors with high export opportunity such as agro-processing. He cited a 2012 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which said agricultural research and development had a greater impact on poverty reduction than most public investments initiatives.

“In my division, we established the Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL) to spearhead innovation in the areas of information, communication and technology (ICT). At present, we are moving towards the establishment of an Innovation Centre at TITL to act as the focal point of this innovation,” he said. 

“We provide support and training opportunities to entrepreneurs to improve the standard and the quality of their products. Moreover, the Eco-Industrial Development Company of Tobago (EIDCOT) is earnestly collaborating with the Division of Community Development and Culture and TITL towards the development of the animation industry in Tobago. The Assembly’s support for innovation is by no means limited to the work in the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development.”

IDB lends US$25m for trade facilitation

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:03

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$25 million loan to T&T to this country improve its trade facilitation processes, part of an effort to boost and diversify the economy.

The loan will help strengthen the Single Electronic Window for Trade and Business Facilitation Project (TTBizLink), a secure business portal created in 2009 that simplifies foreign trade and business processes by providing around-the-clock access to relevant government services.

The platform seeks to substantially reduce time and costs of trade and business transactions for private sector users while gathering and sharing relevant information among government agencies to simplify processes and optimise revenue collection.

The 25-year loan will support business processing reengineering and risk management for government agencies, an e-payment solution, the connection with ports and customs systems, an intermodal logistics platform, and the interoperability with other single windows, among other things.

More than 70 countries around the world have implemented single-window systems, and multiple studies have shown that they experience substantial cost and time savings and enhanced transparency and interagency collaboration.

Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru are among the countries in Latin America that already have experienced significant improvements thanks to their single window programmes.

Tobago celebrates Tourism Week

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:00

The Division of Tourism and Transportation is celebrating Caribbean Tourism Month 2015 with a week of activities that ends on Sunday. The theme is Maximizing Tourism Opportunities. 

“Responsibility for the development of the tourism sector and destination Tobago rests on all of us. This is why our activities for this week include all our stakeholders from policy makers, police, tour guides, taxi-drivers, vendors, members of the public and the management and staff of the Division of Tourism and Transportation. 

“It is important that we recognise that for this to work we all have major roles to play,” said Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Tourism and Transportation, Tracy Davidson-Celestine.

The week began on Monday with a Thanksgiving Service and Canned Food Drive at the Division’s Sangster’s Hill main office. Former Secretaries of the Division Neil Wilson and Oswald Williams as well as Secretary of Settlements and Labour, Deon Isaac were in attendance. 

The highly-anticipated launch of the Tobago Tourism Oriented Policing Unit at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park Pavilion in the afternoon saw dignitaries coming together to celebrate the achievement.

Among those present were Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe; Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly Orville London; Davidson-Celestine and acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.

A Tourism Awareness Campaign was launched on Tuesday evening at Sangster’s Hill office and a Tourism Staff Talk developmental session takes place today at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park Pavilion 

Activities will culminate with a Know Your Tobago Island Tour on Sunday.

eTeck Park brings 245 jobs to Point

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 01:59

Point Fortin was a victim of the last government’s inaction and lack of commitment to the development of the area but, especially with two government ministers from the community, residents will now see a great deal of development in the coming five years.

That good news was delivered to members of the Point Fortin business community during the commissioning ceremony of the eTeck Point Fortin Business Park on Monday by Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, the MP for the area. Both grew up in the area. 

“You are twice blessed to have two Point Fortin residents as members of Cabinet,” Dillon told the group gathered under a tent in Techier Village.

“That speaks volumes because the Government has indicated that the people of Point stand to benefit over the coming five years. Point Fortin will see a great deal of development from the PNM.” 

Dillon said Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat visited Point Fortin last week to see how he could re-energise the cocoa industry in an area which revolves around oil and gas. Development of recreational parks and community centres is coming to Point Fortin as well, he said.

“The Sports Minister (Daryl Williams) also visited the area and said the next big project the ministry will be working on is Mahaica Oval. You will be seeing development, you will be seeing activities in Point.”

Gopee-Scoon said: “Regrettably, Point Fortin was a victim of the last government’s inaction and lack of commitment to the development of this area.”

She lamented the People’s Partnership’s taking away of most of the 56 acres of eTeck’s land to build the Point Fortin Hospital. 

“As far back as May 2007, under the last PNM Administration, eTecK commenced the development of 56 acres on this very site aimed at providing 32 fully-developed plots of land for light industrial use.

“However, in May 2012, the former Cabinet approved the transfer of most of these lands to the Ministry of Health for the construction of the Point Fortin Hospital.

“By October 2014, perhaps for a particular purpose, the Cabinet subsequently agreed to recommence the development of the Point Fortin Park on a smaller scale. Very little was done.

“I am pleased that this Government, through eTecK, has intervened to ensure that this much needed and long overdue infrastructure project is delivered to you, the business people of Point Fortin. 

“We estimate a minimum of 245 permanent jobs, with some 185 persons being employed during the build out phase.”

Gopee-Scoon said the Government is already looking at nearby lands to expand the park. 

The minister said eTeck owns and operates 17 fully occupied light industrial Parks within almost every region of the country. Point Fortin is the eighteenth. 

She said over the last five years no new industrial parks were developed but Government intends to aggressively roll out the Piarco AeroPark Project, which will create an Aerotropolis of five zones on more than 160 acres of land, as well as the first phase of the Tamana InTech Park during fiscal 2016.

Olivierre outlines local content plan for energy

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 02:01

Energy and Energy Industries Minister Nicole Olivierre says steps are being taken to ensure that T&T’s private sector gets a larger share of activity generated by the energy sector. 

In addition to exploration and production, she said, legislative and other steps are being taken to open up more opportunities in fabrication, remediation, construction, design, logistics, well services, platform operations and maintenance and support services.

The minister, in an address at a recent Local Content Forum hosted by the Energy Chamber at Cara Suites Hotel and Conference Centre, Claxton Bay, said a Local Content and Local Participation Policy and Framework launched in 2004 failed to create a sustainable local service industry.

She said Government’s policy on local content includes facilitating and encouraging the growth of locally-owned energy sector companies through appropriate fiscal and monetary incentives and concessions. In addition, the aim is to the maximise local content and local value added through guidelines and legislation. Olivierre said legislation will establish “processes and a framework to enable transparent measurement, management and reporting on the value of the local content to ensure we attain greater local penetration in all aspects of the sector.”

“Government will support and encourage local professionals and service companies to export energy services to new and emerging oil and gas producing countries, particularly in Caricom and in Africa.

“Prior to adoption of new legislation, there will be wide consultations with stakeholders to ensure that the legislation captures Government’s stated objectives of local participation at all levels in the upstream and downstream energy business.”

The minister said the Permanent Local Content Committee will be reestablished and the ministry will ensure that all participants in the sector perform their activities in a manner that facilitates Government’s policy objective.

All companies operating in the energy sector will be required to report to the ministry on the extent of local content and capacity development at an annual meeting. Other measures will include human resource capacity development; education, training and research and development support; supply chain management and procurement strategies; and competency requirements for roles in which expat staff are currently engaged.

“All these will be extended to multinational contracting firms as well. It is my intention to ensure that all companies operating in the oil and gas value chain are properly licensed, as required by the Petroleum Act and Regulations and that local content and capacity development obligations are a condition of such licences.”

Supermarkets urged to sell local

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 02:00

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon wants supermarkets to support T&T’s manufacturers by distributing more local products so the country could become more competitive in export markets.

The minister made the call at the Supermarkets Association of T&T’s (SATT) Annual Christmas Dinner, Dance and Awards Gala on Sunday. 

The sentiment was echoed by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat who appealed to SATT members to consider three issues—the Beekeepers’ Association’s call for supermarkets to support the local honey industry; a call from the fisheries sector supermarkets to procure a quality product, locally; and support in lowering the food import bill by seeking opportunities for import substitutions with quality locally produced products.

Gopee-Scoon told SATT members they have a vital role in the economic landscape of the country by contributing to employment, domestic investment, distribution of goods and services and tax revenue.

“Supermarkets continue to play a pivotal role in the food distribution value chain, in that they are the intermediaries between suppliers and consumers. 

“In fact, supermarkets are usually at the front line of attacks made by consumers about price gouging, and other unfair business practices. 

“To this end, supermarkets have a responsibility to protect consumers against unfair business practices and provide the necessary information to inform and enlighten the public on new developments within the Industry so that more-informed decisions can be made. 

“In light of this function, the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD) will continue to work with supermarkets to prevent asymmetric information and to ensure that consumers are well informed and educated about matters and issues affecting them in the Industry,” she said

This year’s SATT award recipients included Distributor of the Year (Large), Vemco, Distributor of the Year (Medium), FineLine Distributors and Distributor of the Year (Small), Happi Products Limited.

TTCA president: Construction can revive economy

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 01:58

President of the T&T Contractors Association (TTCA) Mikey Joseph says the construction sector can play a key role in T&T’s economic revival. 

He said even with a smaller public sector investment programme (PSIP), there can still be significant capital expenditure to stimulate the economy if projects are carefully prioritised, planned and properly executed. 

“Well-managed expenditure and project oversight could produce value to expenditure benefits greater than previously obtained,” he said.

Among Joseph’s recommendation is that the Housing Development Company (HDC) limit the scope of its large projects, while the Ministry of Work’s PURE Programme and the role of the Highways Division be reassessed.

“We believe that a better balance is needed between expenditure on civil sector rehabilitation and expenditure on building construction. Should this be undertaken, a wider cross section of the population would be able to work thereby stimulating greater economic activity throughout the country. 

“While the TTCA cannot confirm the asset base of the Highways Division, we are certain that the PURE Unit has a substantial amount of assets, physical and human, and has proper processes in all areas,” he said.

The TTCA president said that the Urban Development Company of T&T (Udecott) has all the prerequisites to fulfill its mandate, including proper monitoring and control measures that provide real-time information. 

He said the agency’s procurement structure allows for delivery of projects ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.

“As far as we are aware, the HDC has been fulfilling their obligations and ought to be used as a model for other state enterprises involved in the delivery of construction projects,” Joseph said. 

“Our only recommendation relating to HDC at this time is that funding be provided so that HDC could act as one of the stimuli for the construction industry and that their largest contracts be limited to 200 units. 

“This would allow for cost containment, improved delivery, quality and competitiveness and most importantly employ more businesses increasing the total number of workers engaged in the workforce. Done smart and done right, the state’s housing programme will stimulate greater economic activity throughout the country.”

Joseph said TTCA members are owed more than $640 million by the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL). He said attempts to settle these debts have been hindered by political interference and weak corporate leadership.

He is calling on Government to protect local contractors from unscrupulous foreign contractors who sub-contract local industry professionals under onerous conditions.

“We believe to correct this, our laws should be amended to require all matters be heard in our jurisdiction. 

“There are also those foreign contractors who, for whatever reason, simply do not wish to pay for goods and services provided. When their client pays, they abscond without settlement of their debts to local contractors.

“The issue of non-payment by both local and foreign contractors is severely hurting the industry and destroying many small businesses. 

“We appreciate that not all foreign contractors who have worked within our shores have acted in such a manner and we applaud and appreciate those who have been able to create true sustainable partnerships and who continue to work successfully to contribute to our nation’s development,” he said.

Joseph suggested that mandatory local content requirements be included in all contracts by state agencies.

“It is not merely enough that we endeavour to improve the build environment as we strive towards developed nation status, but we must first and foremost ensure the development of our people by providing meaningful employment, inclusive of training programmes and opportunities for skills development,” he said.

TTSEC hosts training for regulators

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 00:21

The Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission (TTSEC) in collaboration with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (USSEC) recently hosted its seventh training programme on Capital Market Oversight and Development in the Caribbean. 

The four-day training seminar was held at the MovieTowne Banquet and Conference Room, and targeted more than 50 participants, including market actors and regulators from T&T and across the region. 

The programme delved into the issues and challenges facing regulators and covered best practices in the oversight of capital markets to maximise investor protection and market development. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony, TTSEC CEO Wainwright Iton endorsed the long-established collaboration between the two agencies for provision of training for regulators in the financial services industry. 

“The hosting of an in-house capital market development programme represents the TTSEC’s commitment to the continuing training and development of its staff,” he said.

The programme featured a USSEC team of high-powered and experienced presenters who emphasised practical solutions to common market problems and abuses, and highlighted several case studies. The facilitators were Erin McCartney, senior special counsel in the Office of International Affairs; Matthew Greiner, branch chief in the SEC’s Office of International Affairs; Jim Reese, assistant director for the Office of Risk Analysis and Surveillance within the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations; and Larry Spirgel, assistant director in the Division of Corporation Finance. 

Topics covered in the interactive training sessions included Insider Trading, Broker Dealer Enforcement, Disclosure Obligations for Stock Issuing Companies, Investigating Financial Fraud, Money Laundering and the Securities Industry.

“The overwhelming response from our fellow regulators for consideration to have their staff attend bears testimony to the importance that we all ascribe to the programme,” said Iton. 

He said that the TTSEC as a regulator is a learning organisation, keen on developing the capacity of its staff and the securities industry to better serve investors and by extension help develop the economy.

Lee steps down as CHTA president

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 00:19

MIAMI—Emil Lee has stepped down as president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and handed over to first vice president Karolin Troubetzkoy eight months earlier than initially scheduled. Lee has been appointed Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs for St Maarten, so Troubetzkoy will assume the role of acting president of the CHTA. 

The CHTA board will meet in January to vote on ratifying Troubetzkoy to take office as President of CHTA in advance of her term which was originally scheduled to begin in June 2016. 

“It is with a heavy heart that I leave my CHTA post as president. However, I am proud of the advancements the organisation has made during my tenure and am confident that Karolin Troubetzkoy will perpetuate this momentum going forward in the creation of a new CHTA engaged with the membership,” Lee said.

Troubetzkoy said: “I have worked closely with Emil over the last several months and look forward to continuing the progress and energy he brought to the organisation.” Lee leaves office after serving for over ten years as a member of the board of directors, including two years as first vice president and 17 months as president. 

During his term, CHTA has undergone organisational changes and restructuring, broadened membership engagement, strengthened public and private sector ties and repositioned itself to play an even greater role in facilitating tourism’s role as a socio-economic driver for the region.

London concerned about quality of Tobago jobs

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 00:17

According to 2014 data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the unemployment rate in Tobago is currently four per cent. However, Chief Secretary in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Orville London said he is concerned about the quality and sustainability of jobs on the island.

London said Tobago’s unemployment rate is better than for Trinidad and other Caricom territories. In the case of Barbados, he said, the unemployment rate over the last year or so was close to 11 per cent, while for St Lucia the figure was 23 per cent. Speaking at a Tobago Economic and Business Outlook Conference 2015 at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, he said: “The most recent labour force data available from the CSO for Tobago suggests that the state sector employs about 60 per cent of the labour force in Tobago and the private sector employs about 40 per cent.

The available economic statistics for the island suggests that we have significant work to do in our continuing quest to diversify and transform the island’s economy. Therefore, the diversification of the island’s economy remains one of our priority development objectives as clearly articulated in our Comprehensive Economic Development Plan for Tobago. Critical to our strategy of diversification of the island’s economy and the development of the private sector on the island, is the need to create the enabling environment to ensure greater creativity and innovation in our society.”

London said in a global and regional economic environment that is dynamic and plagued with uncertainties, businesses in Tobago could only develop and maintain competitive advantages in the various industries in which they operate if they engaged in continuous innovation. He underscored the need for businesses to continuously strive to reinvent themselves and find new ways of doing the things they now did, as well as find new things to do.

“We must not believe that we are too small to engage in meaningful innovation. We must always strive to think big. Even as we act local, we cannot and should not lose sight of the global picture. In periods of uncertainty, people need to be even more innovative and creative; people need to be more productive and people need to embrace and exploit all the available entrepreneurial opportunities that exist in the economic spaces in which they operate,” he said.

London added: “We must as Tobagonians, as citizens of T&T, recognise and embrace these qualities. We must adapt if we are to treat effectively with all the emerging economic challenges. It is important that we do so against the backdrop of Tobago’s current economic realities, both positive and negative. “But I am suggesting that as responsible decision makers, we’ve got to look beyond the number and therefore, we need to examine the quality and sustainability of those jobs.”

T&T selected for Huawei ICT Roadshow

Sat, 11/21/2015 - 09:50

Over 20 live demo exhibits showcasing ICT solutions for various sectors will be presented at the Huawei Better Connected ICT Innovation Exhibition. 

Huawei, a leading global information and communications (ICT) provider has announced that its ICT Exhibition 2015 will come to T&T for the first time on November 24–25 at the Banquet & Conference Centre, Movie Towne, Port-of-Spain. 

The Innovation Exhibition is Huawei’s global roadshow and it has been hosted in several countries around the world, including Australia, Egypt, Malaysia, Colombia and Panama. The two-day event will entertain hundreds of partners and customers in government and the ICT and telecommunications sector, as well as other guests with leadership talks, presentations and product launches and displays. During the exhibition, visitors will have access to Huawei’s leading products and solutions to vertical industries and advanced technologies, including Data Centre, 4.5G, Big IT, Safe City and Intelligent Transportation. 

The roadshow also underscores Huawei’s role as a leader in providing insights on key innovations driving the global technology industry, as the company annually re-invests between 10 per cent to 15 per cent of its revenue into ICT innovation research and development. It also shows Huawei as an enabler of ICT for enterprise customers to leverage emerging ICT trends that will increase their efficiency and competitiveness and drive more innovations within their business.

“Trinidad and Tobago is very progressive in its ICT development and ambitions, so it was the natural choice for our company to select this country to host our ICT Innovation Exhibition for 2015,” said Jason Deng, general manager of Huawei’s T&T office. 

“ICT is driving tremendous advancement of our society. According to recent statistics, digital infrastructure, represented by the broadband Internet, has surpassed highway infrastructure in terms of economic importance, contributing over 35 per cent to global economic output. ICT is playing a more and more crucial role in helping nations worldwide develop their economies and enhance their overall national competitiveness.

“In T&T, the national ICT vision is to create ‘a dynamic knowledge-based society, driven by the innovative use of ICTs to enhance the social, economic and cultural development of the people of Trinidad and Tobago’. The current Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, during his presentation in the 2015-2016 National Budget, has recognised the importance of ICT to the growth of the T&T economy, saying that: ‘A first-world IT network is needed to drive development’. Our ICT Roadshow, will showcase Huawei’s solutions and rich experience that can help the government achieve their ICT ambitions.”

Deng continued: “The theme of our roadshow is Innovative ICT for a Better Connected World because Huawei strongly believes that we must provide ubiquitous broadband connectivity, enable agile innovations everywhere and bring a superior technology experience to everyone at an affordable price. We want to work with T&T on their journey of national digital transformation.” 

Deng also sees the roadshow as a means of further increasing Huawei’s brand awareness since the launch of its smartphone devices into the T&T market in August of this year. 

Since Huawei started its operations in T&T in 2006, the company has supported the advancement of the country’s telecommunications industry. In order to sustain the long-term, sustainable growth of the local sector, Huawei has extended its reach to help provide training to the local market to transfer its knowledge in the aim of increasing the competitive edge of the local ICT talent in the global market. 

Earlier this month, Huawei signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of the West Indies St Augustine which, among other collaborative initiatives, will include joint research activities; staging of joint seminars; conferences and academic meetings; “Education Abroad” programmes for both graduate and undergraduate students (including exchanges and internships); technical certification; and collaborative academic programmes which involve an element of cultural exchange. 

Deng says that the company will continue to actively participate in initiatives that will develop the local telecommunication and ICT industry and enhance communication for all.

Entrance to Huawei’s ICT Roadshow 2015 is by invitation only.

Huawei products on display

Some of the following products will be showcased:

• Next Game FMC2.0

• Server & Storage Solution 

• Modular UPS solution 

• Open Cloud for Business Transformation 

• Intelligent Video Surveillance Solution 

• Unified Communication Solution 

• EasyOn Video Conferencing Solution 

• Digital inCloud & Traffic Monetisation