Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 19th 2015 Contents MARCH 2015 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
Investors from Saudi Arabia are seeking to establish
an office in T&T to strengthen diplomatic ties and
to encourage investment between the two nations.
The formal diplomatic ties were established in 1974
but have not been strengthened, according to 30-
year-old Umar Khan, co-founder of the
Trinidad/Saudi Chamber of Commerce. The chamber
was established in 2014 and comprises 30 members
from various sectors of T&T s economy.
"We wanted to proceed with some form of diplomatic
appointment. We are asking the Saudis to invest here. They
are accustomed investing in Europe or the US. They have rep-
resentation (in those areas). There is no Saudi embassy in T&T
and there is no T&T office in Saudi. If we are dealing with
a country like Saudi we want to have direct relations. We want
to invite the Saudis to set up an office here and we want to
set up one there."
The type of diplomacy which T&T should pursue is cultural
"It is definitely a way to strengthen our ties."
Last week, a high-powered delegation from Saudi Arabia
visited, on a fact-finding mission with the goal of investing
as much as US$1 billion in T&T s economy. This is the third
delegation visiting from that country upon invitation by the
Trinidad/Saudi Chamber of Commerce located in St Augus-
During last week s visit, the delegation met with Trade Min-
ister Vasant Bharath, Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim
and other stakeholders. Already, a decision has been made to
sign a MoU between the University of the West Indies and
Umm Al-Qura University, which is a public university in Mecca,
Saudi Arabia. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious
universities in the entire Islamic world due to its contributions
in various fields over many decades as well as due to its unique
location in Mecca.
Some of the sectors which the investors are interested in
• Real Estate
• Air Transport
In addition to these sectors, the group is also seeking to talk
about establishing a direct flight between T&T and Saudi
Outlining the logistics, Khan suggested there is need for a
feasibility study to be done to determine the competitiveness
of the route. If destination T&T is marketed in Saudi offering
luxury or high-end products, then, according to Khan, visitors
would be attracted to the destination.
"We think it is very realistic. If they come into T&T and
start developing the hotels, we will have high-end rooms avail-
able for tourists, the tourists from the Gulf are high spenders,
so you create a product in which they would be interested."
The Saudis also have a robust manufacturing sectors: "China
buys some finished goods from Saudi. If China is purchasing
finished gods from Saudi, (it is a big deal) since China produces
so much finished goods."
But setting up any office/embassy in Saudi would mean
examining that country s external environment.
In mid-March 2015, the international news media, BBC,
reported that the US embassy in Saudi Arabia had to close
its doors for two days due to a security threat against its
Asked whether T&T should be concerned about security
threats or terrorism, Khan said: "Security will always be a
concern for any investor; it is a natural concern whether it
is the United States (or any other country). Saudi Arabia is
one of the most successful countries in counter-terrorism
efforts. They have the largest contribution in the United Nations
for sponsoring (events) on counter terrorism. Saudi is one of
the leading nations in the world to fight against this type of
behaviour. We don t expect anything negative with this rela-
tionship (between T&T and Saudi)."
Khan added that the stability of Saudi is "unmatched in
the entire Middle East region."
"They (the Saudis) have a diplomatic gated community
which is secured. This is why we need more information about
Saudi as not enough is known."
Asked whether the media has contributed to the negative
perception of that country, Khan said: "Too much of what
people know about Saudi is through certain media narratives
which are not always accurate. This is why we focus on face
to face. We want to take the delegations from T&T into the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"Let them see for themselves, not through the eyes of the
other narratives. Even though (negative reports have been
made on Saudi) they (US and Europe) are still receiving so
much investments from Saudi."
Part of setting up a business means having the labour/man-
power resources to operate the business.
Currently, sections of the business community are grappling
with the problem of shortage of labour, but Khan does not
predict any shortage.
"One of the major objectives of the Saudi investors is to
provide employment for the locals. In our discussions with
Minister Fazal Karim, he mentioned we have thousands of
graduates from our universities on a yearly basis. We believe
with that amount of skilled labour, there would not be much
of a shortage. Should it be necessary, we first want to employ
locals to ensure they benefit. This would have to be looked
at on a case-by-case basis. If we have to outsource labour,
it would be based on a study."
Regarding immigration matters for the Saudis, he said the
office in Uganda is not a feasible option as the chamber wants
"This (immigration matters) is definitely an issue we raised
over and over again. The only real way to resolve this is by
(T&T) having an office in Saudi."
The fourth delegation is expected at the end of April or
beginning of May comprising of investors within Saudi Arabia s
Ease of Doing Business
In 2014, The World Bank ranked T&T at 79 out of 189
countries for the Ease of Doing Business. In that same report,
Saudi Arabia was ranked 49.
Asked whether the investors would have an issue with ease
of doing business here, Khan said: "Ease of business is always
a concern for the investor. Bureaucracy and red tape do not
always discourage an investor. When you have allocated a large
amount of funds for investment time is money, once you lose
time you lose money."
He said the investors described T&T s accomplishment in
the Ease of Doing Business report as "noteable, as T&T is
Saudi's external environment
According to a March 15, BBC report the embassy had to
close due to a security threat. The report stated:
"The US embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh has cancelled
all consular services for Sunday and Monday due to heightened
security concerns." In the statement, the embassy said consular
services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran would not be available.
It urged US citizens to take extra precautions when travelling
in Saudi Arabia and to keep a low profile.
"On Friday, the embassy warned that Western oil workers
could be the target of militant attacks," the report stated.
Khan said: "In Trinidad, the delegation did one programme
at a local mosque. They gave a lecture on: Islam---a religion
of mercy and compassion. At that lecture, they raised the
importance of living in a plural society in peace."
Saudis look to
...starts with MoU between universities
co-founder of the Trinidad/Saudi Chamber of Commerce
PHOTOS: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
We first want to employ locals to ensure they benefit. This would have to be looked at on
a case-by-case basis. If we have to outsource labour, it would be based on a study.
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