Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 9th 2015 Contents This week, the T&T Chamber is pleased to
reproduce Part II of an edited version of the
Inaugural address delivered on March 25, 2015
by the new President of the T&T Chamber,
Robert Trestrail at the annual meeting & busi-
ness luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
Part I was published on April 2.
It is my intention to focus on two of
these issues here today that
are impacting our members. Firstly,
the increased allocation to state-run
employment programmes is not only
unsustainable, but is destructive of
the national work ethic and is dis-
torting the labour market. The T&T Chamber
has repeatedly stated that these make work
programs must be curtailed.
Let me say this, it makes no business
sense for a subsidised social cushion to be
competing with productive elements of the
economy to the detriment of both business
and nation, and restricting the growth of busi-
The high and growing level of subsidies and
transfers which now account for some 17 per
cent of GDP is crippling the long term
prospects of the nation. These "make work"
programmes as they are commonly termed,
contribute in no small way to this, and must be
properly regulated, supervised, and audited.
The nature of these types of programmes is
that they are ripe with opportunity for fraud
and abuse of power.
While the T&T Chamber accepts that these
types of programmes are necessary at times,
the current labour and economic landscape
demand that these programmes should be
severely curtailed, and we expect that a respon-
sible administration will take the steps that
are required to achieve this.
In the interim, however, (to address
the immediate need of the business community
and the obvious impact on the availability or
more accurately the unavailability of labour),
the T&T Chamber is calling upon the admin-
istration to put the necessary systems in place
to allow easier movement of semi-skilled and
unskilled citizens to be lawfully employed
under the CSME in order to support the needs
of our members.
In this regard, the T&T Chamber is com-
mitted to working with the administration to
have a quick and early adoption of this rec-
Secondly, and possibly far simpler to address,
is the continued unavailability of foreign
exchange for legitimate business activity.
There is need for an urgent review of the
foreign exchange allocation system. The current
level of on-going interventions by the Central
Bank is not sustainable, especially in the context
of declining receipts. Our members are at
risk when bureaucracy affects their payment
and decision-making processes.
Why would a country continue to build its
foreign reserves when our membership cannot
access the currency needed to meet the legit-
imate needs of their businesses?
Businesses are suffering, ladies and gentle-
men, and we must find solutions.
Dealing with these known difficulties are
enough of a challenge for our membership,
however, within the past 72 hours, the nation
was held to ransom by those who are expected
to "protect and serve." The losses to business
are still being quantified, and the inconvenience
and trauma on the lives of our law abiding
citizens will never be fully appreciated.
TTPS acting Commissioner Alleyne Daly
has apologised to the nation and today I am
suggesting that we accept this apology. How-
ever, the T&T Chamber is demanding that
the planned investigation into the events on
Monday March 23 be completed expeditiously
and with full transparency. We will be following
the developments here closely and expect that
the appropriate disciplinary action will be
Let me take this opportunity to thank the
citizens for acting responsibility in very trying
Today, I think we again stand at a defining
juncture in our history, as we continue to work
collectively and collaboratively to build our
beloved country. The T&T Chamber has, at
different times, been perceived as being for
or against a political administration, I ask
those who hold political office on both sides
of the Parliament to view our gestures as sin-
cere contributions for the betterment of the
country, and to embrace the constructive and
positive aspects of what we offer.
Within a few months, citizens will be return-
ing to the ballot, and the T&T Chamber will
again be lending assistance to the Debates
Commission to ensure a successful Leaders
May I use this opportunity to remind the
Prime Minister of her commitment in
2010 and again at the last local government
elections in 2013, to participate in the Lead-
ers Debate. We look forward to the signed
commitment from the leaders of both the
People s Partnership and the People s National
Movement. Such debates will afford those
aspiring to high office to present at their
most self-confident and informed, allowing
them to demonstrate accountability and
responsibility in their past roles and future
plans; so that our people will go to the
polls more enlightened about the choices
they wish to make.
Let me now challenge our own business
community. The highest expression of
enlightened business interest is when self-
interest is aligned to national interest to pro-
duce extraordinary benefits to both.
This is the bedrock of corporate social
responsibility. In this, all our members
and staff are required to take the first step
by signing our members code of ethical con-
duct and, thereafter, to live its values in the
way we conduct business and deal with each
other and the rest of the country and the
This is the historic responsibility to
which each one of us is now called to action.
I am a firm believer that at each defining
moment in our nation s history, T&T has
found men and women in the business com-
munity willing to respond to the call for lead-
ership and solutions. Even with our many
challenges, we are in a better position
than numerous countries to face the future
with confidence because of the
work and commitment of those who went
This is our moment to join forces with
each other and with the other interest groups
in the republic to forge a consensus response
to the way forward.
Let us not be overwhelmed by our differ-
ences, but empowered by our common inter-
est in a viable, prosperous and progressive
T&T, confident in its democracy.
Today, I ask of you to not let history find
APRIL 2015 • WEEK TWO www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG17
T&T Chamber of
Industry and Commerce
Let our common interest guide us
President of the T&T Chamber:
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