Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2015 Contents A5
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Crime continues to be a major
concern for business in T&T and
while the T&T Chamber of Indus-
try and Commerce has whole-
heartedly concurred with the
strengthening of the national secu-
rity infrastructure, there is a similar
need to enhance the regulatory
framework, urged the chamber s
president Robert Trestrail.
He was speaking at the chamber s
annual post-Budget panel discussion
at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain,
Saying the chamber noted that
national security has been the recip-
ient of the largest allocation in the
2015/2016 Budget, Trestrail said the
experience of Clico and HCU had
mandated a commitment to put in
place the right governance structures
and legislative reforms that would
address all types of crime and cor-
He added: "The T&T Chamber
is heartened that the Government
has signalled its intention to lay out
its full legislative agenda within the
"Among the pieces of legislation
to be addressed will be the long
awaited Insurance Bill. At present,
we are functioning under an Insur-
ance Act that was enacted some 35
"This along with changes to the
credit union legislation is long over-
due and need to be addressed expe-
"Other legislations to enhance
regulatory oversight have also been
identified, including those governing
the Securities and Exchange Com-
mission, the Financial Intelligence
Unit and the Central Bank," Trestrail
In identifying a few initiatives
that immediately stood out during
the Budget presentation, Trestrail
said Government must be congrat-
ulated for its promise to amend the
existing procedures for appointment
of a Commissioner of Police and
his deputies and allowing for video-
conferencing facilities at the Remand
Yard and giving the Judiciary the
ability to manage its own resources.
"All of these are due to begin
implementation in 2016 and the
T&T Chamber trusts that wherever
applicable, proper governance pro-
cedures will be put in place to
ensure accountability," Trestrail
He said while the Budget iden-
tified a number of positive initia-
tives, a main concern for the T&T
Chamber was the unsustainable
deficit of $21.4 billion.
Focusing on the business sector,
Trestrail said it had been no secret
that there have been several issues
affecting business confidence, most
notably the availability of foreign
He noted: "Our economy has
been consistently experiencing
declining economic growth attrib-
uted to contractions in the energy
sector, coupled with sluggish per-
formance in the manufacturing sec-
"Credit to the private sector has
only marginally expanded over the
past year, illustrating that there is
a lack of confidence to invest along-
side a lack of investment oppor-
tunities in which the private sector
"In yesterday s (Monday) Budget
there was an acknowledgement of
the impact that foreign exchange
shortages have had on the business
sector and we look forward to the
changes that would ensure an ade-
quate supply for legitimate trans-
actions and clearing the backlog of
requests," Trestrail added.
Government is moving very aggressively
to operationalise its International Financial
Centre with the hope of major Chinese banks
establishing its headquarters in T&T, says
Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
He was speaking at yesterday s annual post-
Budget discussion hosted by the T&T Chamber
"We will be making overtures to these Chi-
nese banks to set up their regional headquarters
here as there is tremendous opportunity,"
And in the midst of painting a gloomy picture
of T&T s economy during his 2015/2016 Budget
presentation, Imbert said his Government
would move full speed ahead with the rapid
rail project, once the Inter-American Devel-
opment Bank (IDB) gave the nod.
He added: "We are going full speed ahead
with this project but we want to make sure
we are not accused of being reckless and getting
involved in a vanity project.
"We are convinced that our studies and fig-
ures are accurate and we simply want an inter-
national agency to confirm and validate our
"Our target is to initiate commencement of
this project by the end of September 2016. We
are giving ourselves a year to make sure all the
costings are correct, the approach is correct
and to secure a contractor."
He said there were two reasons why Gov-
ernment was approaching the IDB.
"They have offered to finance this project
and the IDB does not finance projects of this
nature unless they are satisfied that it makes
"We are not going to fund the project in the
way the Pt Fortin Highway project has been
funded which had been funded out of the
Consolidated Fund... out of general revenues...
and that is why that project is always in trouble
because there is just isn t enough money,"
He said funding for the highway should have
been raised either internationally or locally.
During the question and answer segment
the issue of taxing online shopping was also
raised. However, Imbert said that was a com-
plicated matter which needed time to be worked
out before implementation.
"I had many proposals that we should put
a tax to online shopping but I did not put a
tax, the reason being how would you monitor
and regulate such a situation?
"How do you know when somebody has a
charge on their credit card whether that was
a purchase they made while abroad or at home
in front their computer. There are some
countries that attempted this but it is incred-
ibly complex," Imbert added.
Regarding the Government Assistance for
Tuition Expenses (GATE) Programme Imbert
said since it was implemented some 11 years
ago, the participation rate in higher education
had moved from 11 per cent to 60 per cent.
"We are now at the level of developed
countries. The time has come now to ratio-
nalise all of this so we need to refocus and
repurpose our thrust into education and
higher education," Imbert said.
He said Government also intended to have
a national dialogue on the future of GATE.
Call for laws to fight corruption
Imbert on T&T's Financial Centre:
Govt looks to woo Chinese bankers
President of the T&T Chamber of Industry
and Commerce, Robert Trestrail, addresses an
audience during the chamber's annual post
budget analysis at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-
Spain yesterday. PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
Scores of university graduates, particularly in
the oil and gas sector, are unable to find jobs as oil
companies across the world have cancelled their
graduate employment programmes.
Imbert said: "I was really taken by the plight of
people who are graduating in the oil and gas field...
petroleum engineers... geoscientists... all of the oil
companies have cancelled their graduate
employment programmes... not just in T&T but all
over the world.
"For the first time in a number of years we have
a number of unemployed petroleum engineers
and petroleum geoscientists who are unemployed.
"So one of the stimuli for creating the graduate
employment programme was to deal with all of
these unemployed university graduates, some of
whom might even be national scholarship winners
who simply cannot get a job. We would start the
process by employing 500 of these graduates,"
On the country's assets he said T&T had
enough to carry it through 2017, including that of
the Republic Back shares which, he said,
Government intended to dispose of within the
next two years.
He said: "I thought it would have been too much
for the system if we attempted to dispose of the
Republic Bank shares in 2015 and we would be
having comprehensive discussions with the board
of Republic Bank, the entire banking sector and
"There are two alternatives with the disposal of
the shares. One is to sell it to a foreign
investor.which is attracting a lot of negative
attention and to sell it on the local market.
"So we are going to have in-depth consultation
to work out the best way of disposing with the
shares. That will help us with our budgetary
support for 2017 but after that the cupboard
would be empty," Imbert said.
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