Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 23rd 2017 Contents As the recently appointed pres-
ident of the T&T Manufac-
turing Association, Chris-
topher Alcazar's vision for
the organisation---and for
the country---is for more
young people to become entrepreneurs.
Alcazar, a father of two, said he wants to
focus on the next generation of innovators,
entrepreneurs and manufacturers during his
tenure as president.
He added that his focus on driving young
people to become innovators, entrepreneurs
and manufacturers would contribute to en-
suring the sustainability of the local manu-
Alcazar is a graduate of the University of
Tampa and has a degree in management.
Explaining the rationale for his strategic
intent to encourage young people in entrepre-
neurship, Alcazar said he wanted to examine,
"how we (the TTMA) are reaching out to them
(youths) to see how our industry is liked, to
entice them to the industry, to tap them into
the next generation. These creative young
people must come up and continue to build
the manufacturing sector in T&T."
Alcazar, a St Mary's College graduate, spoke
to the Business Guardian on Tuesday at the
Diamond Vale Industrial Estate headquarters
of food manufacturer and importer, Vemco,
where he is the company's chief executive.
He said the association has started working
on its strategy to encourage young people in
entrepreneurship at the level of schools, firstly,
and then within the wider community.
"I would like to develop programmes where
the manufacturers engage students and vice
versa. I want the manufacturers to be able to
go out to UWI, other tertiary education in-
stitutions where there are graduates who are
ready for the world of work. We must tap into
that entrepreneurial spirit and really find the
ones that want to do something."
Like most business groups in T&T, manu-
facturers on the whole are faced with a chal-
lenging business environment comprising an
unabated shortage of US currency, productiv-
ity challenges, an economic downturn, crime,
a high cost of labour among other issues.
Clearly not daunted by the challenges his
membership faces in the external environ-
ment, Alcazar said it simply means more
dialogue has to occur among the various
On the issue of the shortage of US curren-
cy Alcazar said currently, manufacturers are
being hit with a "double whammy" because
of low oil and gas prices, globally, and lower
"The manufacturers understand this means
there is going to be a smaller pot of forex for
all of us. I think from a TTMA presidency
standpoint, what I need to do is really be
working with the different parties such as
the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade,
Eximbank, Central Bank of T&T and all the
stakeholders in that regard to really find some
form of workable solution that will allow us to
be able to prioritise the little forex we have."
Alcazar, who is a former executive of As-
sociated Brands Industries Ltd, noted that
manufacturers help to reduce T&T's import
bill and, in some cases, some manufacturers
are net foreign exchange earners.
This means, he said, a method for grow-
ing exports needs to be established through
working with ExporTT and Eximbank. It also
means getting manufacturers who are estab-
lished exporters to increase their volume and to
get companies that are not exporting to begin
Cost of crime
When asked about crime as an obstacle to
doing business, Alcazar said there is a cost
impact which has a domino effect on foreign
and local investment.
He said instead of spending money on re-
sources to do business, his members must
now spend it on initiatives to prevent crime.
According to Alcazar, some of those measures
include anti-theft measures and anti-fraud
"Rather than spending on innovation, de-
velopment of our people, investment in our
plants, resources are going in the wrong di-
rection because of necessity and certainly this
is going to hold us back."
Asked whether he has held talks with the
National Security Minister, Alcazar said the
association has committees in place that
would have been in dialogue with the min-
ister and other law enforcement officials.
What is clear, he said, the dialogue on crime
would not stop.
Labour and productivity
Alcazar said low productivity is not an issue
facing the manufacturing sector alone but an
issue facing T&T.
In order to address the productivity levels
in companies within his membership, there is
need to ensure employees are achieving their
goals while companies achieve theirs.
Asked whether the cost of labour is tearing
into the bottom lines of companies, he said:
"What it really is all about is getting the em-
ployees involved in your operations, making
their goals your company's goals and letting
them be a deeper part of your organisation."
More work is needed to improve the indus-
trial relations climate in T&T, he said.
Asked whether he believed manufacturers
have a good relationship with trade unions, the
Industrial Court and the other stakeholders
in the labour sector, Alcazar said:
"I am not sure I can speak to what all the
relationships are. I will certainly say that the
relationship manufacturers are trying to have
with unions is trying to be progressive and
trying to move things along in the right di-
rection for both parties. I don't think either is
trying to take advantage of the other. We are
just trying to work together to achieve goals."
Trade and Investment
TTMA will host the 18th Trade and Invest-
ment Convention between July 6 and 9.
In 2016, the TTMA---along with supporting
entities such as Ministry of Trade--- have done
business with Cuba and Venezuela.
Giving an update on Cuba, Alcazar said that
market has a great deal of potential.
"We do have a few manufacturers that have
got in there and I know one or two that are
right now on their way in. I think we have to
continue to leverage that relationship. Much
of that is going to have to begin with the gov-
"I think the decision by Trade Minister
Paula Gopee-Scoon to travel on the last trade
mission in October 2016 made a difference
and signalled to the Cuban government how
serious we are."
He predicted that the Cuban market would
grow in terms of exports from here.
Referring to Venezuela, Alcazar said that
market also has potential for T&T but "what
we have to be able to do is really push (the
relations) along a government-to-govern-
"What we have seen when the manufac-
turers have tried to take it over directly is that
things were starting to break down, responses
were starting to slow down."
He added that the minister is aware that
there is need to keep the conversation going
on a government-to-government basis when
it comes to Venezuela.
On the issue of Jamaica, he said the im-
balance of trade still exists in T&T's favour,
but what is clear is that there is need to work
with the manufacturers in Jamaica to ensure
workable solutions can be found.
Regarding Guyana, Alcazar said it is a fruit-
ful market for his members.
"In terms of a market (Guyana) the food and
Beverage is doing very well in terms of export.
We do a lot of business in Guyana. The food
and beverage sector has been exporting for
Alcazar said the Government can assist by
creating the enabling environment and by
providing support through legislation and
MARCH 23 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
New TTMA boss:
PHOTO: DAVID WEARS
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