Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 1st 2017 Contents President of the T&T Chamber of Industry and
Commerce, Ronald Hinds, says it has taken too
long for diversification of T&T's economy to
be top priority.
A coherent plan for diversification should
span over decades and multiple administra-
tions and not over a short time. A diversification plan can't
stand alone, but needs agreement by all, he said.
"With each change in political administration, the party
winning power has taken between 18 and 24 months to move
from translating simple, but obligatory lines in its manifesto
in support of diversification to an executable plan," Hinds said
in emailed responses to the Business Guardian.
"In that critical period (18-24 months) more resources are
devoted to decrying the plans of the previous administration
than on learning from and building a more mature and de-
Hinds' comments come weeks after the announcement that
T&T's credit rating had been downgraded by international
rating agencies Standard and Poor's as well as Moody's. The
two rating agencies had suggested that T&T should look for
alternative revenue sources outside of oil and gas.
What is clear, Hinds said, is the need for T&T to find a way
to, "encourage, force, or by some other means have our political
leaders agree to work together on a practical implementable
vision for the country."
National awareness and consensus need to be heightened
about T&T's vision for the economy and for society in order
for a long-term diversification plan to be successful.
Offering suggestions on how the services sector can assist
in boosting T&T's diversification thrust, Hinds said doing
business needs to become easier as there is too much bureau-
cracy in the public service delivery system.
"Tourism in Tobago is one element of the service sector that
can boost T&T's diversification thrust but the obstacles need to
be removed. The obstacles include: inadequate infrastructure
at air and sea ports, inadequate airlift from possible external
markets and shortage of service-oriented labour," Hinds said.
Lauding the plans for a Sandals Hotel in Tobago, he said
those investors are likely to be asking for the business envi-
ronment to be tidied up first.
"What we can say is that no significant investment will
be made if the environment is such that there is not a high
likelihood of success. The reality is that Sandals or BP each
has more negotiating leverage with any government than a
group of small or emerging entrepreneurs."
If diversification is to happen it can't be business as usual.
Changes need to be made and T&T either has to do things that
we either have not done before, or on a scale that we have not
done before, Hinds said.
Tremendous potential for tourism
Stating that the tourism sector is an amalgam of inter-relat-
ed products and services such as agriculture, transportation,
manufacturing, security, art, fashion, culinary, Lisa Shandilya
director of the Chancellor Hotel in St Ann's, said it is those
products/services that are used to attract an international
In emailed responses, she said, "Despite the competitive
market of other Caribbean destinations, the potential for eco-
nomic diversification is tremendous (in T&T), as both islands
are unique to capture a wider cross-section of tourists. How-
ever, this requires investments in public expenditure specific
to product development to drive demand.
"The deliverables of tourism are the tangible experiences
for tourists, job security, environmental awareness, SME
development to name a few."
Critical of the initiatives that have been put in place for
tourism, Shandilya described the initiatives as "sporadic,
undefined and whimsical. Even the public rhetoric is well
rehearsed, which leads me to believe that only 'missteps'
would be in the front burner."
She said, generally, the tourism sector is reliant on forecast
information and targeted marketing strategies. If that is not
done with a plan for future growth and expansion then tourists
would not be attracted to a destination like T&T.
"There must be a clear vision with the ability to attract
potential business. Spending on infrastructure, adherence
to building codes, having our natural attractions comply to
international standards; improving the marine transport
between islands; having an investment plan to attract mul-
ti-million dollar investors; improve service , security, food
supply, develop ports, zoning of areas with rest stops, etc."
She suggested if the targeted number of visitor arrivals is
to be achieved, the strategies must be crafted to reflect this.
"Whatever the strategic direction by the tourism directors
in Trinidad, and in Tobago, it should be aligned to the targeted
niche that is being developed.
"I can only assume that the director in Trinidad and the
team of advisers are working leaps and bounds to have their
strategies committed to meet their targeted increase in inbound
tourism by year end 2017."
David Lewis, CEO of Label House Group Ltd (LHGL) said
in order to achieve diversification in printing and packaging,
there is need to create a cluster with the various stakeholders
in the sector.
In an interview last Wednesday, Lewis said there are 10
different types of specialised printing that the entire Carib-
bean region can depend on if it was clustered. One company
can't grow on its own by
having all the equipment,
warehouses and other es-
sentials, he said.
"We need clusters so
somebody takes the load
off me to buy the material.
I will acquire the machin-
ery, and another person
can fix the machinery so
I don't have to hire the
technicians. That's how
a cluster works each one
of the units grow because
they are feeding (doing
business) from the other
Substantiating his argu-
ment for a cluster, Lewis
said in a cluster all services
are rented and that means
the business owner can
now have time to focus on
developing the appropriate
expansion strategy for their company.
"Clusters work around ideas. Millionaires are created out
of ideas but, as soon as the ideas guy is bogged down having
to do everything, you cannot blossom. The diversification
opportunity of T&T is to quickly decide what are the products
we can make for the Caribbean region and cluster it."
Resources can be used more efficiently when a cluster is in
place and therefore costs are cut.
Manufacturers Association president Christopher Alcazar
called for changes to be made to the environment for doing
business so investors can be attracted to T&T.
He said for far too long diversification has been talked about
and when there is a drop in oil prices that's when the conver-
sation on diversification becomes heightened.
"The Government has an integral role in the process (of
diversification) since government makes policy. Those poli-
cies, regulatory and otherwise, need to allow manufacturers
in other sectors outside of the energy sector, to want to invest
and reinvest as well as retool and re-engineer their opera-
tions. But this will not happen if a predictable, transparent
and enabling environment is not created."
There is need for the population to have a greater under-
standing about the downturn and the state of the economy,
"Rather than cutting back, our people also need to have the
mindset of innovating, growing, supporting local industry,
changing tastes and priorities. If we only think about cutting
back and tightening our belts, our economy will continue to
contract and we will not have the tools to recover."
The government plays an integral role in increasing the
diversification thrust, said Alcazar.
"If there are no incentives to the manufacturer for example,
many may choose to become distributors rather than man-
ufacturers, since running a plant and all that comes with it
would not be as profitable as bringing in an already-produced
item from a country that has a better environment in which
to efficiently produce.
"The economy of that country will continue to thrive, and
our entrepreneurs would essentially stop innovating, and the
industry and all that it brings with it---greater employment
and increased foreign exchange---would begin to contract."
Alcazar is confident that local manufacturers can take a
leading role in T&T's diversification efforts.
"Those who are not exporting, thus far, are also doing their
part in reducing the import bill and satisfying the local market
with goods contributing to the nation's food security," he said.
"We are well aware that the energy economy continues to
account for the majority of our annual revenue and that the
manufacturing sector still has much growth to do in order to
truly make a difference in the diversification thrust.
BG6 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JUNE 1 • 2017
Chamber president on T&T's future
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