Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2017 Contents Senior manager for electronic channels and
payments at Republic Bank, Kwame Blanchfield,
says that increasing levels of mobile penetration
will be the driving force for the future of electronic
"What we do with our phones will significantly
affect electronic payments in the future. In the US
'tap and go' through mobile devices has been grow-
ing and it's something that will likely be demanded
here as well," Blanchfield said as he delivered an
address entitled E-Payments in T&T: Perceptions,
Challenges & Opportunities at the T&T Chamber
of Industry and Commerce head office in West-
moorings on Monday.
Blanchfield was among a panel of speakers at an
event called Understanding Automated Clearing
House Payments Systems put on by the ICT Pro
TT committee of the chamber.
The e-payments manager added that access to
financial services in T&T was very high compared
to international standards.
"According to data from the Central Bank, there
are over 600,000 debit cards in circulation nation-
ally. There are also over 250,000 credit cards and
80,000 prepaid cards in national circulation as well.
So for a labour force of about 620,000, these are solid
numbers and show the extent to which T&T par-
ticipates in the global electronic payment system."
Remaining with the data, Blanchfield noted that
digital and elec-
were dominated by
"The seniors and baby boomers don't conduct as
many online transactions as the generation X and
millennial generation. They prefer more brick and
mortar transactions as opposed to millennials who
grew up in the digital era and lead in digital adoption
and online shopping."
Also speaking at the event was Shiva Bissessar,
managing director of IT firm Pinaka Technology
Solutions, who commented on the evolving rela-
tionships in the financial and technological space.
He said: "What we're are seeing is that banks are
being swallowed up by telcos. Telcos are being hit by
start-ups, and companies like Amazon and Apple
are gobbling up these start-ups. So this put things
into perspective for traditional financial institutions
in terms of how long can they last with all these
players taking small bites at you."
The entrepreneur added that if T&T were intent
on playing a larger role in the international financial
community, it needed to embrace and accelerate
adoption of digital financial technology, particularly
in the area of digital currency.
"There are many opportunities in the digital space
that we could lose out on if we don't move quick-
ly enough. Areas such as digital currency provide
opportunities that can be explored and developed."
He said: "Since 2014, we've seen increased lev-
els of interest in the digital currency space. The
Caribbean Telecommunications Union has set up
a Digital Currency Working Group which is chaired
by a Central Bank representative of which I am a
part as well. So we're seeing some changes taking
place in this area."
Bissessar also highlighted the work done in the
UK, hailing the country as "one of the leading in-
novators and supporters of activity in the financial
technology (FinTech) space.
"We can learn a lot from the United Kingdom and
their approach to Fintech. They stimulated inno-
vation and they put £10 million towards research
into the development of digital currency. They also
created a regulatory framework and they are explor-
ing new business models in the electronic payments
area," Bissesar said.
JUNE 15 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
Like other critics of free market econom-
ics, he argues that the current economic
system under which T&T operates and that
dominates globally is inherently anti-labour
and is the cause for the growing divide be-
tween rich and poor worldwide.
"Thus we see the wave of divestments,
attempts at privatisation, the shift toward
private medical care at the expense of the
public health system, the downsizing of the
public service, attacks on social benefits, the
entrenching of contract labour, subsidies for
transnational corporations, mass retrench-
ments and a growing inequality between the
tiny elite at the top and the rest of society."
He concluded by saying the critics have
been saying for decades that labour unions
are a dying breed but they have been proven
"For decades we have heard the man-
tra,that trade unions are no longer rele-
vant in the modern world, that we are all
social partners and should all hug up and
"The fact is that trade unions developed as
a consequence of the development of capi-
talism. And as long as capitalism exists there
will be a need for trade unions," he said.
Michael Annisette, general secretary, Na-
tional Trade Union Centre (Natuc) told the
Business Guardian on Monday that trade
unions are still relevant 80 years after the
"This is not a new debate. Even during
the 1930s people were debating about the
relevance of organised labour. It is the same
struggle between the haves and have nots,
except in newer ways," he said.
Annisette said the labour movement was
important in bringing about positive changes
over the past 80 years but added that some
of these have been "token changes."
"We enjoy an eight-hour work day now,
maternity rights, a minimum wage and other
benefits but the economic system has not
changed much. There are still the political
elitists and the big businesses who command
a powerful presence in the society," he said.
Annisette admitted that there has been a
decline in the size of the trade union move-
ment worldwide because of the new struc-
ture of the global economy and said trade
unions must find new ways to stay relevant.
"Globalisation is not new. If you go back
to the Industrial Revolution in England there
was the wealth divide and a struggle between
the wealthy and the poorer classes.
"Now in the 21st century, we have con-
tract employment, outsourcing of labour,
new industries coming into existence where
employees are not unionised and all of these
have impacted on trade unions ability to re-
main relevant," he said.
Annisette estimates that less that 20 per
cent of T&T's workforce is unionised and
that there are more than 80,000 members
in Natuc, which is adding new bargaining
units, proving that labour unions are far
"People are beginning to understand the
power in collective action. Globally, we are
seeing the widening gap between the rich
and the poor and this is where trade unions
will remain relevant. As long as there are
people who own the wealth and people who
do not, we will be speaking about these is-
sues, 100 years from now," he said.
In a statement to the Business Guardian
on Monday, the ECA acknowledged that
the labour movement is an important so-
cial partner in advancing the rights of the
working class of the country.
However, the ECA said the country is
plagued with very challenging and "ex-
tremely turbulent circumstances" at this
"It is in this regard that the ECA is par-
ticularly saddened at the fragile state of
our industrial relations climate, especially
given the challenges at hand and the need
to weather the storm.
"Of particular concern is the current
stalemate we seem to have reached with
regards to established mechanisms for
social dialogue, in particular the National
Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC), which
is now inoperative just one year after it was
Like the trade union movement, the ECA
also admitted the world of work has been
transformed in the 21st century and T&T
must keep up to date with the changes.
"The world of work has been transformed,
primarily influenced by the impact of the
technological revolution. The use of robotics
and the introduction of digitisation at source
are all some of the contributing factors to
Quite naturally, therefore, the conversa-
tion between the tripartite partners has to
change in ways that will not only significant-
ly reduce the current levels of antagonism
fuelled by mistrust and lack of respect, but,
more importantly, move the conversation to
one where parties are determined and com-
mitted to come to the table with a common
understanding as to what actions will be in
the national interest of our future."
The ECA said that it is afraid the economic
and social situation in T&T will only worsen,
if action is not taken to remedy the problems
"We have already begun to experience
the detrimental effects of a platform that
continues to burn and the ECA fears this
will only worsen unless some positive col-
laborative intervention takes place.
"In addition to those challenges, our in-
stitutions are crumbling before our eyes.
Values have been thrown out of the window;
honesty, integrity and respect for each other
have become a thing of the past.
"It is therefore now an imperative for so-
cial partners to put aside cultural, social,
political and historical differences and ob-
jectively sit around the table to engage in
meaningful dialogue in the interest of T&T
and its future sustainability and growth.
There can be no progress without dialogue."
To remain competitive in a globalised
world, the ECA said tripartite dialogue is
"Even as many national stakeholders
rightfully clamour for the modernisation
and strengthening of labour legislation and
institutions, tripartite dialogue must be cen-
tral to this process so as to ensure we remain
on par with the realities of a changing global
landscape, while safeguarding the rights of
workers and advancing the interests of the
From Page 6
TUBAL URIAH "BUZZ" BUTLER
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