Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 11th 2013 Contents A19
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Although T&T ranked 92 out of 148 coun-
tries on this year s World Economic Forum s
(WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI)
Kelvin Mahabir, President of invesTT is con-
fident that the country will improve steadily
in future rankings.
In an op-ed published on the agency's web-
site, Mahabir said the current ranking is "not
exactly where we want to be, but it's still too
early to see the impact of some of the work
we've been doing over the past year."
Among the initiatives he expects to improve
T&T's position on the GCI is the Council for
Competitiveness and Innovation, an advisory
team launched last year within the Ministry
of Planning, to work closely with local com-
panies to boost innovation and productivity.
Mahabir said: "This year's score is not the
whole story. According to the WEF report,
Trinidad got high marks for its investment
climate in key areas: infrastructure, macro-
economics, basic health and education, tech-
nological readiness, financial market devel-
opment, legal rights and low trade barriers.
"The competitiveness report affirmed
Trinidad's independent judiciary and investor
protection policies, important legal protections
to protect foreign direct investment (FDI) cap-
ital. The country's economy shows long-term
stability; its credit rating and gross national
savings earned scores higher than 70 per cent
of countries ranked.
"For foreign direct investors, the total tax
rate as a percentage of profits is low, earning
Trinidad 35th place out of the 148 countries
ranked. Foreign private companies pay only
25 per cent of taxable income in tax, and com-
panies eligible to build on a free zone get total
According to Mahabur, while T&T is still
struggling with crime and bureaucracy, Gov-
ernment is improving the country's business-
friendliness through policy and legislative
changes. He said "scored fairly well" for quality
of infrastructure, reliability of the electricity
supply , a good support base for FDI projects
in information and communication technolo-
gies (ICT), business process outsourcing/Eng-
lish voice services and light manufacturing.
He said: "The competitiveness report also
notes Trinidad's capacity to attract skilled
labour (ranked 22 out of 148) based on its
mature energy, marine and financial service
"Its high-quality tertiary management
schools (ranked 34th out of 148), math and
science education (36th out of 148) and avail-
ability of scientists and engineers (ranked 48th
out of 148) show evidence of a better knowl-
edge-based labour pool than many of
"Institutional and financial stability are big
pillars for Trinidad's growth. The Central Bank
of Trinidad and Tobago's mid-year 2013 Sum-
mary Economic Bulletin shows a 1.6 per cent
growth in the local economy over the last six
months. The country's banks are very sound
(ranked number 37th out of 148). And Trinidad
scored 9 out of 10 on the legal rights index,
placing 12th out of 148 countries and proving
its protective banking legislation as one of the
best in the world."
Mahabir said Government had made ICT
and financial services development pivotal in
its development plan and cited TTBizLink as
an example of public sector ICT project, making
it easier for companies to liaise with and submit
documents to multiple government agencies.
He also pointed oiut that T&T's International
Financial Centre (TTIFC) facilitated Scotia-
bank's reinvestment in a Trinidad-based
regional back-office hub.
"The Canadian banking giant boosted the
financial services industry when it chose
Trinidad over the 30 other Caribbean and
Latin American countries where it operates,
months after another Canadian bank, RBC,
opened its own back-office hub to service
Trinidad and the Dutch Caribbean," he said.
Mahabir said T&T's GCI ranking will
improve, wioth InvesTT "leading the way as
a one-stop shop for foreign investors".
He added: "Partner agencies are doing their
part, like Evolving Tecknologies and Enterprise
Development Company Limited (eTecK) which
is investing in new industrial parks and upgrad-
ing existing ones. This will boost our capability
as an attractive business location."
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and
Investment in collaboration with the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) began a week-
long Trade Facilitation National Needs
Assessment Workshop on Monday.
The five-day event is being hosted at the
Capital Plaza, Port-of-Spainand is designed
to assess T&T's compliance with the rules
and obligations currently being negotiated
in the WTO Forum on Trade Facilitation.
Delivering special remarks at the opening
ceremony, Permanent Secretary . Sandra
Indar said "the Needs Assessment Workshop
seeks to assist our negotiators in effectively
identifying Technical Assistance needs and
Special and Differential treatment in the
implementation of the Trade Facilitation
Agreement, being negotiated under the
Doha Development Agenda".
"The mandate for the negotiations is to
further expedite the movement, release and
clearance of goods in transit, and the need
for enhanced technical assistance and capac-
ity building in this area," she said.
"As the Government seeks to diversify
the economy away from a dependence on
the energy sector, and to increase the global
profile of the country, one of the major
goals is to improve the country's ability to
effectively negotiate, conduct business and
facilitate trade with other countries."
T&T has been an active participant in
the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation
(NGTF), since the negotiations in August
2004, by means of a Geneva-based repre-
sentative and more lately a capital repre-
Speaking to a cross section of approxi-
mately 40 stakeholders, Indar said the
country's specific objectives in the nego-
tiation of an agreement on trade facilitation
are key elements in improving the ease of
doing business which include creating trans-
parency and predictability for domestic
exporters; reducing the time for processing
documents and clearance of goods; reducing
transaction costs; improving the operations
of Border agencies through technical assis-
tance and capacity building and linking the
introduction of new commitments to tech-
nical assistance and capacity-building".
Stakeholders at the workshop included
technical officers from Ministry of Food
Production; T&T Bureau of Standards; Port
Authority of T&T; Customs and Excise
Division and exporTT.
Ministry hosts trade
Permanent Secretary Sandra Indar, left, in conversation with WTO representatives at the
National Flour Mills (NFM(,
which made a profit of $13.3
million for the year ended
December 31, 2012, has potential
for further growth, Finance
Minister Larry Howai said yes-
terday as he explained who
investors are being sought for
"There is a lot of opportunity
to expand the business, to diver-
sify it a little more, to make it
a little more efficient and effec-
tive and they would need addi-
tional capital," he said.
Asked whether Government
planned to pump more funds
into NFM, Howai said there are
no immediate plans.
"Government is not in a posi-
tion to inject capital into these
State Enterprises, of the size (of
funding) they would require.
NFM is already quoted on the
local Stock Exchange.
He said NFM profits increased
but "it is not where one would
like to see it---it is profitable, I
think they need to get a better
return." ---Nadaleen Singh
Howai: NFM has potential for further growth
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