Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 5th 2013 Contents DECEMBER 2013 • WEEK ONE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie
is optimistic that the Central
Statistical Office (CSO) will
relocate to new office space in
The CSO is currently operating from a tem-
porary location on Park Street, Port-of-Spain,
having moved out its operations from Inde-
pendence Square in May due to health and
The CSO has been plagued with several
challenges over the years:
• a shortage of qualified technical staff
• unavailability of timely data
• operating from several temporary loca-
"Recently, it was closed down because of
the health hazard issues having to do with the
building. That set us back even more. The
employees continue to work despite the difficult
position they were placed in. But we are in
negotiation to have a new office for them by
next year. It could be in Port-of-Spain or some
where accessible, like Trincity, or somewhere
else," Tewarie said.
The Business Guardian interviewed Tewarie
on Monday at his office in the Eric Williams
Financial Complex, Independence Square,
In spite of these constraints, Tewarie said
the CSO manages to carry out its mandate
"The CSO does all the work it is supposed
to do fairly well. It provides the growth domes-
tic product (GDP) every year, it provides the
inflation figures every month. It works on
trade statistics, which is now up-to-date. But
the trade statistics have some problems because
of the Asycuda system.
"The real challenge is the unemployment
figures. We are two quarters behind in the
unemployment figures. That is because when
the census started, a lot of resources were
deployed into that. By September 2014, we
hope they catch up," he said.
Tewarie said he should not be blamed for
the challenges facing the CSO.
"Whatever happened to the CSO happened
over 20 years. I just happened to inherit the
problems at this time and I have to solve the
problems. I am not complaining, but I am
trying to solve the problems. The work of the
CSO is not to be viewed lightly or negatively.
It is a very constructive agency."
Following the Ministry of Public Adminis-
tration finalising a contract with Statistics
Sweden to reorganise the CSO, the Government
now has the consultants report, which looked
at four areas.
"The four main areas of the report are to
tie the CSO to the sources of supply of infor-
"The second one is to tie the CSO with the
sources of demand, that is, the people who
want and use the information.
"The third is an ICT system, which we are
establishing, and which is sophisticated enough
to deal with that.
"The fourth is to get the high quality human
resources to offer the leadership and direc-
He said the CSO has quality staff, but they
are too few. The CSO is now looking at staffing
with international experts, including a new
"We do need new resources and synergy.
We have used United Nations consultants in
the past, we have got help from the Interna-
tional Monetary Fund (IMF) for the inflation
issue. I brought the UN in for the UNDP Atlas
and the census to ensure it met international
standards. We will probably bring the IMF
and UN again for the transformation exer-
Tewarie said the CSO has been issuing accu-
rate information, but admitted it has not always
"I will not complain about the funding. We
must fix it and make it into a better institu-
Tewarie intends to bring legislation to Par-
liament to make the CSO into an independent
"This legislation is in terms of data gathering
and data dissemination."
Revamping the Cocoa Board
On the issue of diversification of the econ-
omy, Tewarie said work has been done to
advance the cocoa industry.
"We have had a serious, collaborative
arrangement with the Cocoa Research Institute
here and Prof Pathmanathan Umaharan, who
heads that, is a genetic scientist.
"On the basis of his work and studies done
on the cocoa industry, we have identified all
the critical elements on the value chain. We
have also the issues related to production,
including the stimulation of higher yields and
the ways in which the land and cocoa trees
can be more productive. We also looked at
the structure of the industry, which has not
changed for 100 years. The Ministry of Food
Production is now co-ordinating that," he said.
"From this the industry will be organised
differently and we can receive much more of
the value for cocoa. There are some players
here making chocolates in T&T and they are
doing well in the regional and international
markets, including key places like Brussels,
where there is a demand for high quality
"Recently, the ambassador of Switzerland
to T&T visited T&T and we made it clear to
them we want more value to the cocoa and
we are willing to partners with international
partners. We do not want to be involved in
the export of cocoa seeds, but be involved in
the value chain."
Pottery as a growth pole
The minister gave the example of central
Trinidad s pottery industry having the potential
as a growth pole.
"We are going to meet with key stakeholders
in central Trinidad early in January. We are
going to discuss some of these areas with
them. We have engaged the stakeholders in
the pottery industry already and we are going
to bring them together for the synergies
required. There are problems in the industry,
but there are also opportunities there, too,"
"A group of pottery owners was taken to
Europe in 2012. In the first day they were
there, everything they carried were sold out.
There is a lot of potential there. This was a
private sector initiative. In the central growth
pole, we are also looking at business services,
retail trade, logistics, cultural and heritage
tourism, agro-business, along with the pottery
"The energy industry is the biggest con-
tributor to the GDP of this country, but we
are also aware it does not contribute to gen-
erating many jobs. Many of the industries we
are looking at is with a view to job creation
and high value intensive. The role of the Eco-
nomic Development Board (EDB) is to advise
us on policy, to carry out research initiatives,
and to work with the Ministry of Planning to
develop growth poles."
Non-energy job creation
Tewarie said the Government wants to link
the output of university graduates with the
"The university system graduates about
5,000 students annually. Many of them are
absorbed in the economy, but a fair number
of them are underemployed or unemployed
after a year of graduation. If a country can
absorb graduates in good and decent jobs,
their graduates are likely to stay, but if it cannot
do that, the graduates will leave."
He said in 2012, there were US$2.5 billion
in investments in the economy, which shows
the economy is diversifying and gave job seekers
opportunities in new areas.
"Also, US$0.5 billion of that investment was
in the non-energy sector and part of that was
in the financial sector. This means that is
where some of the growth is taking place and
growth in the non-energy sector. But with
5,000 graduates annually, the diversification
needs to happen at a more rapid rate. We are
involved with the Inter-American Development
Bank in an export strategy and that is to push
the export services sector in this country."
Tewarie said the Competitiveness Council
has done research on the top 20 growing com-
panies outside the energy sector.
"We are trying to make that to a faster pace
of diversification and faster rate of growth in
the job creation sector. We know that over 60
per cent of the employment in the country
come from the services sector in T&T and
that is what is linked to the pottery, the creative
industry and other sectors."
Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie:
CSO to find a new home in 2014
Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie
PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES
A group of pottery owners was taken to
Europe in 2012. In the first day they were
there, everything they carried were sold
out. There is a lot of potential there.
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