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PM, business stakeholders discuss T&T’s future

PM breakfast meeting 04
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar poses for a photograph with members of the business community who attended Thursday’s breakfast seminar at the Diplomatic Centre, La Fantasie Road, St. Ann’s. Seated on the right side of the front row is Group Chairman and Chief Executive of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies – Mr. A. Norman Sabga. Standing on the right in the second row is Group Chief Operating Officer and Sector Head – Manufacturing of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies, Mr. Gerry C. Brooks.

An environment that is increasingly safe, a financial services sector that is sophisticated and a workforce ready to take up the challenge were some of the aims coming out of a national conversation meeting between Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and business and corporate stakeholders on Thursday 26th June, 2014.

Members of the media were invited to the Diplomatic Centre, St. Ann’s, at 7:30am for “full coverage” of the event, but ended up being excluded in a media room, away from the centre for four-and-a-half hours.

The media were then invited to a room at the centre to wait for Persad-Bissesar, but after another hour an official said she would not be speaking. As the media began to leave they were hastily called back as the official said the Prime Minister would be speaking after all.

Persad-Bissessar, who spoke for 15 – 20 minutes, did not take any questions. She said she had got two hours sleep and had to go to a Cabinet meeting. In her prepared speech Persad-Bissessar said the fact that so many business people turned up for the event was a good sign on two fronts:

  • That the business environment has improved tremendously in the past four years
  • That the potential for growth, expansion and the emergence of new sectors was now greater than at any other time in the country’s history

“But having said that, I do not take the view that it is enough to herald advancements in our economy and the business environment. This is why we are all here. As we plan forward, complacency is a condition we must never allow to set in”.

“It is now that our conversations must increase. It is now that our discussions on how government can further work to provide an enabling business environment and a better platform for your growth, expansion and entry into new sectors”.

She said one of the key measures of the country’s economy was its growth and expansion. From a position of decline and instability in 2010, she said, T&T was now in a position of stability and growth, with projections of even stronger performance.

“Today our nation’s exports and foreign direct investment are at their highest levels … Our economy is expected to maintain a positive momentum into 2015 with growth of 2.9 percent in 2015. Our economic diversification continues to record success with non-energy growth being driven by an aggressive fiscal stimulus programme,” Persad-Bissessar said.

She assured that the issues raised would be examined to determine how best the country could be improved.

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Norman Christie, regional president of bpTT, whom the PM asked to comment, described the meeting as a “conversation about the future of T&T”. “I think it is an excellent opportunity for people to get their voice in to ensure that T&T improves”, Christie said.

Businesswoman Angela Lee Loy, who spoke in her capacity as the president of the T&T Coalition of Services Industries, said stakeholders had the opportunity to hear major issues affecting the country. “I think the fact that it was informal and people were able to express themselves really truthfully and genuinely, I think that it is important and I think this kind of conversation can help the country to move to a better level”, Lee Loy said.

Vernon Persad, president of the Supermarkets Association, said the meeting was a “golden opportunity” to express concerns and ways to move forward.

Photo by: Shirley Bahadur
Story by: Geisha Kowlessar
Taken from: Trinidad Guardian Newspapers
Date: Saturday 28th June, 2014