Chamber puts crime on front burner
By Vernon Khelawan Thursday, September 13 2012
TRINIDAD and Tobago cannot be effectively developed if a handle cannot be put on crime. This is the view of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce (TTCIC) as expressed by its president Andrew Sabga.
Writing in the current edition of its quarterly publication contact, Sabga stated, “Crime affects business at all levels, from our international competitiveness to employers to employees. And lest we forget, crime includes both ‘blue-collar’ and ‘white-collar’.
He stated, “At its most extreme, blue collar crime can lead to loss of life, but other impacts include increased cost of security and provision for theft. In some cases productivity can be affected for those businesses that are in high risk areas.”
On the flip side of the issue, the Chamber president explained that the effects of white-collar crime were no less widespread. “It can directly impact government revenue which could also affect economic performance. In some cases there is also the impact on individuals who may lose hard-earned savings and investments because of fraud.”
Zeroing on the clico and the HCU matters as white collar crime issues, Sabga pointed out the need for improved governance systems and the importance of bringing those who have committed such crimes to justice. “With Trinidad and Tobago’s history of inaction, how can the public be assured that any wrongdoers in the case of clico or the Hindu Credit Union will be brought to justice? he asked.
Taking a swipe at ineffective interdiction, Sabga suggested greater focus must be placed on better policing and an improved judicial system, but even then, there needs to be more improved delivery of social services and more focus placed on education.
“There is clearly a need for better enforcement of the law and a focus on holding people accountable for their actions,” he added. “If it can be demonstrated that people are held accountable for their actions, they would think twice about going against the law.”
But this lack of enforcement is reflected in a number of ways and he gave an example. “Driving while on a cellphone is illegal, but still widespread. Almost daily people can be seen doing the wrong thing, but are ignored by the police, probably because their actions are not seem as important, or it may not be the business they are on at the time.
“We are reminded on a daily basis of the failure to adhere to traffic laws.
“The carnage we see on the road is usually the result of someone’s decision to break the law, either by speeding, or breaking a red light, or any range of traffic violations,” he added.
Sabga stated that due to the lack of enforcement, any new legislation was met with scepticism because people generally do not believe they would be caught and penalised if they break the law. He also wrote that along with better policing, there is need for an improved judicial system.
“The process must be speeded up so that people may get justice or be brought to justice quickly. Indeed there is no point focusing on accountability if the judicial system cannot handle the increased demand for justice,” stated the Chamber head.
But the Chamber is quick to acknowledge that combatting crime was the responsibility of everyone, not just the government and went on to say this was true from petty crime to serious crime. “It is as true for major offences like fraud, as it is for everyday choices like breaking traffic lights or speeding,” Sabga wrote.
The article articulated that the Chamber recognised the importance of playing its part and was now working with other stakeholders to develop a National Code of Corporate Governance. “By working together, our aim is to improve governance from the point of view of the authorities and also from those who are involved in business.
“Dealing with the crime situation goes beyond looking at crime itself,” continued Sabga. “It will demand that everyone be held to a higher standard with accountability and enforcement of laws. It is about personal accountability.
“The Chamber stands ready to play its part, whether it is by helping to come up with solutions or raising the level of accountability through the Corporate Governance Code.”
But the Chamber, according to its president, acknowledged that the issue of crime was a multifaceted one whose effects are far reaching. “There is no one solution, nor is there any easy solution, but crime affects us all and we all have a stake in the solutions,” concluded Sabga.