The American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) has highlighted three moves its believes are key to moving this country in the right direction, in a "joined-up national team" effort, involving the private sector, government, labour and civil society.
In a statement issued last Thursday, Amcham said the ability of the oil and gas industries "to power up and lift the country’s nose over the waves of external economic realities" is quickly fading.
"We believe that TT, as it is currently configured, will not sufficiently alter its decade-long trajectory of decline, both in nominal GDP and in social cohesion, as evidenced by the decrease in total economic output since the peak of hydrocarbon production in the last decade, reduction in productivity, the recent and continuing closure of several plants in Point Lisas and the increases in the incidence rates of serious and violent crime."
TT, it said, is vulnerable as a small island nation state with a small population. "However," Amcham said, "(we do) enjoy a stable democracy and strong historical international and multi-lateral partnerships."
Amcham suggested three key moves going forward, beginning with the establishment of an council for accountability to engage and account to the public and external stakeholders on the country's transformation plan.
"Transformation efforts, although well-intentioned, are often derailed by various roadblocks known or unknown at the time. Without constant communication, this leads to unmanaged expectations and broken promises on a large scale," Amcham said.
"Accountability drives focus and, therefore, potential for real action; we believe what we have seen in the last few months can work on a larger scale. We have seen the success of the current administration in its management of the covid19 epidemic by formulating policy based on data and science, taking quick and decisive action, and creating a forum for those accountable, engaging with the national population at a cadence we have never seen before, and which created a strong sense of alignment in the nation around this issue.
"We believe true transformation can only occur in the right climate and that is one in which we have an aligned 'management and engagement' of the country’s transformation agenda with the people who are accountable to make change happen.
"We see this as a joint effort (with key stakeholders) reporting, at the most senior levels, to the public on a regular cadence on what is being done and why, with opportunities for citizen engagement and responses to questions and concerns. Creating these high level objectives, specific milestones, pre-defined metrics of success and communicating the progress are the ever-present responsibilities and job of leadership, and it is only through collaborative engagement can we be responsible and accountable for this and make it real. This can be achieved by re-purposing existing tripartite institutions such as the NTAC or through the creation of an additional body."
Amcham suggested TT prioritise efficiency, transparency, stability and predictability in the political and economic climates and "improve our scores vis à vis those who we benchmark against in this region regarding ease of doing business and the rule of law.
It said its "immediate priorities are the fast-tracking and implementation of the following areas of legislation, old and new: public procurement, the Bail Bill, transformed tax collection and administration, customs and immigration transformation, including full implementation of the ASYCUDA (automated system for customs data) system, the adoption of a single national identification number; full acceptance of electronic signatures by the government and fully-implemented legislative arrangements and processes for e-payments.
"We are convinced that these measures will collectively revolutionise the ease of doing business in TT. We must simplify and not remain in bondage to age old bureaucratic practices which originated pre-independence.
Finally, it suggested restoring the importance of trusted international partners, saying TT's multilateral and bi-lateral relationships must be underpinned by the principles of transparency, adherence to the rule of law, respect for labour, and management of the environment.
"These," Amcham said, "must be geared toward attracting investment that is mutually beneficial and sustainable for both the investors and investor countries, and TT.
"As such, we should give primacy to our relationships with countries which are likely sources of FDI and who also espouse and uphold our governance and business values. Specifically, we should engage the US to develop initiatives that could form the basis of investment for growth under the America Crece (economic growth and investment) programme and formalise this via an MoU through the US Embassy in Port of Spain.
"Simultaneously," it added, "we must continue to support the development of the economies of Caricom and work towards the full implementation of the single economy. This must, however, be done with the recognition that Caricom is not going to pull us out of where we find ourselves, and with the near total collapse of the tourism industry, several Caribbean countries will themselves need innovative stabilisation and growth strategies over the next decade."