Trinidad and Tobago moves to improve investor confidence

Containers and cranes at the Port of Port of Spain. FILE PHOTO -
Containers and cranes at the Port of Port of Spain. FILE PHOTO -

Applying rule of law is important in order to strengthen investor confidence and legitimate trade. And by the US Chamber of Commerce’s accounts, TT is making positive movements in that regard, advancing two points from a 2019 report, indicating an above-average performance within the hemisphere.

Kendra Gaither, the US Chamber of Commerce’s vice-president of the US-Africa Business Centre, disclosed excerpts of the report, to be published later this year, during the American Chamber of Commerce of TT’s (Amcham) annual general meeting and business forum, held virtually on Monday.

Gaither is also the executive director for the Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets at the US Chamber, which was designed to promote an enabling environment for chambers and companies to do business, and to serve other similar functions.

The coalition issues a report or a “dashboard” biennially, with research partners for the report including the World Justice Project, Transparency International’s global corruption barometer, the World Economic Forum Report, World Bank reports.

Gaither said other factors are considered in the report, including the country’s ease of doing business, the ability to establish contracts, and the judiciary’s “response to due process.”

The latest ranking, which is still to be published in full, saw TT with a score of 53.84 per cent or 70th among the list of 113 markets, an improvement by 2.5 per cent over the 2019 version.

The best performer is Singapore with 86.37 in 2021, while the one with the most room for growth is Equatorial Guinea at 113.

It ranks TT ninth among 26 countries in the Americas. Unsurprisingly, Canada tops the rank in the Americas but is ranked only 17th globally.

Since the average score for countries in the Americas is 51.1, TT performed above average.

“Regrettably, this region does have a lot of room to grow in terms of performance as 13 of the 26 markets that we evaluated for the 2021 study performed below a 50 per cent score in the tally.

“In terms of key areas that TT achieved for 2021, included the performance on the global corruption barometer, which showed that TT had increased in its focus on judiciary as well as survey data that suggested that citizens are giving the present government credit for focusing on addressing and tackling corruption.

While there is room for growth, she added, “I do also want to be clear that the work that Amcham TT, the work that business institutions and civil society in partnership with the government and highlighting the rule of law is being represented in the present data. That judicial effectiveness is also reflected on the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom Report at the Heritage Foundation and other partner institutions. So the efforts to strengthen due process is having an influence on TT’s continued growth and trajectory on this report.”

The US Department of Commerce was also represented at the business forum by Ian Saunders, its deputy assistant secretary for the western hemisphere.

He said with the US being the region's largest trading partner, “the overarching goal (of the Biden-Harris Administration) is to support a prosperous, safe and democratic region where the US is able to partner with countries to advance our shared interest.”

Accounting for nearly 40 per cent of TT’s exports, Saunders said the relationship with countries in the hemisphere isn’t “only geographic (but also) material.”

“Ultimately,” he said, “I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of our economic engagement in the Americas.

“But it is particularly critical in this moment. The pandemic has had devastating effects on us all, both in terms of lost lives and suffering and lost jobs and livelihoods. I know the people of TT are acutely aware of these impacts.”

Lamenting a decline of TT’s DGP by nearly eight per cent with stalled trade, and similar effects in the region, owing to the pandemic, Saunders said, “I would argue, our best chance of success lies in working together to address the challenges of competitiveness, transparency and security.”

Saunders took off from Gaither, stressing on the importance of applying the rule of law in business for mutual benefit of trading partners.

Monday’s Amcham AGM and business forum included the election of board of directors, with Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, vice-president corporate operations and transformation at Atlantic, becoming the organisation’s third president. Greer Quan and Gregory Hill are the new vice-presidents, with Glenn Hamel-Smith and Mitchell de Silva serving as secretary and treasurer, respectively. Nirad Tewarie remains CEO.

In her inaugural address, Sirju-Ramnarine spoke about Amcham’s focus on enabling investment, saying, “A key element to recovery will be attracting additional foreign direct investment. It will also require significant local investment.”

Also touching on “rule of law,” she said, “Countries that display a commitment to the rule of law often have high levels of economic freedom, social mobility and economic growth.

“We’re sure that you will agree that enhanced transparency and consistent application of rules are good for business and absolutely necessary for the attraction of investment.”

In the coming months, Amcham, the US Embassy, and other local stakeholders will be working on initiatives designed to encourage the application of rule of law standards, with a possibility of establishing a committee.


"Trinidad and Tobago moves to improve investor confidence"

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