NEW special economic zones will neither be susceptible to corruption nor chaos because of safeguards in new legislation recently passed to guide their operations, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said in a statement on Sunday.
"The Trinidad and Tobago Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Bill 2021 has special clauses to ensure the highest levels of transparency facilitating public scrutiny and government accountability," she said. The bill was unanimously passed in the House of Representatives last Wednesday.
Robinson-Regis added that it was extremely important for government to address the concerns and criticisms that, if not properly managed, the new Special Economic Zone legislation, which will result in the creation of a Special Economic Zone Authority, would be open to corruption, poor labour practices and weak enforcement.
She said the bill mandates good governance and this was assisted by the bill staggering the appointments to the SEZ Authority Board.
"This simple innovation ensures that the entire board does not demit office at the same time, avoiding the confusion that follows such existing scenarios."
The chairman and three other members are appointed for a term of four years, the deputy chairman and two other members serve for three years; and three members for two years.
Also, further appointments after the tenure of the board’s first appointment shall be for periods not exceeding four years, with no member serving more than eight years consecutively or in aggregate.
Robinson-Regis said every board member must declare, annually, whether or not they have an actual or contingent pecuniary interest, or other interest in any operator or enterprise regulated by the authority, or is an applicant that has previously applied for a licence under this act, or is carrying on business with the authority in the exercise of its functions.
She said, under the bill any board member who fails to comply commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $500,000 and to imprisonment for five years, or on conviction on indictment to a fine of $1 million dollars and to imprisonment for ten years.
The minister said the bill says the authority must keep public registers, physically and electronically, to be available for public scrutiny.