The following article is a Q&A with Stephen de Gannes, CEO of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
Stephen, what do you hope to accomplish as you lead the Chamber?
I am a natural optimist and I like to use a collaborative approach.
The Chamber is well-positioned to make a difference in several areas on the national front. I plan to leverage on what we have already built and re-strategise for what I hope will be greater benefits to business, the public and the country. We have a very robust and diverse membership and I hope to make this work in our favour.
One of the consistent messages coming from members in my meetings is the desire to make a difference to our country.
This is very heartening, and if solutions are developed with a positive mindset, the country wins. I think the Chamber is a great organisation to work with the state and other national leaders to make changes that benefit the country.
People and organisations come to us with new projects all the time and I definitely plan to pursue some new ones in addition to what we have, especially in the areas of technology, agriculture and any other areas to help give young innovators hope in starting up their own ventures.
Do you believe that TT’s private sector can re-think traditional business models and re-energise our economy? Can you expand on two critical areas that are of the Chamber’s interest?
Absolutely, yes! I don’t think there can be any dispute that our private sector is both resilient and creative. TT’s private sector is not only "big business" but every mini-mart, vendor and farmer out there – and all of these have demonstrated tremendous resourcefulness and resilience.
It’s not a question of whether the talent or energy is there, but of how soon we can we can embrace a mindset change and get it moving in the same positive direction.
Two critical areas that the Chamber will be focusing on this year would be how the business community can assist in the fight against crime, and the growth of small and medium enterprises in the country.
We are also excited about two new Chamber projects related to digital business and technology (or DBT), and environmental, social and governance (ESG).
How is crime affecting your members and what are some measures that the Chamber’s members think can help with the current crime situation?
Crime is definitely a continuing impediment to doing business in the country.
Like most other people, businesspeople are living a state of constant unease and we would like to see a much more proactive approach by persons in authority to address crime.
We are not, however, just waiting for change to happen; we have put forward proposals which we believe can have a positive impact on the crime situation.
We also continue to be available to the authorities to work with them on the reduction of crime levels.
What are the three main areas that you think should be addressed in order to facilitate business in TT?
Swift information transfer is a major part of doing business in any country, and this is an area that is currently being pursued by the Ministry of Digital Transformation. That can remove a large impediment to doing business when their strategies are implemented.
Another area would be the encouragement of innovation at the tertiary levels, and yet a third would be to focus on encouragement of the development of SMEs.
Together they will create a more independent way of thinking as well as increase employment throughout the country.
We also need to continue to work on reforms of processes, which are being addressed through our representation on the state-driven National Trade Facilitation Committee and the Joint Customs Consultative Committee, both of which are seeking to address issues of efficiency and procedural simplification to assist businesses.