The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, S.C., MP
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Opening of the Caribbean Investment Forum 2013
Monday 10th June 2013
(Check against delivery)
Senator the Honorable Vasant Bharath, Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment
- Senator Reverend Don Meredith, Leader of the Canadian Delegation
- The Honourable Emma Hippolyte, Minister of Commerce, Business Development and Investment, St. Lucia
- Honourable Ministers of Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
- Members of the Senate of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
- Members the Diplomatic Corps
- Permanent Secretaries and Senior Government officials
- Ms. Kristine Gibbon-Thompson, Chairman of the Board of InvesTT
- Distinguished local and international Panelists and Delegates
- Members of the Local, Regional and International Business Community
- Members of the Media
- Honoured Guests
Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
And may I extend to each one of you a very warm welcome on behalf of my government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
It’s a privilege for me to address such an impressive group of national and international business leaders.
Your presence here today is an endorsement of what the CIF represents – a forum that brings together hundreds of government and private sector representatives for dialogue and sharing of information on best business practices, while offering an unparalleled networking opportunity to collaborate on new business and investment prospects.
A quick glance of the activities over the next two days tells me that the time you spend with us would be worth the investment.
You will hear about New Opportunities in Energy-Based Manufacturing and New Opportunities in Tourism … just two of the issues of particular concern for my government.
You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the powerful potential to push forward Caribbean Public-Private Partnerships, using the Canadian Model.
I especially wish to recognize our friends from Canada who will play a significant role in this 3rd annual Caribbean Investment Forum, sharing their experience and expertise on Public-Private Partnerships.
For those of you who have been here before, welcome back!
And for those of you who are in Trinidad and Tobago for the first time, I want to specially welcome you and to tell you that you will be so charmed with our warmth and hospitality that you will likely be tempted to extend your stay beyond the CIF.
I invite all of you to immerse yourselves in our cultural diversity and the stunning physical beauty of our country.
I know your primary concern is business opportunities.
So I want to take this opportunity to tell you that our twin-island Republic is also an untapped treasure trove of business opportunity the engine of which is fuelled by sustained economic development.
We are a stable democracy and my government is committed to developing policy and initiatives that would extend a friendly helping hand to business development.
We see business as a partner in national development and understand that in our changing world where technology has erased borders, competitiveness and innovation is key to survival in our globalized business world.
My government is committed to free enterprise and doing everything that’s possible to facilitate business expansion by our indigenous entrepreneurs and the partnerships they develop with progressive businesses abroad.
We were privileged to have welcomed just a few days ago the Vice President of the United States, Joseph Biden Jr. and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.
These high profile visits were much more than the pomp and ceremony. They delivered positive results for future development and underscored the idea that Trinidad and Tobago is the place to be.
Vice President Biden signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with our Caribbean Community partners that would expand trade for the benefit of our region, our individual states and every citizen in our respective countries.
The Caribbean Investment Forum must take advantage of the leverage offered by this renewed international involvement in the region.
And I say region, because while Trinidad and Tobago was the destination, both leaders had significant interaction with our CARICOM Heads.
As individual states and as a region we must seize the opportunity to actively pursue the potential for real outcomes offered by the visits of President Xi and Vice President Biden.
I trust that your discussions would result in tangible business proposals that may benefit from the TIFA, with long term potential for job and wealth creation.
President Xi’s offer of TT$3 billion is of particular significance for our national development.
And I want to announce today that Trinidad and Tobago would be able to immediately access these funds to accelerate the development of Business/Commercial and Industrial Parks throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
We will be building seven such parks on 592.1 acres of land representing an investment of TT$833 million.
The leasable space on the estates would be 355.7 acres.
This would give an immediate boost to our country’s economic activity.
We can do this within the next two years instead of waiting for this expansion.
One of the issues we raised during the state visit of President Xi was collaboration in the development of our maritime industry.
Trinidad and Tobago is blessed with our geographical location just below the official hurricane belt, which positions us an ideal location for expansion of the indigenous industry that specializes in dry docking and repairing vessels from all over the world.
I am pleased to also announce that following our discussions with the People’s Republic of China, we have already had an expression of interest from one prestigious Chinese ship and dry docking company who wishes to partner with us for the development of this activity as part of our maritime industry.
Ladies and Gentlemen these developments point to a country on the move.
And I want to tell you it is happening because of an entirely new approach to governance and involvement with the private sector.
Trinidad and Tobago has also signed an MOU with the United States Department of Energy, to establish a Renewable Energy Research Centre at one of our university campuses to promote the rapid deployment of critical technologies for renewable energies to our country and also the wider Caribbean.
This would provide opportunities for partnerships that you could explore during your sessions over the next two days.
Renewable energy is an integral part of my government’s plans to diversify our economy.
The maritime industry and the renewable energy sector are just two of the six identified new business areas for development.
You would have an opportunity at the CIF to hear more and learn more from our ministers and their technocrats who will be available to meet with you and share information.
In April this year when I addressed the Canadian business community during my official visit, I emphasized that Trinidad and Tobago is “a resource-rich, young nation, intent on creating a more diversified, knowledge-intensive economy and open to the new technologies and thinking which are driving innovation and development”.
I noted that my Government was well aware of today’s competitive global business environment and the need to extend our reach beyond our traditional trading partners, while still nurturing long-held relationships.
I spoke of Trinidad and Tobago’s engagements with the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and the wider Latin American Region.
I re-confirmed the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s role as a facilitator of business and the creator of opportunities for the business sector rather than a competitor with the private sector.
And I stated that we are quite open to public/private sector partnerships.
Today, at CIF 2013, the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Canada have successfully collaborated to organize, for the benefit of the Caribbean Region, a Public-Private Partnership (P3) symposium, to assist the Governments of the Region build capacity in designing and implementing P3 projects.
When you attend this session you would gain considerable insight into the widely recognized Canadian P3 model.
Key speakers at this seminar include representatives from the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, Export Development Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation.
Each of them will share strategic guidelines and best practice in the field of P3 projects.
My government is particularly interested in this P3 discussion because we believe the private sector must become a key partner in the economic recovery and sustainability of our country, as we pursue our overarching goal of improving the quality of life and ensuring prosperity for all our citizens.
It is our hope that from these discussions we’ll see an accelerated private sector participation in development projects.
So I want to extend my sincere thanks to all those who have worked towards getting this P3 seminar off the ground.
I wish to recognize the efforts of our High Commissioner to Canada, His Excellency Philip Buxo and the staff at the High Commission.
I also thank the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, for keeping the doors of collaboration, partnership and friendship open between our two countries, 50 years after the formal establishment of diplomatic relations.
Canadian investment in Trinidad and Tobago is now measured in billions of Canadian dollars.
It is growing annually because Canadian business leaders recognize Trinidad and Tobago as a viable business destination.
It is a reaffirmation that Trinidad and Tobago is indeed the place to be.
So we will continue to revolutionise the way we do business in Trinidad and Tobago.
InvesTT and ExporTT – our frontline investment promotion agencies and our National Export Facilitation Organization, respectively – will lead the charge as my Government streamlines our business processes to facilitate potential investors and business partners.
My Government encourages our Caribbean neighbours do all in their power, individually and collectively, to convert that potential into tangible outcomes for the future prosperity of our citizens.
I note that the theme of CIF 2013 is “Caribbean Competitiveness – The Nexus of Innovation and Entrepreneurship”.
These key words… competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship are fast becoming the defining elements as states worldwide push to resuscitate their economies.
I recall President Xi remarking that China was on a path of “innovation driven growth”, while Vice President Biden spoke of investing in “education and innovation”.
So CIF 2013 is on target in its focus this year.
Over the last two years we have been fortunate to engage in lively dialogue with well-known and highly successful entrepreneurs and innovators such as Richard Branson and Ben Cohen.
- This year we are happy to welcome back Mr. Ben Cohen, the Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., Mr. Cohen has helped to build a store-front venture into a $300 million ice cream empire by making social responsibility and creative management strengths instead of weaknesses.
- We also welcome this year: Mr. Jagdish R. Dalal whose firm specializes in consulting in the field of Information Technology and Business Process outsourcing…
- Mr. Peter Egyed … a Trade Commissioner at the Ottawa headquarters of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), with responsibility for coordinating Canadian Government promotion of business relations with Central America and the Caribbean.
- Ms. Louise Clément … of The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Canada’s lead agency for development assistance. CIDA is committed increasing food security; securing the future of children and youth; and, stimulating sustainable economic growth. Canada, through CIDA, supports the development priorities the Caribbean region places on economic growth and security.
- Also joining us is Canadian Senator Don Meredith who partners with churches, police, politicians and communities to find solutions to senseless violence.
- And … His Excellency Gérard Latulippe, High Commissioner for Canada to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
- We also welcome Mr. Soo Hyun Kang who has served as Executive President of Hyundai Heavy Industry and Shipbuilding Company (HHI), and President CEO of Samho Shipbuilding Company…
And of course we have our own team of experts led by our Cabinet Ministers:
1. Vasant Bharath
2. Stephen Cadiz
3. Kevin Ramnarine
4. Larry Howai
5. Devant Maharaj
In short CIF 2013 promises to be a worthwhile exercise in networking and collaborating.
The vision of the Caribbean Investment Forum is imbedded in my government’s belief that national development must have a holistic approach, which is why we focus on:
1. People Centered Development, which focuses on improving our education system and maintaining a seamless link for continuous learning.
2. Poverty Eradication and Social Justice
3. National And Personal Security
4. Development of Information and Communication Technologies
5. A More Diversified, Knowledge Intensive Economy
6. Good Governance that focuses on ensuring transparency, accountability participation and effective representation through institutional strengthening, enhancing democracy and strengthening execution and delivery capacity
7. And … a Foreign Policy that maintains and develops bilateral and multilateral relations ensuring that our foreign policy supports our objectives for the achievement of sustainable development
We are changing the way government operates and it means taking risk and thinking outside the box.
We are doing it professionally and with a clear focus with a solid vision of the final outcome.
We know where we want to be and so we have set the transformation vehicle in motion.
That’s why we are so intent on involving the private sector in our development.
My Government is confident, serious and determined to ensure that the social and economic path we have chosen on behalf of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago will bear rich rewards for all our people.
In the context of a “more diversified, knowledge intensive economy” we have created two new institutions related to competitiveness and innovation: the Economic Development Board and the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation.
Their goal is to support human capital development and build knowledge networks.
To this end I wish to advise that next year (2014) Trinidad and Tobago will host the annual Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF).
As you may be aware, the objective of the ACF is to facilitate the development of businesses and promote the exchange of ideas and knowledge to enable the countries of the Americas to become more innovative, productive and competitive.
The ACF dialogue reaches the highest levels as delegates comprise of Heads of State, Governments as well as Ministers of Finance, Trade, Planning and key business representatives.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I firmly believe that CARICOM, the wider Caribbean area that includes Latin America are at a critical development juncture.
Notwithstanding the promises and generous gifts of international partners, and the challenges facing small-island developing Nations like those in the Caribbean, I believe that we are being called upon to display a level of maturity, innovation and enterprise that belies our geographic and resource reality.
The question we must all ask ourselves is whether we up to the challenge.
The reality is that we have very little choice in the matter. Each country may have its own unique limitations but when we work together we have the potential to go further and faster.
You will find that many of the business ideas that you will discuss over the two days of the Forum could be implemented through strategic partnerships.
I urge you to be receptive to the mutual benefits to be derived through these alliances.
We are fortunate to have such an impressive Canadian business presence with professionals who are eager to share with us their model for Public-Private Partnerships.
I look forward to hearing of the projects that may evolve from this discussion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are crucial times in the development of our respective states but they are also exciting times.
The call for more democratic Government and processes, the emergence of new players in world markets, rapid developments in ICT and in social media, have changed the face of the world and continue to change the way we do business now and in the future.
We must never see change as a threat because it isn’t; change presents new opportunities that we must embrace. That’s how we progress.
In a forum such as this, it is probably irrelevant to talk about what drives successful people.
However, I see a fatal flaw in many enterprises that you have no doubt seen as well.
And it goes back to a point Charles Darwin made in his famous “Origin of the Species”:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Darwin was talking about the most basic instinct in life – survival. But if you apply his thoughts to the world of business you would conclude that he could just as well have been talking about us in the changing world of the 21st century … because we cannot expect to progress and succeed unless we embrace change.
And that is why the Caribbean cannot lag behind.
We are an ingenious people; we are a well-educated people.
We have political stability and enjoy a democratic system inherited from the colonial powers that once governed the states that comprise the Caricom Community.
We must be ready and adapt and change to meet the expectations of those states that want to invest and do business with us. It cannot and must not be business as usual.
There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas; what’s often missing is the will to execute them.
Trinidad and Tobago is moving forward; we are ready to go where no government has gone before.
We have already established a commanding presence on the international stage and we are getting the attention of the world’s top economic powers.
We must continue to be proactive and continue to make our voices heard so we’ll get our concerns addressed and our achievements recognized.
We must continue to leverage those bilateral and multilateral Technical and Economic Co-operation Agreements with international partners that would serve the best interest of our populations.
Fora such as the CIF will help to build our human capital, broaden our national investment potential and allow us to take advantage of preferential Agreements.
I extend my thanks to the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, the Honourable Vasant Bharath and the staff of his Ministry, the staff at invesTT and all of you here today for once again making the Caribbean investment Forum a “must-attend” event.
I look forward to the many positive outcomes from this Forum as together we develop and implement initiatives for creating a more conducive environment for competitiveness, innovation and sustainable growth.
And may I offer a few parting words of advice. We are all leaders and geniuses in our own special way.
We must discover that quality in us that allows each of us to blossom and grow. I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” We must embrace the right opportunity … and we’ll succeed!
Thank you. And may God guide your discussions and deliberations over the next two days.