Speaking notes of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at today’s Stakeholders breakfast meeting with the business community.
Good morning, and thank you for being part of the National Conversation and for responding so positively to this particular event.
In fact, that we can have this many of our business leaders in one place is a good sign on two fronts:
· That the business environment has improved tremendously in the past four years, and
· That the potential for growth, expansion and the emergence of new sectors is now greater than at any other time in our history.
But having said that, I do not take the view that it is enough to herald advancements in our economy and the business environment.
This is why we are all here this morning. As we plan forward, complacency is a condition which we must never allow to set in.
It is now that our conversations must increase. It is now that our discussions on how Government can further work to provide an enabling business environment and a better platform for your growth, expansion and entry into new sectors.
A MEASURE OF PROGRESS
One of the key measures of our progress with the Trinidad & Tobago economy is growth and expansion.
From a position of decline and instability in 2010, we are now in a position of stability and growth, with projections of even stronger performance as we proceed into 2015 and beyond.
Today our nation’s exports and foreign direct investment are at their highest levels than at any other time in history.
Our economy is expected to maintain a positive momentum into 2014 with growth of 2.9% forecasted in 2014, and up to 3.2% in 2015.
Our economic diversification continues to record success with non-energy growth being driven by an aggressive fiscal stimulus program.
Our international credit standing remains strong, having been affirmed by major global authorities such as Moody’s Investors Services based on relatively high income levels, our large and diversified energy sector AND the expansion of the economy which mainly in the performance of the non-energy sector.
With today’s progress we have also ensured that we pay significant attention to the future; the Heritage and Stabilization Fund has accumulated a balance in excess of 20% of Gross Domestic Product.
And with the pace we intend to drive the economy at over the coming six years, we project the creation of over 30,000 new, well-paying jobs.
There are obvious reasons for why we have been able to turn our country around, but one is particularly important to us here this morning.
It is because my Government understands that the life blood of sustained progress must be continuous consultation and collaboration.
You are the ones who best know the business environment, the challenges you face, the potential you see, the issues you believe must be managed…
And we are the ones who provide the policy framework, the infrastructure and the political impetus to drive progress.
A GOOD CONVERSATION
So today’s conversation is in part a continuation of a consultative process that has been the hallmark of Government, and also a widening of that consultative process into one with structure and one which can translate from talk to action at a much quicker pace.
This morning, I was delighted with the quality and forthrightness of the contribution of our business leaders. I was extremely encouraged by the fact that the advances being made in diversification sectors are attracting the attention of investors.
You will know that I have spoken of my vision of ‘prosperity for all’ by adjusting our development programme to a more ‘people-centred’ focus.
To achieve this, we need to have a strong technical, vocational and tertiary training sector – there has already been tremendous progress in this area.
We also need an environment that is increasingly safe and appreciates the need for citizens to be and feel secure – despite challenges, we continue to progress strategies towards this goal.
We need a financial services sector that is sophisticated and in step with the evolving needs of business – indeed you will agree that significant advances have been made in our financial services sector.
And we need a workforce that is ready to take up the challenges of working in an environment that is future focused and efficiency driven.
These factors will become key in our move forward into a new phase of development and the 2015 budget will provide the pillars of that new phase.
A COMMITMENT FROM YOUR GOVERNMENT
With these few words, and with what I am sure is quite a lot of discussions that must now take place following your contributions, I thank you all for joining us here this morning.
I came here to re-establish our connection so we can ensure that our plans take into account your needs as our business sector.
What we achieve from here on in will rely on our continued collaboration as we move forward.
And the National Conversation is my guarantee that this contact, this listening process, will become a permanent part of how we govern.
Again, I want to thank those of you who joined the conversation today.
June 26, 2014