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Daly: Police stats don't necessarily mean fewer crimes against children

News - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 14:52

Even though the T&T Police Service reported a 12 per cent decrease in reports of serious crimes against children in 2018, former chairman of the Children's Authority Stephanie Daly said this does not mean that fewer crimes are being committed against children.

In an interview, Daly said the recent statistics cannot be interpreted to mean there is an actual decrease or increase of child abuse in T&T. 

Saying the "extent of reported child abuse was worrying from day one," Daly explained that increased reporting suggested a level of confidence in the agencies set up to deal with child abuse.

"We also have to take into account the issue of late reporting. 

Children could be facing abuse but it is not immediately reported," she explained. 

She noted that it is not reliable to use the statistics presented by the TTPS to make a statement on the extent of child abuse, adding, "This is still a sizeable problem in T&T and what is important is ensuring that the State agencies set up to deal with this, are equipped with enough resources so that all reports of abuse could be acted upon immediately."

While she was the head of the Children's Authority, Daly said the figures of abuse were much higher than anticipated but despite the overwhelming amount of reports, she was impressed by how the staff coped.

Asked whether she believed the negative exposure of child abusers on social media served as a deterrent to sexual child abusers, Daly said no.

"I don’t think people think that far ahead when they are committing these acts. Social media would have little bearing on how they behave," she said. She also urged people to continue to report incidents of abuse to the police and to exercise care with their children during the holiday period.

A source at the Children's Authority said there was still a problem with finding accommodation for victims of abuse, adding that most times they are placed in the care of a responsible relative. There is also severe staff shortages at the Authority. 

"We need a staff of 242 but we are currently operating with 140 and we are currently recruiting staff for our operations in Tobago," the official said.

During a function last week, chairman of the Children's Authority Haniff Benjamin said the authority has received 60,000 calls from the public on cases of abuse in T&T. He said the Authority is investigating 15,000 reports and remarked that 67 per cent of the reports are linked to instances of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

On Wednesday, acting Senior Superintendent Sharon Cooper of the Child Protection Unit said the Police Service recorded a 12% decrease in reports of serious crimes against children, for the period January to June 2018 when compared to the corresponding period in 2017.  

Cooper said there was a total of 878 reports made to the Child Protection Unit for January to June 2018, when compared to 1006, the previous year.

Sexual touching and sexual penetration continue to be the most prevalent, with 140 reports of sexual touching; and 348 reports of sexual penetration, for the period under review in 2018, versus 119 and 351 such reports respect.

Categories: News

Love, Sweat & Basmati Rice on stage

News - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:59

Love, Sweat & Basmati Rice is Caricomedy Entertainment Ltd’s newest comedy offering to the public. The event, which consists of a short play and a stand-up comedy show, takes place on Sunday, July 22 at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (Sapa), San Fernando.

Co-founder Kwame Weekes said the play, “tells the story of young love in 21st century T&T between West girl Sarah Jane Waffles and her social media lover, Ravi C, who is from an entirely different country.

When their distance from each other and racism threatens the blossoming of their growing love, Sarah discovers a sweltering truth, that true love is a love worth sweating for.”

Caricomedy Entertainment, which is approximately two years old, is best known for their viral Facebook videos, featuring challenging, smart comedy. Weekes said: “We’ve grown to having over 35,000 followers on Facebook and reaching over 100,000 people every month with our videos.

Our cast has also grown in number and racial diversity.

Our goals were always two-pronged: to create original content for the internet and for the stage, and to create a platform for other upcoming comedians in Trinidad and Tobago to showcase their talent.

“We’re happy to have fulfilled these goals with over 80 online videos, two theatrical shows in two years and the launch of Nah Hoss! That Real Funny! the first free, stand-up comedy ONLY open mic in T&T which has launched the comedy careers of at least two new comedians.”

The play, which is directed by co-founder and artistic director Denith McNicolls, features both old and new members of the Caricomedy cast.

Weekes said: “One of our newest Caricomedy cast members, Chantal Waldropt, plays the lead role of Sarah Jane Waffles. Granny Maidenname will be played by Ocean Davidson, another new cast member.

Ravi C is played by Dike Samai, our most senior recognisable male actor and Mavis is played by Zwena Joseph, the most senior and loved Caricomedy actress. Mom and Daddy Waffles are played by Shenice Nyack and Kwame Weekes.”

The second half of the programme features four young male comedians: Keevan “Keevo” Lewis, Kevin Soyer, Gervail “Jr. Lee” Lemo and Thaddy Boom. Weekes said each comedian has a following of their own.

“Lewis is an observational comedian who is no stranger to going viral on Instagram and Facebook with his sharp observations about Trinbagonian culture,” said Weekes.

“Soyer is a naturally-gifted comedian who is known for his Facebook series about the young Pinky and her dysfunctional family, while the youthfully vibrant Lemo has a hit Facebook show Dollar Questions and his jokes about his family and love life will keep you young yourself.

“Thaddy Boom is one of the hilarious hosts of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam, and is sure to make audiences laugh with his quick wit, work with the crowd, and unique sense of humour.”

Weekes said children as young as 14-years-old can comfortably attend the show as, “there’s no obscene language. Sexuality will be confined to innuendo in some of the dialogue, but nothing more than what is seen in any teen Disney movie or series.”

He said the decision was made to have a physical show because, “while likes on Facebook are nice, but nothing beats the booming laughter, the knee slapping and falling over of a live audience. “Caricomedy’s founders have backgrounds in theatre, so it was always our intention to make people laugh on our Facebook page as well as the theatre stage. We hope the single people who attend the show find husbands and wives as they laugh loudly next to cute strangers in the crowd.

“We also hope the couples leave with the bonds of their love strengthened. Most of all we want everyone to leave full of enough joy to last until our next live show, and we hope they recognise Caricomedy as a company that surprises them each time with its approach to comedy.”

Show begins at 6 pm on July 22 at Sapa. Tickets cost $150 and special couple and group prices are available. For more information, find Love, Sweat, & Basmati Rice on Facebook Caricomedy’s Love, Sweat & Basmati Rice crew, from left, Ocean Davidson as Maidenname; Chantal Vasquez-Waldropt as Sarah Jane Waffles; Dike Samai as Ravi C; Shenice Nyack as Mom Waffles; and, Kwame Weekes as Daddy Waffles. PICTURE COURTESY CARICOMEDY ENTERTAINMENT LTD

Categories: News

Investing in bonds

Business Guardian - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:47

The following represents a couple general points on how to approach an investment in bonds. These can be transposed to other asset classes and also provide the basic guidance for constructing an investment portfolio. The reference to bonds is due to this being topical at this time.

INVESTMENT LESSON #1

An investment is neither good nor bad

No investment on its own should be viewed as a good or a bad investment.

Yet this is the most frequent question that is asked of a financial professional.

If you take the riskiest investment and put it alongside the safest investment then the portfolio as a whole is going to be less risky than the risky investment alone. Everyone should be able to grasp this.

The US dollar is the reserve currency of the world and bonds issued by the US Government is considered to be one of the safest investments in the world.

If you invest 100 per cent of your money in US government bonds then you would own the safest investment in terms of getting the contractual obligations of the investment satisfied.

You are as certain as can be that your interest payments will be paid on time and at the stipulated amount and that your principal invested would be returned to you under the repayment terms agreed at the time of the investment.

Let’s say that bonds from the Government of Iraq sits at the other end of the scale.

A war-torn country that does not have a stable government and where there are so many other variables to consider.

You will appreciate that investing in Government of Iraq bonds would be a scary thing to do. The risk of not getting your money back is high.

However, as I will explain the Iraq bond can serve a useful purpose in a portfolio if used properly.

Let us for the sake of argument assume that a 10-year bond issued by the US Central Bank (The US Federal Reserve) pays interest at three per cent.

That may be a low rate of return on money invested for 10 years. You are trading off safety (low risk) for a low return (three per cent).

Appreciate that you can’t force the US to pay you more interest, that is determined by the market.

As a segue also appreciate that you can’t force banks to pay you a higher deposit rate.

This is also a function of the market and the levels of liquidity.

It is the monetary and fiscal authorities that are responsible for the level of liquidity in the financial system and bank deposit rates are primarily the result of their cumulative and collective actions over the past two decades.

Returning to the investment lesson. Since you can’t force the safe investment to pay a higher rate then you have to adjust your portfolio in order to achieve a higher return.

This also means taking on higher risk. This is where the Iraq bond, even though it is very risky may have value to you as an investor.

Let’s say that the 10-year Iraq bond pays interest at 15 per cent. That higher rate of interest is a reflection of the level of risk that is associated with investing in Iraq for ten years.

The high rate of return on offer is your compensation and incentive to take up the higher-risk investment.

Understanding Lesson 1 brings with it a realisation that no investment on its own is good or bad.

You need to recognise how that investment fits within your portfolio and whether it has any attributes that can serve your investment needs.

In this example the higher risk bond will provide a potentially higher return and the risk can be made acceptable if it is combined with the safe asset.

INVESTMENT LESSON #2

How much you invest is more important than where you invest

If you accept that you can combine a safe asset with a risky asset to manage the overall risk in your portfolio then the next stage is to determine how much money you should allocate to each investment.

Typically I am faced with the question: I have some money where should I invest it?

We tend to focus on the where rather than the how much. From my experience the reason this is so is because we usually approach things from an “all or nothing” perspective.

To move away from that mindset refer to Lesson 1 above. To reiterate, it is about how assets are combined as opposed to the individual assets in and of themselves.

If you avoid the “all or nothing” trap then you are faced with the “how much is enough” dilemma.

In the US and Iraq bond example, if you put all your money into an Iraq bond you run the risk of not being paid because of all the challenges associated with that country so, in simple terms, you can lose all your money. That’s not a good place to be in.

There is also risk in being fully invested into the US government bond. That risk is the low return due to the fact that it is a safe asset.

The risk here is not the financial safety associated with the asset but the risk is related to your financial safety.

You would invest because you are seeking to defer spending today in order to be able to spend at a future date.

If your investment does not grow at a rate that will allow you to increase your consumption in the future then you would be worse off having invested.

So asset safety also has a risk and that risk is that you may not achieve your financial goals with the safe investment.

The secret therefore is to take a level of risk that you are comfortable with. From Lesson #1 you can fine-tune your comfort levels by determining how much you would like to invest in each asset.

Being 100 per cent in the US bond for 10 years gives you a return of three per cent. Being 100 per cent invested in the Iraq bond for 10 years gives a return of 15 per cent.

If you adjust the percentages so that you own some of both bonds you can generate a return greater than three per cent but less than 15 per cent.

If you invest in both hypothetical bonds at the same time and they have the same maturity then at a ratio of 50 per cent in each bond you get the opportunity for a higher percent return with basically 50 per cent of your funds at risk.

Appreciate that here your worst case scenario is the Iraq bond defaults and you lose 50 per cent of your portfolio.

If you are unwilling to put 50 percent of your money at risk then you simply decrease allocation to the Iraq bond.

The smaller the amount at risk the closer you get to a 3 percent return. The reverse is also true in that the greater the amount at risk the closer you get to a 15 percent return.

If you are prepared to put 10 per cent of your portfolio at risk in the Iraq bond and 90 per cent in the safe US bond then you will get a return above three per cent but only have 10 per cent of your money at risk.

This is where a risky asset in an investment portfolio can be of value.

In summary the issue is not about anyone and anything else other than determining what you want to accomplish and how you plan to get there. No investment on its own is good or bad. How you fit together your investment portfolio makes all the difference.

If you are interested in investing in bonds then be sure to read the prospectus, understand the risk factors and then determine how much risk you are prepared to take to benefit from the returns on offer. There is no one size fits all position so ensure that you discuss the matter with a financial professional.

Ian Narine can be contacted at
[email protected]

Categories: News

Did BHP make another deepwater discovery?

Business Guardian - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:43

Did BHP Billiton make a discovery in its latest deepwater well, Victoria 1, which was recently drilled off the east coast?

Well-placed sources confirmed that hydrocarbons were found but there is no word on whether it was in commercial quantities, whether it was oil or gas, or a mixture of both.

The well was drilled in Block TTDAA 5, the same block where BHP announced it had discovered 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It is also the block that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said Government is trying to get BHP to develop as quickly as possible to alleviate the natural gas shortage that has plagued the country for more than six years.

Unlike the first well in which the company drilled to 20,000 feet below the surface, this well is less than 10,000 feet. It encountered gas bearing sands and is likely successful. However, because the well is considered a “tight hole”, information is being kept among a few individuals.

Under their production sharing contract the country should know within the next month whether the latest deepwater well drilled by BHP Billiton was a success because they will have to report the outcome to the Ministry of Energy and Energy industries.

BHP was asked the following questions:

• Can you say whether the target depth (TD) was reached?

• What was that TD?

• How many feet of water was the well was drilled in?

• Did the well encounter hydrocarbons?

• Our understanding is that a discovery was made. Was it oil, gas, or both?

• How many feet of pay were encountered?

The company responded via email saying it was not in a position to speak on the well at this stage.

“We have not yet published any information re: Victoria yet but I will let you know once we have more information. However, this will likely not be in time for your story,” a BHP spokesman said.

BHP’s deepwater drilling campaign is crucial to T&T’s future oil and gas production because it is believed to be the place where the country has the best chance of making the kinds of massive oil and gas discoveries seen in West Africa and Guyana.

BHP Billiton is the operator of all the deepwater blocks that have so far been awarded and has drilled three wells in deepwater, inclusive of Victoria 1. They have so far made a major natural gas discovery but the second well, which was drilled closer to Tobago, failed and there has been a lot of hope that more gas and possibly oil will be discovered on the same block where the Le Clerc well was drilled and natural gas found.

A confidential document produced by the Ministry of Energy alluded to the importance of the BHP drilling campaign.

The document stated: “Three deepwater exploration wells are forecast to be drilled in 2018-2019. Two of these wells are to be drilled in Block TTDAA 5 to test the Magellan Gas Play which was discovered via Le Clerc-1 exploration well in 2016. The other well is to be drilled within Block TTDAA 14 to explore for hydrocarbons at various levels based on subsurface data.”

The Magellan Gas Play was the name given to the sands by BHP because it is the first time it was seen in T&T.

BHP is the operator of TTDAA 5 with Royal Dutch Shell as its partner and in Block TTDAA 14 it is the operator with bpTT as its partner.

Categories: News

Business solutions from ALJGSB students

Business Guardian - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:40

Technology drives a new initiative to improve the services provided by the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD).

The project, which has already received public sector investment programme funding, places emphasis on automation, digitisation and service delivery. A pilot project has been implemented at the TCPD’s south regional office and there are plans to introduce it at other offices shortly.

The TCPD project was developed by three public servants—Marie Hinds from the Ministry of Planning, Sharon Bailey from WASA and Giselle Lall from TSTT—all graduates with distinctions from the Masters of Institutional Innovation and Effectiveness programme at the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business (ALJGSB).

The trio also won the award for Excellence in Practicum (solution/intervention) and they had the opportunity to present their project to business leaders during a recent Flow if Impact event at the ALJGSB’s north campus in Mount Hope.

The practicum is part of some masters programmes offered by ALJGSB. It runs for six months and is intended for students to integrate what they have learnt in the classroom and apply that knowledge to solve live problems at public and private institutions.

The other projects presented to the business leaders at the event included a housing project involving a public-private partnership between the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and a private developer.

It featured a unique risk allocation arrangement that satisfied the needs of all stakeholders, and was designed to be achieved in milestones so cash flows can be initiated and risks reduced.

Other featured project included the creation of a radio station in Tobago, Pulse 89.5 FM, an export engine and a plastic recycling venture.

Business leaders weigh in

Gabriel Faria, CEO of the T&T Chamber, told the students they should ensure the projects they create add value to the particular company. He said while it is good to look at what it costs to produce a product and what it will earn, it is also important look at the value added.

“Part of my concern when I looked at your presentation is that it looks good but I am not clear where the value is, and what it is,” he said.

Faria said when manufacturers build production capacity often it is for a home market and therefore not as competitive in the international market.

What is clear, he said, is if the T&T economy is to be less dependent on oil and gas, manufacturers need to be more competitive internationally.

David Dulal-Whiteway, CEO of ALJGSB, said the projects presented real world situations and the students had been given guidance to bring them close to commercialisation.

Dulal-Whiteway, a former bank executive, said he always had the perception that after academic research is done, all that happens is that, “it gets thrown into a drawer.”

He said the practicum creates an avenue for the ALJGSB to make a difference in the country.

Other business leaders who assessed the students’ presentation included: Nicholas Jackman, head of business development, ANSA McAL Group; Winston Dookeran, UWI Professor of Practice; Derek Alan Noël Parker of the French Embassy in Port-of-Spain; and Debra Boyce, senior trade commissioner, High Commission of Canada to T&T.

Categories: News

Opportunities for SMEs

Business Guardian - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:38

Signature local products, ranging from Tobago’s spiced, savoury pone, addictive preservatives and succulent cassava and corn dumplings, were among the locally manufactured products featured at the recently concluded Trade and Investment Convention (TIC), that caught the interest of international buyers. Pepper sauce was also a hot item for foreign companies.

This was the second year that exporTT partnered with the T&T Manufacturer’s Association (TTMA) for an Inward Buyers’ Mission and there’s a real possibility that these and many other goods will be exported within the next six months.

Apart from food and beverages, including a wide array of condiments, international companies were also interested in paper and packaging items like toilet paper and tissues.

Through the TIC, exporTT has been working to stimulate awareness of T&T as an exporter of quality products, allowing local exporters to meet multiple international buyers in one location at a fraction of what that type of investment would cost and generate export orders.

With four years’ experience in hosting inward buyers’ missions, exporTT was able to attract ten international buyers from Canada, the United States, Cuba, Guyana and Martinique, who were screened and selected based on mutual trade interests with local exporters in the sectors of food and beverage, printing and packaging, construction and chemicals.

At business to business (B2B) meetings, participants discussed trade opportunities that will redound to the benefit of T&T, said manager, export promotion and communications at exporTT, Betty Ann Noreiga-Mollineau.

She declared TIC 2018 a success, opening up much needed avenues to generate foreign exchange and propelling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on to the international market.

Noreiga-Mollineau said exporTT facilitated more than 125 B2B meetings between foreign buyers and 58 local exporters.

“Some buyers have already indicated there will be commercial projects they will be undertaking. There are a number of people who got new lines and want to introduce it in their countries,” she said.

Trade relations are also expected to be strengthen between T&T and Guyana as one particular local manufacturer is seeking to have his products more widely distributed in that country.

Noreiga-Mollineau said another focus of the event was penetrating mainstream markets via different diaspora.

“All our diaspora markets are well covered because people look for their products on those markets. Our main focus was the mainstream through the diaspora markets,” she explained.

“We are also building on the experiences of our exporters who have already expressed an interest in returning.”

Shamilia Khan, business adviser at exporTT, said TIC was structured in a way that provided opportunities for SMEs to showcase their products both to international and local buyers.

She said: “These companies experienced what an international trade show was like. We had smaller companies who met buyers interested in their products.

“Some of those who exhibited were export ready. They were able to display their products on the business-to-business days which were Thursday and Friday.

“We had smaller cottage industry companies and they exhibited on the Saturday and Sunday and they were also exposed to international buyers and the general public. This was an opportunity to bring awareness of who are our exporters, products and opportunities to find distributors from the internationally market.”

Khan said exporters were very satisfied that the TIC met their objectives as they were able to gather leads from international distributors and are currently in the negotiations.

Another positive outcome was the networking opportunities provided, especially for smaller companies.

“There were many companies willing to share experiences and contacts with each other. There were a lot of people asking how can your product complement mine and how we can work together, for instance,” Khan said.

What made TIC 2018 different from previous years was that a sector approach was used.

Khan explained: “Because export promotion deals with several sectors—printing and packaging, construction, food and beverage, household and industrial chemicals—we decided we would have a variety of companies to give them opportunities for display.

“For the smaller companies, we worked on improving their standards to get them export ready for the international market. The smaller entities, mostly from Tobago, had food and a variety of drinks like rum punches, local teas, which highlighted health benefits and body creams which created great interest.”

Khan said the buyers were also impressed with our companies, including a small entity that offered various candles with fragrances are comparable to the popular foreign candles. Bottled tomato relish also caught the attention of some buyers.

“There was also Tropi-Mulch showcasing mulch in different colours, promoted by a small company; the interest generated was tremendous.

“These companies welcomed exporTT’s guidance to assist in growth and development and to tailor their products for the international market. What you sell on the local market is actually different on international arena. We were also amazed by the steady flow traffic at the booths,” Khan said.

Connecting with Canada

Roann David, business adviser, export promotions, at exporTT, brought in Grace Foods, Canada, a first time buyer at the event.

She said: “We invited Canada in the past but this is the first time they accepted.”

David said the company is seeking local brands for the Canadian market, particularly products which have some affinity with the diaspora.

“We are looking to increase trade with the diaspora and through this we can also reach the mainstream. This may not materialise overnight but it will eventually happen,” she said.

David said the Canadian buyer took back sample products which interested him to relevant persons for decision making.

“This will assist in preparation for the Canada trade mission exporTT is having this October because we will then know who the major players are in Canada.

“And based on interest generated we will then set-up follow up meetings with local manufacturers. In addition that buyer can also make recommendations for other local distributors,” she said.

The Grace Foods representative was especially interested in local non-alcoholic beverages like soft drinks and juices, as well as preserves.

“He was also very interested in some of our spices and condiments. These companies might not be the most well known but their products are very much synonymous with T&T and that’s what the buyer is looking for, again starting with the diaspora and to break into that mainstream aspect,” David emphasised.

Due to time constraints, the buyer was unable to fully explore all that TIC had to offer.

“Because it was just two days of business meetings, the buyer realised he probably should have stayed a bit longer. He did not have a full opportunity to walk the show and see all the other products. He just had to snatch time in between,” David said.

“The business meetings were set up to match him with the items he was interested in but the opportunity to walk the show could have provided a wider scope. He could have seen other products he probably could try to get into Canada as well.”

Some of the specifications this buyer insisted on for local goods entering Canada included proper labelling and ensuring items meet required export standards.

“We directed some local companies to the relevant bodies in Canada, like the trade office, which provides all the linkages to the other authorities like the Food Inspectorate.

“Not all the companies who came to the meeting were aware of the packaging and labelling laws for Canada and by providing these linkages it increased the knowledge of T&T’s companies,” David said.

This is beneficial to the country on the whole in ensuring all goods produced are of the highest international standards, she added.

If all goes well, more local goods could be on Canada’s supermarket shelves by the end of the year. While that might be a relatively short period for some companies who produce on a smaller scale, there is the option of consolidated shipments.

In this regard, exporTT plays a key role in facilitating cargo consolidation through product combination.

Gift and craft markets a hit

First time buyer from Martinique is interested in a range of products, including food and beverages, construction materials and chemicals. That buyer was also impressed with the work of a local gift and craft designer who creates copperware, including customised pieces, said exporTT’s senior business adviser, Natalie Paul-Harry.

“Gift and craft is one of the smaller sectors which falls under the creative industry. The buyer will be liaising with the gift and craft designer in the short and medium term,” she added.

Noting that exporTT is targeting buyers worldwide, Paul-Harry explained that Martinique provides optimum advantages as it is part of France.

“It’s essentially targeting Europe. We are seeking to use the French Caribbean as a launching pad to enter continental Europe. It’s ensuring we meet the quality standards for those markets and targeting this as a microcosm of the wider continental European market,” she explained.

One advantage of hosting an inward buyers market, she explained, as opposed to taking companies abroad, is cost effectiveness.

“It’s very expensive for local companies to participate given the high cost of airfare and accommodation. In this way we are facilitating them on the ground to meet a range of exporters.

“Our mandate is to diversify, to move away from oil and gas, and we are providing a platform to meet with buyers which they might not have had given financial constraints. There is also foreign exchange benefit by increasing exports via this intervention,” she said.

Chemicals, printing and packaging

T&T’s chemical sector covers a range of products, including dishwashing liquid and household bleach, all of which have resulted in viable inroads with buyers, said senior export officer Camille James.

Chemtrax Ltd, for instance, showcased a range of household cleaners such as disinfectants.

Regarding new buyers she explained: “All of them were new to us in terms of the countries they came from: Cuba, Martinique, Guyana and New York.”

Nathali Richards, who was responsible for the printing and packaging sector, said there were four buyers from Cuba.

Factory visits generated great interest and there were also tours to companies in the Point Lisas area, she added.

“We did factory visits to John Dickinson and to Caribbean Safety Products. They were not only really good hosts but profiled their companies efficiently. Buyers were impressed with the manufacturing aspect in particular.

“Regarding construction, there was interest in companies like Lifetime Roofing,” Richards added.

Local paper products, she noted, definitely have a viable market in Cuba.

Virtual missions

The work of exporTT is far from over.

Noreiga-Mollineau said the organisation will be hosting virtual missions—conferences via the Internet—to cement ties and provide avenues for exporters who were unable to meet buyers.

“We have contacts with our exporters and prospective buyers. If, for some reason, there is no response then it’s my duty to help you get to that exporter.

“While walking around at TIC I made contact with some of our local exporters who were in booths but were not linked with us. I will be bringing them in to meet with some of the buyers who were invited.

Definitely there will be some virtual missions after the TIC,” she said.

Categories: News

How can we fix the forex situation?

Business Guardian - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:34

T&T is now well into the fourth year of a foreign exchange shortage that has not only imposed severe spending restrictions on the average citizen, but has given rise to a black market which, if left unchecked, will be a real threat to our long-term economic stability.

Our forex troubles are directly linked to the steep drop in energy prices, starting in 2016, which struck directly at our main source of revenue. Remember, we get about 80 per cent of our national income from oil and gas. The resulting economic downturn, from which the country is only just beginning to emerge, brought on some painful cutbacks and adjustments, not the least of which has been curbing the national appetite for foreign fare.

We are now at the time of the year when the effects of the forex shortages are laid bare, as citizens scramble to accumulate enough currency for travel abroad, for tuition fees and for other transactions that cannot be completed using TT dollars.

However, even on an average day, some grim reminder can crop up of the forex crisis that has been with us for too long. Some items are either in short supply, or not available at all, due to difficulties being experienced by importers and retailers to secure sufficient foreign currency. Some, unable to pay overseas creditors, have been forced to scale back or shut down their operations.

Lucky for us that the situation of bare supermarket shelves has not become a reality here. That threat is never far away, however, because this country is still vulnerable to external threats and, even with the latest favourable IMF projections for a return to economic growth, we are still an energy dependent economic, subject to the volatility of that commodity.

The challenge we need to overcome is sliding into a situation of tight currency controls that make it extremely difficult for citizens to buy foreign currencies with our TT dollars at the official exchange rate. To some extent, that is already happening through an emerging forex black market, with US currency in particular priced at a significant premium because of the prevailing demand-supply imbalance.

If that situation is allowed to slip any further out of control, we could end up like our nearby South American neighbour, Venezuela, where currency controls have made it almost impossible for residents to purchase foreign currencies— just one source of pain in the economic, political and social turmoil gripping that nation.

The thing with forex instability is that it is not just a simple matter of buying and selling, or having to curb demand for some imported items and services. The repercussions are far more severe than that.

Late last year, United States chargé d’affaires John McIntyre warned that this country’s persistent foreign exchange shortage is an impediment to investment.

It is a fact that foreign investors seek out stable countries with strong economic performance in which to invest their capital, so T&T is at high risk of losing out if the current situation is not fixed.

Of course, we have been down this road before. The last time T&T experienced a major economic and financial crisis was in the second half of the 1980s following a slump in energy prices—as is the case now.

Back then, efforts to address acute balance of payments and debt servicing challenges included introduction of a dual exchange rate and exchange control systems to curtail foreign exchange outflows.

Sounds familiar?

An EC zero system was implemented. This strict foreign exchange budgeting allowed authorised importers to access foreign currency allocations on a quarterly basis.

For the average citizen, the result was the pain of a bureaucratic system for securing currency for travel and other foreign transactions, including enduring long lines at the Central Bank during times of peak demand.

These controls were not effective however, and since then there have been efforts to liberalise the financial system.

One of the most significant developments came about in April 1993 when T&T adopted a floating exchange regime, so the TT dollar appreciates or depreciates in response to changes in supply and demand conditions in the forex market.

There are now suggestions in some quarters that the TT dollar may currently be overvalued.

Some have even hinted that the true exchange rate should be TT$13 to US$1, while others warn of dire consequences should this country go the route of currency devaluation.

The Central Bank, which is responsible for managing the forex market, has the authority to intervene in the event of undue volatility in the exchange rate and in the current situation of foreign currency shortages, has actually allowed the TT dollar to slowly depreciate.

In fact, the local currency has it has declined by approximately seven per cent against the US dollar since mid-2016. With the current shortages, particularly in US dollars which are usually in high demand, black market transactions have become more common. So it is time to bring the situation under control.

But, to date, there have been no clear signals from the Government on what action will be taken to address the situation.

When he presented the 2018 Budget, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said: “The exchange rate will move more in step with demand and supply and the availability of foreign exchange.”

That statement is open to all kinds of interpretations. Could it be that a free-floating foreign exchange rate might be in T&T’s immediate future?

Of course, there is also the undesirable option of a devaluation which has been recommended by some local economists. However, that measure can be politically expensive since a devalued currency rarely returns to its original value and there will be some major economic pain involved. There was a time, believe it or not, when the TT dollar traded at $2.42 to US$1. The chances of the currency regaining that strength are almost nil.

In any case, I don’t believe the citizenry has the appetite to swallow any more tough economic pills. Instead, what T&T should be aiming for is the kind of economic activity, particularly in the nonoil sector, that will substantially increase foreign currency inflows and keep the exchange rate stable.

We need to get to the place of stability and economic growth where T&T becomes attractive enough to draw the investment funds needed for long-term prosperity.

The D word that needs to come into play is diversification, not devaluation. That is key for the economic revitalisation and transformation T&T urgently needs at this stage in the nation’s development.

We need to aim for the economy to become more open, for our foreign exchange reserves to increase and for a return of confidence in the domestic currency sufficient to shut down the black market and meet commercial and other demands.

Will some forex remedy be part of the fiscal package to be presented in September? It should be.

I wait to see how Mr Imbert will address our persistent forex problem.

Categories: News

Bronze for squash girls at CASA

Sports - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:20

T&T Junior Girls Squash team claimed the bronze medal at the Caribbean Area Squash Association (CASA) Tournament which took place in Jamaica recently. However, the boys team finished the tournament in fourth place.

But team T&T earned in third place finish overall, following impressive performances individually and as a team.

Chloe Walcott, the double national champion in the Under-15 and 17s was the lone gold medal winner for the twin-island republic during the tournament.

Alexandria Yearwood, the association’s Junior Sportswoman of the Year for 2017, showed why this award was bestowed upon her by claiming the silver medal in the Girls under-19 category which basically paved the way for other TT achievements.

These achievements include Marie Claire, who was among the large competitive field with her compatriot Yearwood and secured bronze medal to complete a second and third place finish for T&T in the division.

Later Sigourney Williams, the national under-13 queen also rise to the challenge among the other regional territories by earning silver in her age bracket, while double Junior national champion in the boys U-13 and 15 divisions Seth Thong got bronze.

There was also consolation wins for Nicholas Le Quay in the boys under-11 age bracket and Nicola de Verteuil in the u-13 division.

T&T is set to be the host of the 2019 Junior CASA Championships from which it foresees more medal, trophies and titles.

Categories: News

Alors, félicitations les Bleus!

Sports - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:18

Rather regrettably for most of us, the 2018 FIFA World Cup has come to an end. We are now faced with the daunting task of having to wait until November 2022 for the 22nd edition - the experiment on the Asian continent in Qatar to begin.

What a great World Cup it was. There was just about everything that one can dream of; excitement, drama, thrills, controversy, upsets, tactical awareness and great goals.

It was the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe and the 11th time in Europe at an estimated cost of over $14.2 Billion, making it the most expensive World Cup ever.

What really struck me was how enthralled we were as a nation with this World Cup. Everyone I spoke to displayed symptoms of World Cup ‘fever’. They were either glued to their television sets or listening on the radio to the games. Just driving along the Avenue or on the ever busy Western Main Road in St James, especially on a weekend, there were crowds gathered in their numbers at their respective watering holes supporting their favourite team. World Cup fever was in every man, woman and child. For this, kudos must be given to CNC3 for bringing the games live and also to their sister company the radio frequency the Vibe CT105.1FM and the Guardian newspapers coverage could not be matched.

I must express a huge thank you to all those who listened on the radio and complimented the commentary as most of you were on the road but were still able to follow the games live and once again, the management of CNC3 and 105.1FM must be congratulated.

As one football fan mentioned to me, it is a pity the Soca Warriors were not in Russia after getting into the final round of the ‘hex’. He alluded to the fact that Stephen Hart should never have been fired at that point after the defeat here at home to Costa Rica followed by a defeat away to Honduras.

I must admit his point was well taken, as it is no disgrace losing to Costa Rica, and Panama was the only team to come away with victory in Honduras. Neither of Mexico, USA nor Costa Rica did that.

It is indeed ironic that the two managers sacked after the first two rounds of CONCACAF qualification were Jürgen Klinsmann of the USA and Hart of T&T. As you know, both countries then finished in 5th and 6th position with neither qualifying for even the playoff match.

Of course, T&T not qualifying was not just about the timing of the sacking of Hart; it goes much deeper than that. It really comes down to planning, or should I say a lack of proper planning. It is as simple as that.

Just the frenzy of the people of this nation should galvanise the executive of the TTFA into some sort of action. The only action I see from some members is trying to get the long-awaited and drawn out financial details relating to the football body’s largely controversial US$2.25 Million “Home of Football”.

Unfortunately, some of the members. I understand from reliable sources, seem to be blowing ‘hot and cold’; one-day demanding answers and the next, like soft babies pretending they are unaware of what is really going on. The country is depending on the members of the TTFA to ensure there is good governance within our football. It is time to stop pussyfooting with persons that are destroying the fabric of the beautiful game right in front of your very eyes and you are doing nothing about it. Stand up and be counted!

Our footballing public deserves better than this. Our players deserve better than this. They must be given every chance and opportunity to qualify for the next World Cup. We’ve done it before and we certainly can do it again. The only footballing interest appears to be warped around the ‘Home of Football’. Where is our development plan heading? What is the plan for the various youth teams?

Have we singled out a couple special players for elite training? Why are our youth teams losing? I suppose what may be of more importance is the gross floor area and the number of rooms being built for the ‘Home of Football’.

In retrospect, the 2018 World Cup saw some of the big teams bow out very early. Colombia left at the round of 16, Brazil left us at the quarter-final stage and we ended up with 4 European countries in the semi-final stage. Congratulations to France on being well-deserved winners and Croatia for being consistent throughout the tournament as runners-up.

I decided to pick my own team of the tournament playing a 4-4-2 system.

Of course, there are at least another dozen players that could have made it but in my opinion, these 11 were the main reason for their countries making it as far as they did. Meanwhile, let’s hope we all get over this World Cup tabanca quickly. But for the next four years, Vive La France!

MY TEAM

Goalkeeper:
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Defenders: Kieran Trippier (England) Raphaël Varane (France) Diego Godín (Uruguay) Lucas Hernández (France)
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) N’Golo Kanté (France) Luka Modri_ (Croatia) Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Forwards: Kylian Mbappé (France) Antoine Griezmann (France)

Colin Murray

Categories: News

Anthony splashes 12 gold medals

Sports - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:15

National swimmers, Zoe Anthony, Jahmia Harley, Ornella Walker, Jeron Thompson, Jadar Chatoor and Kael Yorke were all in record-breaking form as a flurry of national records were broken when the Amateur Swimming Association’s annual National Age-Group Short Course Championships concluded at the National Aquatic Centre, in Balmain Couva on Sunday.

Anthony of Marlins Swim Club not only established new records on the 11–12 girls’ 50 metres breaststroke and 50m butterfly, but emerged the top swimmer in the age group.

The Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) gold medallist touched the wall in 29.80 seconds in the final, eclipsing the 2007 mark of Kimberlee John-Williams of 30.04.

Anthony then went on to win the 50m breaststroke a record time of 36.34 to surpass the 2006 record of Rejan Chin of 36.66 seconds.

Overall, Anthony won 12 gold medals over the five days of competition.

The 15-17 girls 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke records were all broken during the meet, Jahmia Harley of Tidal Wave Aquatics and Walker of Tobago YMCA interchanging places and records.

In the 50m backstroke, Walker won the gold breaking records in both the heats and finals.

In the heats, Walker swam 29.42 seconds to surpass the 2010 record of John-Williams of 29.78.

She went even faster in the final to win in 29.30 to break her own record.

Harley earned silver in the 50m backstroke but went on to win gold in the 100m backstroke in 1:03.95 minutes. The 100m backstroke swims saw records fall twice as Walker (1:05.36 mins) broke the 2005 record of Ayeisha Collymore of 1:05.75 in the preliminary heat.

This record only lasted a few hours as Harley 1:03.95 became the new mark with Walker settling for silver in 1:04.30.

Harley got the better of Walker in the 200m backstroke, where Harley won in a new record of 2:21.38, to break another John-Williams record of 2:21.53 (2010).

Harley emerged as the High Point Age-Group winner in the 15-17 girls’ category.

Thompson, a Commonwealth Youth Games medallist of Atlantis Aquatics established new national records in the 15-17 boys’ 50m freestyle and 50m backstroke. In the penultimate event of the meet, Thompson sped to the wall in 22.89 seconds pipping the 2011 record of Joshua Romany of 22.90.

Thompson swam a 50m backstroke Time Trial and set a new 15-17 record of 25.14, erasing Youth Olympic Medallist Christian Homer’s 2009 record of 25.38.

Yorke of Tidal Wave Aquatics established a new 15-17 boys’ national record in the 100m butterfly of 54.53 seconds.

Another Homer record was erased in the process as Yorke eclipsed Homer’s 2009 time of 54.79.

A member of this year’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games swimming contingent, Yorke won the final in 54.58 and won the 15-17 age group High Point trophy. Chatoor won the 15-17 girls’ 800m freestyle in a time of 9:18.20, to break the 2010 John-Williams record of 9:19.59.

The meet also served as the final qualifier for the Goodwill Swim Meet which will be held in Barbados from August 17 – 19.

Categories: News

Spartans crown six Bball champs

Sports - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:13

Jael Lewis elevated his play to lift Maloney Pacers Basketball Academy and Youth Development Programme to victory in the Boys’ Under-16 Division of the Spartans TT Sports Club’s Basketball Fiesta II, that unfolded at the Jean Pierre Complex in Mucurapo, over the weekend.

So too did Brianna Charles in getting her Enterprise team the title in the girls U-18 division in an event that saw some 250 athletes, from 13 different clubs, from across T&T, competing in five different age groups. The others were U-10, U-12 and U-14 (boys and girls).

Lewis, while displaying his talent like the many young basketballers gathered to compete in front of their parents, coaches, well-wishers and basketball fans alike, helped his team take gold ahead of host club Spartans, which picked up silver and the bronze went to Detour Shak Attack.

Lewis was later recognised as the “Most Valuable Player” (MVP) of the division at the awards and closing ceremony.

One of the attendees was president of the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Glyne Clarke, who came in from Barbados on the invitation of athletic director of Spartans TT Garvin Warwick.

“I’m impressed by the level of basketball I have seen here over this weekend. Trinidad has to build on this foundation that is being created by all these clubs represented here. I must acknowledge the vision and execution of this event by Mr Warwick and his team,” said Clarke. “I was invited last year but due to conflicting engagements I couldn’t be here, but I’m glad I made it this time around. A job well done to the Spartans TT organisation.” 

Charles’s team finished ahead of Brian Chase Academy and Edinburgh 500 Hawks in the Girls U-18 grouping while in the U-14 division, Vince Bolastig was rightly named the MVP after leading Spartans to the title ahead of Shak Attack and Maloney Pacers, respectively. Winning the girls’ category was Brian Chase Basketball Academy. Warwick was also thrilled by the level of competition displayed by the young athletes.

“I’m impressed by the level of composure these 12 and 14-yearold kids have shown over this weekend. From last year to this year, you have seen the growth and development of these players.

Some may say the World Cup Finals was a good one, but if you were witness to the U-14 or the U-16 finals you would have seen greatness,” said Warwick.

The other winners on the weekend were Enterprise in the Girls in the co-ed categories included Spartans in the U-12 grouping and Enterprise in the U-10 division.

Results

U-10 DIVISION: 1 Enterprise, 2 Spartans TT, 3 Montrose Magic
U-12 Division: 1 Spartans TT, 2 Brian Chase Basketball Academy, 3 Enterprise
U-14 BOYS DIVISION: 1 Spartans TT, 2 Detour Shak Attack, 3 Maloney Pacers Youth Development
U-14 GIRLS DIVISION: 1 Brian Chase Basketball Academy, 2 Enterprise, 3 Edinburgh 500 Hawks
U-16 BOYS DIVISION: 1 Maloney Pacers Youth Development, 2 Spartans TT, 3 Detour Shak Attack
U-18 GIRLS DIVISION: 1 Enterprise, 2 Brian Chase, 3 Edinburgh 500 Hawks

n HONOUR ROLL—MVPS

BOYS U-10: Necose Moore (Enterprise)

• GIRLS U-10: Malica Pierre (Enterprise)

• BOYS U-12: Jedaiah King (Spartans TT)

• GIRLS U-12: Carrisa Ramdial (Enterprsie)

• BOYS U-14: Vince Bolastig (Spartans TT)

• GIRLS U-14: Nyesha Carrington (Brian Chase)

• BOYS U-16 - Jael Lewis (Maloney Pacers)

• GIRLS U-18 - Brianna Charles (Enterprise)

Categories: News

Morris cops MVP at U-17 awards

Sports - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 00:01

Barbadian Antonio Morris copped the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at the 2018 Cricket West Indies (CWI) Regional U-17 awards function which took place at the National Aquatic Centre in Balmain, Couva on Tuesday night.

Morris led his country to the title with a brilliant unbeaten century in the final match against Guyana at the National Cricket Centre (NCC) in Couva earlier on the day which helped Barbados go ahead of two-time defending champions and hosts T&T by just 0.1 points, to take top honours in what has been described as the closest finish ever in the prestigious regional tournament.

Both Barbados and T&T ended with similar win-loss records, three victories and one defeat each, but the eventual champions ended with 20.6 points compared to T&T’s 20.5 in the final standings. Guyana (19.2) ended third, followed by the Leewards (13.6), the Windward Islands next (13.4) with Jamaica (1.5) in cellar position.

Morris emerged the batsman with the highest aggregate of runs in the tournament, 194. Tariq Newman of the Leeward Islands was the top bowler with nine wickets, while there was a tie with Leonardo Julien of T&T and Yeudister Persaud of Guyana who was the wicketkeepers claiming the most dismissals (six each).

Meanwhile, Patrice Charles acting Director of Sports representing Minister of Sports Shamfa Cudjoe brought greetings on her behalf and she was high in praise of the T&T Cricket Board for hosting another successful Regional U-17 tournament.

“I wish to thank the T&T Cricket Board for the tremendous effort that they have put into hosting and making this tournament incredibly successful for the last six years,” Charles, a former track athlete said.

On behalf of the Minister of Sports he said, “I understand the pivotal and critical role sport plays in youth development. By participating in sports, young persons can develop physical, mental and social skills as well as acquire important values that will carry them throughout their lives. I believe that sport coupled with youth development programmes are effective tools for creating well-rounded individuals and productive members of our society. When education and religion/religious knowledge are added to the mix – it makes for an unbeatable formula. Our young men, especially, need sports, like cricket, to give them a sense of focus and purpose and to help them become strong, confident, productive and successful leaders, providers, fathers, and friends. Let me remind you, the only person who can limit you – is you. American world champion athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee once said, ‘Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind’.”

Minister Cudjoe observed in the statement read by Charles noted, “that the CWI Under-17 Championship, over the years, has laid the foundation for many young cricketers whose aim is to move ahead and excel in the esteemed sport of cricket. It is undeniable then, that this event is an extremely important one in promoting regional integration from a socio-economic perspective. I am always delighted when events such as these are able to unite us as a Caribbean region. I am happy that so many representative teams from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and from the Leeward and Windward Islands were able to participate in this year’s championship and exhibit such great sportsmanship. And I also trust that your stay here has been an enjoyable one.”

Azim Bassarath, president of the T&T Cricket Board said, “These tournaments, in which the regional cricket body has invested heavily, affords motivation for youngsters like you to aspire and realise your dreams of becoming professional cricketers.”

Categories: News

Ambris, Campbell play quality innings

Sports - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:59

LONDON – Sunil Ambris and John Campbell stroked lively half-centuries as West Indies A earned a draw against English County Surrey on the final day of their first class tour match yesterday.

Left to survive two sessions after the hosts declared at lunch with a lead of 361, Windies A safely navigated the afternoon at the Oval to end on 194 for three in their second innings.

Test batsman Sunil Ambris sent selectors another reminder of his quality with an unbeaten 63 while opener Campbell struck 55.

Vishaul Singh chipped in with 26, opener Chandrapaul Hemraj got 23 while wicketkeeper Devon Thomas finished 22 not out.

Surrey had earlier added 111 in the first session as they converted their overnight 62 for one into 173 for four declared in their second innings.

Ryan Patel, unbeaten on 30 at the start, top-scored with 48 as he extended his second wicket stand with Mark Stoneman (44) to 79.

He put on exactly 50 for the third wicket with Will Jacks who made 47.

Speedster Odean Smith was the most successful bowler with two for 15, also accounting for Patel to a catch at the wicket.

Windies A then made a lively start to their run chase, with Campbell and Hemraj putting on 79 for the first wicket.

Campbell struck six fours and a six off 70 balls while fellow left-hander Hemraj counted two fours in a 39-ball innings.

Nineteen-year-old off-spinner Amar Virdi got the breakthrough when Campbell drove loosely to cover and Hemraj followed in the next over without addition to the score, lbw to one from seamer Stuart Meaker which kept slightly low.

Ambris put on a further 48 with left-hander Vishaul Singh who scored 26 from 46 deliveries, as together they steadied the innings.

The right-handed Ambris, already with a hundred on tour, faced 99 balls in just under 2-1/4 hours and counted eight fours and a six.

When Vishaul played down the wrong line and lost his off-stump to South African fast bowler Morne Morkel, Ambris found another ally in Thomas to post a further 67 in an unbroken fourth wicket partnership. (CMC)

SCOREBOARD

Surrey vs Windies A – 3rd day
SURREY 1st Innings 366
WEST INDIES A 1st Innings 178
SURREY 2nd Innings
(overnight 62 for one)
A Harinath c (sub) b Holder 7
M Stoneman c wkp Thomas b Shepherd 44
R Patel c wkp Thomas b Smith 48
W Jacks not out 47
T Curran b Smith 2
A Rouse not out 7
Extras (b9, lb1, w5, nb3) 18
TOTAL (4 wkts decl., 37 overs) 173
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-88, 3-138, 4-151.
Bowling: Lewis 7-3-27-0 (w2), Holder 11-0-
50-1 (nb3), Reifer 5-0-35-0, Campbell 1-0-6-0,
Shepherd 8-2-30-1, Smith 5-0-15-2.
WEST INDIES A
2nd Innings (target: 362 runs)
J Campbell lbw b Meaker 55
C Hemraj c Borthwick b Virdi 23
S Ambris not out 63
V Singh b Morkel 26
D Thomas not out 22
Extras (b1, lb1, w3) 5
TOTAL (3 wkts, 50 overs) 194
Fall of wickets: 1-79, 2-79, 3-127.
Bowling: Morkel 11-2-50-1, Pillans 7-1-39-0,
Meaker 7-2-29-1, Virdi 14-0-37-1, Borthwick
6-0-24-0, Patel 5-1-13-0.
Result: Match drawn.
Toss: Surrey.
Umpires: P Baldwin, M Burns.

Categories: News

The IMF 2018 Visit: Fact vs Fiction

Columnists - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:51

The period 2014-18 has been very challenging. GDP and government revenues took a substantial blow from the decline in energy prices and the gas production shortfall. Gas shortages started in late 2010. The effect on tax revenues was masked by buoyant energy prices and were revealed only with the 2014 energy prices fall. Gas production is now recovering due to the fiscal incentives. In the meantime, everything, except violent crime, has slowed.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has a bad reputation because its patients tend to be in the later stages of their illness and therefore have to take stronger medication, or suffer worse consequences. The 2018 Article IV concluding statement is therefore written in diplomatic language to encourage the patient to be more responsible. It identifies comforting facts but repeats some unpleasant truths.

The positives are that the “economy shows signs of improvement from the second half of 2017, with return to positive growth expected in 2018 following two years of recession.” Improvement in gas production had a positive impact on production in the downstream petrochemical sector. It affirmed that headline inflation was at historically low levels as a result of the decline in aggregate demand and that unemployment, although rising, was relatively low. It also noted that “Financial buffers remained substantial, with HSF and sinking-fund assets at 30 per cent of GDP and gross FX reserves at 9.4 months of imports at end-2017”.

The non-energy sector dampened the overall growth, reflecting weak activity in construction, financial services and trade; continued shortage of foreign exchange (FX) and slow implementation of public investment projects. (This contrasts sharply with Minister Imbert’s projections for the non-energy sector). The report noted that Government reduced expenditure considerably by cutting transfers and subsidies and its purchases of goods and services. Government debt (including Government guaranteed debt) had risen to 61% of GDP but this was below the self-imposed “soft target of 65%”.

The report projects that the economy will return to a modest growth path “as energy projects come on stream and the recovery takes hold in the non-energy sector.” Unsurprisingly, it expects natural gas production to lead growth, but that there will be continued challenges in the oil sector and that the non-energy sector will recover slowly stabilising growth in the medium term (3-7 years). Whilst both Government and the IMF agree that the economy will return to growth, they differ sharply on the rate of growth. The mid-term review projects growth of 2%, 2.2% and 2.5% for 2018-20. The IMF projections are at 50% lower for each year.

The report points out several risks to the recovery process, including lower energy prices, delays or disruptions in energy-related projects and output, pending completion of the oil and gas tax regime reform.

Delays in the implementation of the ongoing fiscal adjustment and persistence of forex shortages could weaken market confidence and drive up funding costs. Tightening financial conditions could stress balance sheets and undermine the non-energy sector’s capacity to import and produce. Rising US rates and further US-dollar appreciation could worsen competitiveness and pressure the currency.

The report spends a considerable time (approximately 25% of the statement) dealing with the issue of forex. It notes that the market continues to be out of balance with demand exceeding supply and that this will have a negative impact on the non-energy sector and any diversification effort. It expects further volatility in energy prices, arguing that the market should be brought into balance given the low inflation rate and Government expenditure either by providing the foreign exchange or changing the pricing. Without market stability, reserves will continue to decline.

The report notes the effort to manage spending and that the fiscal deficit has narrowed. It argued that containing expenditure should remain a priority, noting that transfers to utilities represent a “significant fiscal burden”. It also agreed with the Government’s efforts to make its expenditure more efficient and looked forward to the World Bank report on this area.

The revenue expenditure gap is substantial. Revenue from taxes in the 2017/18 budget is $38 billion whilst expenditure is $54 billion. The difference is met by selling assets or financing devices such as the National Investment Fund (NIF), which manages to convert a bond issue (a loan from the public) into “revenue” thus reducing the current year deficit. Higher energy prices only narrow the gap and real growth of 1 to 2% is insufficient to close this gap.

The report notes that maintaining the current policy puts the burden of adjustment on fiscal, monetary and structural policies. “This requires ample reserve/fiscal buffers and adjustments with larger growth effects. Country experiences suggest that preserving a peg regime can provide a helpful anchor for undiversified economies, but only with large financial buffers and credible fiscal adjustments under persistent shocks.” We have neither.

The report identifies two priorities; first completing the adjustment, while insulating the economy from future commodity swings; and creating an enabling environment for the non-energy sector to be an engine of growth through: improved FX access, business-friendly environment, diversification efforts, reduced crime, and growth-friendly, efficiency-enhancing public investments. These require leadership and management.

 

Mariano Browne

Categories: News

Scotia shares advance to $65.10

Business - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:44

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 11 securities of which six advanced, four declined and one traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 72,532 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $2,014,776. Agostini’s Limited was the volume leader with 61,500 shares changing hands for a value of $1,298,265, followed by Scotiabank T&T Limited with a volume of 4,251 shares being traded for $276,737.60. Republic Financial Holdings Limited contributed 3,266 shares with a value of $335,726.59, while Calypso Macro Index Fund added 1,052 shares valued at $18,306.80.

Scotiabank T&T Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.05 to end the day at $65.10. Conversely, The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.22 to close at $87.

On the Mutual Fund Market 25,917 shares changed hands for a value of $526,967.04. Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 24,865 shares valued at $508,660.24. It advanced by $0.03 to end at $20.46. Calypso Macro Index Fund declined by $0.09 to end at $17.40.

In Wednesday’s trading session the following reflect the movement of the TTSE Indices:

• The Composite Index declined by 0.08 points (0.01 per cent) to close at 1,223.89.

• The All T&T Index declined by 0.48 points (0.03 per cent) to close at 1,720.55.

• The Cross Listed Index advanced by 0.04 points (0.04 per cent) to close at 97.65.

Categories: News

Energy company achieves $85.6m profit

Business - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:42

Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet said cost reduction initiatives undertaken by the interim executive team installed at the energy company resulted in a second quarter profit after tax of $85.6 million.

“The installation of a new executive team from the beginning of March and the implementation of the strategies developed together with experts’ advice produced noticeable results in reducing cost and cutting waste,” he said.

“The mandate given to the board, to make Petrotrin a sustainable profitable entity, through proper governance and management of a competitive business, is planned in three phases: Survive, Thrive and Grow.

For the past three months, the focus was on the first phase, “Survive”. Discretionary spending that was not adding tangible benefits to the operations was reduced and we concentrated on cutting waste.”

Espinet said results for the period ended June 30 followed a loss of $517.5 million for the quarter ended March 31.

Recently published results showed a decrease in the state owned company’s operating costs of $92.4 million when compared to the same quarter last year and a decrease of $41.9 million when compared to the quarter ending March 31.

In addition, Petrotrin earned $18 billion in revenue for the nine months ending June 30 —a 21.2 per cent increase with the corresponding period in 2017, which Espinet was due to higher oil prices.

He said in a statement accompanying the financial results: “Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) increased to $1,767.4 million, or 80 per cent more than the 2017 result for the comparable period. Despite the enhanced operating results, the Group incurred a loss before tax of $242.8 million which translated to a loss after tax of $500.7 million,” the chairman said.

Petrotrin’s asset base decreased to $31.6 billion compared with $37.4 billion for the corresponding period in 2017.

Espinet explained: “This was primarily because of the write down of our fixed asset balance for an impaired asset and the reclassification of previously capitalised borrowing cost on the ULSD project to expense.

Total debt to equity and current ratios as at June 30, 2018, were 3.49 and 0.52 respectively, compared to ratios of 1.07 and 0.41 as at June 30, 2017.

“Shareholder’s equity of $3.3 billion as at June 30, 2018, represented a decrease of 69.73 per cent when compared with the period ending June 30, 2017.”

The chairman said Petrotrin is embarking on the next phase of its restructuring programme, Thrive, where the focus will be on “designing the organization built for purpose around its operational units.”

He added: “As we embark on this phase, we will consult with all stakeholders to garner support for what is undoubtedly a monumental exercise that will have a profound impact on all the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago.

“The board is encouraged by the level of support and extraordinary efforts from employees and is committed to finding a sustainable solution that is equitable to all stakeholders.”

Categories: News

Petrotrin on precipice

Business - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:41

State owned Petrotrin is on the edge and has to be run as a business if it is to survive.

That was the grim picture painted by the energy company’s chairman is his contribution to a stakeholder’s form hosted by the Lloyd Best Institute at the Government Plaza Auditorium in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

“Petrotrin is at a precipice whereby immediate stability is required. It is not something that can be toyed with, negotiated over a long period of time,” he said.

“There is an immediate need to make it stable so that it can continue. The debt that is coming due is only one part of it. There are huge implications in terms of what costs it would take us to get our assets working properly.”

Espinet, who warned that it cannot be business as usual at the energy company, added: “Petrotrin had to be a business to be sustained. To be a business it has to operate within what are the rules that businesses operate in.

“I appreciate we have used Petrotrin at various times and by various people for various other functions. In some instances it served the purpose of developing people and jobs. Today, as the state has found itself unable to continue to facilitate Petrotrin, it finds itself having to operate under the rules and laws of business. It has borrowed money to operate and it has a huge debt.”

He said when he assumed responsibility as chairman last year, one of his priorities was to make Petrotrin sustainable.

“It seems that there is the volatility of oil and gas which has created a response time that is unique in the industry and Petrotrin has not been able to operate in that kind of environment. Changing times have left it frozen in a space that it cannot survive in as a business. We were brought in as a board and we were mandated to make this profitable,” he said.

However, while Ancel Roget, President General of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), agreed that Petrotrin had to be run as a business to survive, he was still critical of the position taken by Espinet.

“We want the company to be properly structured and based on the pillars of accountability and a sharp focus on its core responsibilities and driven by a competent, patriotic management,” he said.

Noting that Petrotrin’s latest financial results showed an after tax profit of $85.6 million for the quarter ended June 30, Roget claimed the company was only able to achieve this by cutting corners in a way that will hurt it in the long run. He also claimed that the company owes contractors $80 million.

In response, Espinet said: “I hate to speculate where he got some of his information.”

Categories: News

Minster appoints new TTPost board

News - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:33

Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte has challenged the Board of TTPost to work towards achieving greater levels of efficiency and increasing its revenue streams.

The minister issued the challenge as he handed out instruments of appointment to the new board members during a ceremony at the ministry’s head office in St Clair yesterday,

Le Hunte told the board it needed to recognise that the organisation’s business model must change in order to adapt to the new global realities.

He noted that advancements in digital technology had changed market conditions in the postal industry across the globe.

As such, TTPost, like other national postal services, needed to engage in a process of transformative change in order to maintain relevance and ensure sustainability.

The minister also emphasised that given the country’s economic realities, it cannot be business as usual. He encouraged the Board to explore mechanisms to improve efficiencies, while reducing operating costs and increasing revenues.

Returning to the newly appointed board are chairman Eula Rogers, along with members Kevin Finch, Carol David and Dana O’ Neil-Gervais.

Rogers said it could not be business as usual, and committed to engage the organisation in a transformation exercise to keep pace with changing market conditions.

Joining the board are chartered accountant Hakeem Ahmad and business executive Natasha Phillips.

Categories: News

Councillor wants cholera testing in Cedros

News - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:30

Days after the Government discontinued permits for the importation of processed crab meat and live crab from neighbouring Venezuela because of potential cholera risks, a request has been made for cholera testing to be done in rural fishing communities in Cedros and Icacos.

In an interview, Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh questioned whether the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drug Division had done any tests on local crabs to determine whether they were also contaminated by the bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Teelucksingh said the Orinoco River pours into the Gulf of Paria bringing with it clumps of flora, snakes, crabs, and other creatures.

“If they are banning the importation of live crabs how are they going to stop it from reaching here. What parts of Venezuela are the bacteria found? What testing was done to confirm this?” Teelucksingh asked.

He added that over 100 crab catchers and crab vendors in the southwestern peninsula were suffering because no one wanted to buy crabs in fear of falling sick.

Teeklucksingh said studies have shown that food that which is properly cooked prevented the spread of cholera.

“I want to know what checks is presently being done at the Cedros port by the Ministry of Health of all products coming in, like fish, shrimps, dairy, and poultry. Are we equipping health centres with cholera kits?

Are people being tested in Icacos and are they educating people about how cholera is spread?” Teelucksingh asked.

He said banning the issuing of permits for the importation of the packaged crab meat and live crabs should have only occurred if proper investigations were done.

Contacted yesterday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the concerns raised by Teelucksingh fell under the purview of the Health Ministry. However, he denied a report from the Jamaica Observer that

T&T had banned crab meat and live crabs from Venezuela.

“We have issued no ban on crab meat from Venezuela. The Ministry of Trade has not issued any import permit for crab meat from Venezuela. We have simply shared the US FDA advisory - for consumers to be aware of the risk of consuming packaged crab meat coming illegally from Venezuela,” Rambharat said.

He added that the Ministry was concerned about possible health risks coming from the Venezuelan mainland.

He also said that if there is any local ban or advisory, the Ministry of Health will notify citizens.

Last week, the FDA reported that 12 people in the US fell ill after eating crab meat infected by the bacteria, which prompted the advisory.

Categories: News

$450,000 award for offensive radio talk

News - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 23:25

Radio station 104.7 More FM has been ordered to pay a little over $450,000 in compensation to businessmen Junior Sammy and three of his companies over defamatory statements made during a talk show programme.

Delivering a 36-page judgment in the San Fernando High Court yesterday, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that Sammy and his companies were defamed by a series of accusations made on the “Ground Report” between November and December 2016.

While Seepersad ruled that Sammy was entitled to $450,000 in compensation to vindicate his professional reputation, he ruled that his companies Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd, Jusamco Pavers Ltd and Sammy’s Multilift Services Ltd only deserved nominal damages as they were unable to provide financial records, which showed that their business interests were directly affected by the offensive allegations.

“Although the words complained of were significant, the court took judicial notice of the fact, that the corporate claimants continue to receive substantial contracts, including government contracts, the most recent being the extension of the Point Fortin Highway along the Mosquito Creek,” Seepersad said as he ruled that each company was entitled to $7,500 in compensation.

Sammy and his companies sued the radio station and the hosts of the programme Andy Williams and Lennox Smith after they made allegations that he (Sammy) had corruptly obtained government contracts.

In its defence, the radio station, through its owners Robert and Sharon Amar, claimed that it should not be held liable as it did not manage the programme which was broadcast on airtime purchased by Williams and Smith.

Although Williams and Smith initially sought to rely on the defence of fair comment, they eventually settled the claim and were removed from the lawsuit before it went to trial, in March.

Sammy and his companies continued to pursue the claim against the radio station.

In his judgment, Seepersad first decided whether the statements could be considered libel or slander. Libel deals with written defamatory statements while slander deals with oral defamatory statements.

As he ruled that the talk show statements constituted libel based on the fact that it was broadcast internationally on the radio station’s website.

“Radio broadcasts can reach a wide audience and it can cause as much or even more harm than a newspaper report,” Seepersad said.

He called for Parliament to consider amending T&T colonial age legislation to bring it in line with international developments in defamation law.

“The law in this jurisdiction needs to be reviewed especially given the fact that talk shows have become the norm and there are numerous ‘call in’ programmes where persons regularly make highly offensive and defamatory remarks,” Seepersad said.

He noted that in England the law had developed to provide a defence for companies like the radio station, which currently can be held liable for defamatory statements made by third parties on its platform.

Seepersad sought to give advice to radio stations on how to avoid similar situations until legislative intervention occurs.

“The implementation of time delays, the implementation of a pre-recorded broadcast policy and the inclusion of indemnification policies as between the station and third party should be considered and adopted,” Seepersad said.

In 2015, television host Ian Alleyne was ordered to pay Sammy, his companies and his son Shaun, $600,000 in compensation for defamation over statements related to him (Shaun) being charged for drunk driving in 2014.

Alleyne failed to pay the money by the deadline and the Sammys levied on Alleyne’s home to recoup it. He eventually paid.

Sammy and his companies were represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and Ronnie Bissessar

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