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Business leaders: T&T sinking in competitiveness
All indicators show that T&T is rock bottom in terms of international competitiveness rankings, says Hugh Howard, president, American Chamber of Commerce T&T. “There are the 12 pillars of the Global Competitiveness Index on which scores are given. T&T has fallen three places to position 84 out of the 144 countries that were ranked. When you look at this situation that caused the traffic and lost man-hours, and compare it to how T&T was ranked on the infrastructure pillar on the Index, we are at number 74, which is the halfway mark. This specific pillar deals with the quality of roads,” he told the Guardian yesterday.
Gregory Aboud, president, Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA), was quoted in Friday’s Guardian as saying that an estimated 180,000 man-hours were lost on Thursday due to the gaping hole on the westbound in the highway that caused a traffic jam. Howard questioned the efficient use of money that is being allocated to the Ministry of Works.
“Over the last five years, how many millions of dollars have been allocated to that ministry in the budget? How then can the Minister of Works say that they do not have the right equipment to deal with the problem?” he asked. Commenting on the general decline of productivity and inefficiency in the country, Howard said: “With regards to the labour productivity pillar on the Index, T&T is ranked at number 126, that is almost the bottom out of 144 countries.
Today, we hear of a big trade union march. We need to examine productivity and how it is linked to wages. Let us look at Barbados where the have a tri-partite relationship that works beautifully. We need to have the same relationship among the Government, labour and business in this country,” he said.
Howard said the public sector in T&T is generally more inefficient than the private sector. “In the private sector, there are standards which are measured and consequences when these are not met. We need to develop a sense of excellence and commitment in the way we do things,” he said.
Little hole, big problems
Imtiaz Ali, former president, San Juan Business Association, and a manufacturer, said incidents like “a little hole” that caused these logistical problems this week show the decline of industry. “We, as manufacturers and business people, have to pay triple time for people who showed up for work late because of that incident. We also have to pay workers who never came to work. That is hurting us badly,” he said. Ali called the public service officers inept.
“Don’t the senior and middle managers of the police service and the Public Service in general think? I believe they cannot think for themselves and plan when these problems arise,” he said. Ali said these examples show that T&T’s industry has declined. “I remember how competitive we were in the 1960s in many areas. Where is our manufacturing sector now? It is the fault of consecutive governments over the years that has caused this. All these makeshift work programmes that have caused people to be lazy,” he said.
Better roads, bridges
Daphne Bartlett, president, San Fernando Business Association, said T&T’s infrastructure needs to be improved. “About that specific hole, I am not sure if it is a natural disaster. If so, that would have made that entire situation unavoidable, but the infrastructure of the country needs to be improved,” Bartlett said. She spoke about improving the infrastructure to increase competitiveness and generate revenue.
“I visited the area in Grande Riviere to see the turtles, which is a great tourist attraction that can generate revenue, but the bridges there are awful and there are no facilities for tourists,” Bartlett said. “In the south, many roads are being fixed and I am happy that the Government is moving ahead with the highway to Point Fortin. I would like to see the water taxis extended to Point Fortin.”
Speaking about T&T’s slip in the Global Competitiveness Index, Bartlett said it is not so much a case of T&T doing worse, but other countries doing better. “I do not think we are doing much worse, but I do think other countries have increased their efficiency and so have moved ahead of us. We have oil and gas, we have a natural market for tourism and I see no reason why we should not be doing better,” Bartlett said.
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