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Trade Minister: T&T’s high crime not scaring off investors

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Trade Minister Vasant Bharath,second from right, speaks with, from left, Keith Chin, chief executive of T&T Free Zone, Brian Awang, chief executive of Exim Bank and TTMA chief executive Ramesh Ramdeen, during a break at an Exim Bank-sponsored seminar on export financing at the Courtyard Marriott, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES

Trade Minister Vasant Bharath said yesterday that T&T’s high crime rate has not affected foreign direct investment. “We have not come across any investor who is not coming to T&T because of crime. I believe that there are many countries in the world that have high crime rates, like Colombia and Venezuela, but it has not prevented them from getting business. “I am not going to sweep it under the carpet and say it is not an issue. It is an issue for foreign direct investors but  we have many other pluses that we can sell while we are attempting to get the issue of crime down,”the minister told reporters yesterday during a seminar on trade and export financing at the Courtyard Marriott in Port-of-Spain. “Colombia has one of the most successful health tourism industries and they have huge crime as everyone knows. Jamaica also has large investments and they have a high crime rate, so it is not main factor. The issue is how we are dealing with it,” Bharath said.


The minister said, however, that crime cannot be solved overnight: “It has really crippled our society for the last 20 or 30 years and we have to deal with it at every level of the society, not just the impact but the root causes and it is a cultural issue.” Keys to trade and export financing’ on Monday 5 August, 2013, Minister Bharath said that ‘while on the international frontier, the Government is expanding market access for T&T’s goods and services, we must establish the enabling environment and create that ‘hook’ to attract and keep investors here in T&T, for the rest of the world is moving ahead and persons have many options on where to invest their money’. Bharath used the opportunity to urge ministries and relevant agencies to “clean up your act to attract and keep investors in Trinidad and Tobago.” He said: “Exim Bank is currently too import oriented and there is a need to become more export focused providing incentives for the local industry to become export ready.”


The minister said he hoped the seminar will be both informative and provide participants with information on novel ways that they can access financing and related services to expand or venture into trade and export activities. Bharath announced that government will be rolling out seven new Industrial parks across the country, accessing funds from the People’s Republic of China.
“Currently a team of Chinese engineers are in Trinidad planning the roll out of the parks scheduled to take place over the next two years to create the arena so persons can move in and do business in T&T’. In response to questions from reporters, Bharath denied that the United National Congress, the main people in T&T’s People’s Partnership governing coalition, is in “crisis mode.” “Whether you can expect any changes is a question to be posed to the Prime Minister under whose portfolio that falls,” he said.


He said VAT is a “major constraint” and this is one area that he has proposed to the Finance Ministry for review in the national budget which will be presented later this year. “There has been a backlog of VAT that we have inherited and it has created major obstacles for our manufacturers and our traders generally. It creates cash flow problems, it creates issues for investments of  cash in the business, it creates issues where manufacturers have to go to the banks to borrow money where borrowing is high and makes it uncompetitive in foreign markets,” he said. Bharath also said there is not enough commercial space for local businesses or foreign businesses looking to set up in T&T. “We must remember that we are competing on the international market. There are many destinations to which foreign investors can go, so we must ensure that we have some unique selling points. We cannot bring an investor in T&T, or ask a local investor to invest in something that is not available. We must have available commercial space for them with electricity, cable and water,” he said. “We are dealing with a system that has been this way for the past 30 and 40 years,” he said.


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