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Businessmen to Planning Minister: Grease wheels in private sector
Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie came under fire from several prominent members of the business sector at a conference on Developing a National Diversification Strategy, at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. “We want the country to grow and prosper, we want a more equitable spread of benefits, we want to bring crime under control and end poverty,” Tewarie said.
President of the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA), Dominic Hadeed, was the first to make some suggestions to the Planning Ministry. After a lengthy morning period of heavy economic talk, Hadeed told the minister that such conferences should be shorter and the presentations simplified.
And, while the Government is calling on the private sector to start the diversification thrust, Hadeed said: “We need the wheels greased in the private sector. “Just remove the obstacles and you would be amazed,” he told the head table where Tewarie sat with Finance Minister Larry Howai.
Chaguanas mayor Orlando Nagessar almost had what seemed like a tit-for-tat quarrel with Tewarie over the use of land in Chaguanas. Nagessar said the borough presented a detailed plan of land use, but is seeing rapid changes to it. He said he does not have a problem with a University of the West Indies campus being constructed in Chaguanas or government ministries coming there.
Nagessar noted that the area was surrounded by abandoned sugarcane lands. Tewarie said he was aware of the spatial development plan. The exchange of words started when Nagessar said: “Changes are being made rapidly to the plan.”
Tewarie: “Just be part of it, you are the leader in the area.” Nagessar: “Things are done sometimes without local government.”
Tewarie: “You are the leader, make your input.” Nagessar: “We did a plan and it’s being interfered with.” Tewarie later sought to apologise to Nagessar. Gary Voss, former TTMA president and current RBTT Financial Holdings director, said all the plans Tewarie’s ministry were making were very good stuff. “But nobody’s talking about the perceived lack of business confidence,” he said.
“There is a very significant decrease in private sector investment. “Nobody’s coming here to invest.” President of the Public Services Association Watson Duke said he became a little uncomfortable when Tewarie selected a few people from the conference to take a photograph with new Governor of the Central Bank Jwala Rambarran.
“You are speaking about inclusion...You must take labour into consideration,” Duke said. He said the economy cannot be developed without social justice. “What role does my 69,000 public servants have to play?” he asked. “You are only hearing about boosting production and they are treated like slaves.”
Derek Chin, owner of MovieTowne, said a lot of the talk about giving entrepreneurs freedom to create is just that, talk. “Giving opportunities is a no-no,” he said. “You sit here with all these lovely plans and we get nothing.” Group chief operating officer ANSA McAL, Gerry Brooks, said plans usually belonged to a particular party and are changed when a new government comes into power. “We need to develop a truly national plan,” he suggested.
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