Business magnate Derek Chin has called for the regularisation of Venezuelans living in T&T so that they can become part of the workforce.
Chin was at the time delivering the feature address at the Couva-Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce annual Christmas Dinner at the Chamber’s Auditorium at Camden Road, Couva, on Wednesday night.
The Dachin Group of Companies chairman said detaining illegal aliens from Venezuela at the Immigration Detention Centre was only costing the country money and not benefiting anyone.
“Let’s regularise it, we need labour. I’m not going to open a restaurant that costs me $6 million and I can’t find people to work or people of any calibre to work, so why don’t we turn a negative into a positive,” Chin said.
He said work permits should be given to those willing to work.
“Why don’t we turn all that talent that is coming over, begging for work, do our humanity part of it, and try and see how we can make it a win-win instead of putting them into a detention camp, six months, you have to look after them and then send them back, it makes no sense.”
Chin said a shortage of labour was one of his biggest problems now facing the business community. He said he currently hires 2,300 people but has the capacity to employ 3,000.
“I need to get some help somewhere,” he said, adding there are simple solutions to many problems in T&T but they are bogged down by too much institutional bureaucracy.
Chin said T&T was also taking too long to legalise marijuana, a move he said can generate much-needed revenue. He said Canada legalised marijuana and in doing so placed itself in a revenue-generating position But he said the mindset of local leaders need to change in order for T&T to move ahead.
“Unless we change the sight of the country, unless we change how we think and why we should be winners and not losers.
“The leaders of the country, I beg of you to start thinking outside of the box. The world is moving very fast and unless we wake up and smell the coffee we would be left behind.”
He also urged local businessmen to invest in Guyana, adding that country should start seeing the benefits of its oil windfall by 2020. He said his Streets of the World complex is expected to be opened on February 21, 2019, in Guyana and the investment has attracted international chain Hard Rock Café along with Massy Stores, which is putting up a 60,000 square foot superstore. He said with Guyana expected to deliver 700,000 barrels of oil daily in due course, businessmen should not get left out.
Chamber president Ramchand Rajbal Maraj meanwhile said he was concerned about the debt T&T would face from the Sandals project in Tobago. Rajbal-Maraj quoted from a newspaper article that points to the expenditure of $11 billion by Government to fully fund the project. He said it was difficult for nationals to remain optimistic in what he called “trying and unusual times.”
“We are witnessing decisions that have left us in astonishment and deep trepidation,” Rajbal Maraj said.
“I can remember the very negative impact in 2003 when the atrocious decision was taken to close down Caroni Limited. The delirious effects of this decision can still be felt today, especially by the families of the former employees. But I want everyone to take note that this decision has served to severely shrink our agriculture sector, as former Caroni lands continually lie idle and many ex-sugar workers still await their lands.
“Then in 2015 Arcelor Mittal closed its doors and shut down its plant and all the workers were placed on the breadline, totally unprepared. To date, the employees never were in receipt of any benefits that were entitled to them.”
He said he was also deeply saddened about the closure of Petrotrin and the impending layoffs at TSTT.