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Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

NCB Financial Group this week’s volume leader

19 hours 14 min ago

This week saw 578,243 shares traded on the First Tier Market a decrease of 46.34 per cent on last week’s volume of 1,077,557 shares crossing the floor.

The value of shares traded was down by 26.90 per cent to $8,154,621.33 from the previous week’s value of $11,155,563.78. The volume leader this week was NCB Financial Group Ltd (NCBFG) capturing 23.90 per cent of the market activity or 138,181 shares traded, followed by Sagicor Financial Ltd (SFC) with 15.42 per cent or 89,149 shares traded and has been in the top three for the past three weeks.

In third place was GraceKennedy Ltd (GKC) with 15.01 per cent or 86,767 shares traded and has been in the top three for the past three weeks.

The Indices ended the week in positive territory. The Composite Index increased by 0.84 per cent or 10.28 points to close at 1,241.20. The All Trinidad and Tobago Index rose by 0.06 per cent or 1.04 points to end at 1,712.78, this was attributable mainly to the increase in the share price of Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL) and West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd (WCO). The Cross Listed Index closed at 103.53, up by 2.68 per cent or 2.70 points this was attributable mainly to the increase in the share price of NCBFG and JMMB Group Ltd (JMMBGL). The advance to decline ratio was 9 stocks advancing and 7 stocks declining, while 4 stocks are at their 52 week high and 6 stocks are at their 52 week low.

NCBFG was the major advance this week up 7.43 per cent or $0.42 to close the week at $6.07, followed by Sagicor Financial Corporation Ltd with an increase of 3.20 per cent or $0.24 to end at $7.74. JMMBGL was in third place with an increase of 2.86 per cent or $0.05 to end at $1.80.

The major decline was National Flour Mills Ltd (NFM) this week, with a decrease of 5.03 per cent or $0.09 to close at $1.70. In second place was GKC with a 3.45 per cent drop or $0.10 to end at $2.80, its 52 week low. In third place was FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd (FCI) down by 1.06 per cent or $0.09 to close at $8.40. There was no activity on the Second Tier Market this week.

Categories: News

What really matters with your first credit card

19 hours 16 min ago

Getting your first credit card is like moving into your first apartment: It’s exciting, empowering—and, once you get used to it, pretty underwhelming.

Your first time out, “you’re not going to have a credit card that is going to have a high limit,” says Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education. “It’s not going to have great benefits or kickbacks or reward programs probably tied to it. And that’s OK.”

A starter credit card is just that—a start. Used responsibly, it’s a way to build a positive credit history, which will help you with things like getting a better deal on a mortgage or cheaper car insurance; and it will help you qualify for a card with better terms down the road — for example, one with richer rewards. Here’s what you should look for.

• Ease of approval

When you have a thin credit file and limited income, you’re not likely to qualify for a card packed with benefits. Instead, aim for something more basic

If you already have a credit history that shows consistent on-time payments and responsible borrowing it’s possible to qualify for a regular “unsecured” credit card that doesn’t require a deposit. To increase your odds of approval, apply through the bank you already use or with a pre-approved offer received in the mail.

Don’t have a credit history yet? Consider applying for a secured card, one that requires a cash deposit. Or ask a parent to add you as an authorised user on a card with history of on-time payments and a balance that’s far below the limit.

• No annual fees

Avoiding an annual fee on your first credit card is a budget-friendly move that allows you to keep the card open for a long time at no cost. That can bolster your credit scores if you continue to make on-time payments on the account.

• Useful rewards

When Zina Kumok applied for her first credit card at 22, she wanted a sign-up bonus — one that she could earn easily.

“I wasn’t making a lot, and I was trying not to spend a lot” at the time, says Kumok, now 29, a freelance writer in Indianapolis who covers personal finance.

“I didn’t want to feel like I was being pressured to spend more to reach a bonus, which obviously never works out in your favour,” she says. Kumok opted for a card with versatile cash-back rewards and a sign-up bonus with a modest spending requirement.

Follow Kumok’s lead: Look for a card that will reward you for the spending you’re already doing to avoid overspending to land a sign-up bonus.

Keep in mind that cards with rewards tend to charge higher interest rates. But if you expect to pay your bill in full every month, that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

“The APR only matters if you don’t pay off your balance,” Kumok says.

• How to manage your first card

Applying for your first credit card is simple, but building a credit history takes more effort.

• Stay well below your limit. Using too much of your first card’s tiny limit could sink your score. But you don’t have to spend a lot to kickstart your credit history. It’s possible to build credit by making just one small transaction per billing cycle and paying it off on time. “You could set up your recurring monthly cell phone bill to be paid (with) your credit card,” Golden says.

• Pay your balance in full and on time every month. Do this and you won’t pay a penny in interest or penalties, and you’ll build a positive credit history, too.

• Make a plan. To avoid overspending on your new credit card, set a weekly budget and keep tabs on your accounts. If your spending starts to creep up, trim costs to get back on track.

Categories: News

Find and delete where Google knows you’ve been

19 hours 19 min ago

Even if you have “Location History” off, Google often stores your precise location. Here’s how to delete those markers and some best-effort practices that keep your location as private as possible.

But there’s no panacea, because simply connecting to the internet on any device flags an IP address that can be geographically mapped. Smartphones also connect to cell towers, so your carrier knows your general location at all times.

• To prevent further tracking

For any device:

Fire up your browser and go to (You’ll need to be logged into Google) On the upper left drop-down menu, go to “Activity Controls.” Turn off both “Web & App Activity” and “Location History.” That should prevent precise location markers from being stored to your Google account.

Google will warn you that some of its services won’t work as well with these settings off. In particular, neither the Google Assistant, a digital concierge, nor the Google Home smart speaker will be particularly useful.

On iOS:

If you use Google Maps, adjust your location setting to “While Using” the app; this will prevent the app from accessing your location when it’s not active. Go to Settings Privacy Location Services and from there select Google Maps to make the adjustment.

In the Safari web browser, consider using a search engine other than Google. Under Settings Safari Search Engine, you can find other options like Bing or DuckDuckGo. You can turn location off while browsing by going to Settings Privacy Location Services Safari Websites, and turn this to “Never.” (This still won’t prevent advertisers from knowing your rough location based on IP address on any website).

You can also turn Location Services off to the device almost completely from Settings Privacy Location Services. Both Google Maps and Apple Maps will still work, but they won’t know where you are on the map and won’t be able to give you directions. Emergency responders will still be able to find you if the need arises.

On Android:

Under the main settings icon click on “Security & location.” Scroll down to the “Privacy” heading. Tap “Location.” You can toggle it off for the entire device.

Use “App-level permissions” to turn off access to various apps. Unlike the iPhone, there is no setting for “While Using.” You cannot turn off Google Play services, which supplies your location to other apps if you leave that service on.

Sign in as a “guest” on your Android device by swiping down from top and tapping the downward-facing caret, then again on the torso icon. Be aware of which services you sign in on, like Chrome.

You can also change search engines even in Chrome.

• To delete past location tracking

For any device:

On the page, look for any entry that has a location pin icon beside the word “details.” Clicking on that pops up a window that includes a link that sometimes says “From your current location.” Clicking on it will open Google Maps, which will display where you were at the time.

You can delete it from this popup by clicking on the navigation icon with the three stacked dots and then “Delete.”

Some items will be grouped in unexpected places, such as topic names,, Search, or Maps. You have to delete them item by item. You can wholesale delete all items in date ranges or by service, but will end up taking out more than just location markers.

Categories: News

TSTT staff brings empowerment through education

19 hours 22 min ago

Employees of TSTT, have already begun mobilising their individual and group contributions towards their ninth annual Book Buddies Programme. Since 2009 more than 500 of TSTT’s staff, managers and executives, have provided back-to-school books, uniforms and other material to over 1,000 children at children’s homes and shelters. The employees’ personal contributions to date have exceeded $1.5 million.

This unique initiative is one of the pillars of the bmobile Foundation which reaches out to the Homes each year, inviting them to submit book lists for children in their care. More than 20 institutions have been included in this project and some employees request to sponsor the same child they’ve sponsored in the past, therefore, genuinely committing to these children’s futures.

Notwithstanding economic challenges, this year staff are supporting 140 primary school and secondary school children from 13 homes.

Betty-Anne Olton, a business analyst in TSTT’s operational efficiency department, is a regular donor who believes in the Book Buddies Programme providing empowerment through education.

“As employees we are always passionate about this venture every single year,” she stated. “There are sections of the company who get together as a group to sponsor 10-12 book lists. By pooling their resources, they can do more, than if they were to, individually. The children are already in challenging circumstances and it is critical for them to have what is necessary for education. It’s their jump-off point for anywhere they want to go in life.”

Even though the programme is centred on creating an academic avenue for these youngsters, it also plays an integral role in developing better work relations among the hosts’ employees.

Olton, who will be sponsoring a Form One student this time around, added: “It gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that we’re helping the future generations. It is really a fantastic initiative to support children on the whole and it also motivates the employees to do better.”

In TSTT Tobago, Marissa Guppy from the enterprise, marketing and communications department, is one of several employees assisting students in the sister-isle.

“As a volunteer, I believe I can contribute directly towards helping a child achieve his/her dreams through education,” she said.

“I have been a part of this initiative previously and I was inspired that so many of my fellow employees were on board. It’s like a responsibility to give back to the less fortunate. It’s a great experience seeing our employees coming together and working towards a good cause.”

Expressing her heartfelt gratitude to the staff of TSTT for their warm gesture was manager of the Tobago-based Sylphil Home in Love, Susan Phillips-Jack. The caregiver applauded both the short and long-term benefits of the Book Buddies Programme and held in high regard, those who openly contribute to the educational development of young minds on a national scale.

Phillips-Jack assured that the donated items would be well kept by their new owners and put to good use. She shared, “Most of the children were born in to or have inherited social challenges. Education is their key to moving past these obstacles and paving a new way to success in life. Material things can be destroyed but a sound education cannot be taken from you.”

Some of the other beneficiary Homes of this year’s Book Buddies Programme are Cyril Ross Nursery, St Dominic’s Children’s Home, Credo Development Centre, Rainbow Rescue, Bridge of Hope, Joshua Boys (Eternal Light Community), Raffa House, Swaha Vishok Bhavan, Islamic Home for Children, Marian House, Ferndean’s Children’s Home, Margaret Kistow Children’s Home, Sylphil Home of Love, Tobago.

Categories: News

Building a solid reputation

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 22:40

Late last year, Nicole Duke-Westfield finally took a bold step she had been thinking about for some time and resigned as senior manager, corporate communications, at RBC Financial Caribbean Ltd, to follow her dream.

Although it seemed like a daring move after 12 years in a stable job at a major financial institution, Duke-Westfield came to the conclusion that “there is no right time and there is always a reason why not.”

She said: “Lots of changes were taking place at the bank and that gave me the opportunity to think about my future. I had always wanted to work for myself and run my own business.”

At that point, married for more than 20 years to Julien, an IT professional, and with a teenaged son, Liam, on the verge of CSEC exams, Duke-Westfield decided that there was no time like the present and took the leap into entrepreneurship.

The result is Westfield Communication—the boutique PR and communications company that she and her husband launched earlier this year.

Combining her crisis communications, public relations and media expertise with his IT experience has proven to be a winning formula for the couple who are able to provide clients with support and advice tailored for the demands of the digital age.

The Westfields started working on the legal, regulatory and financial requirements to set up their business in October and November last year and by January they were up and running.

For corporate clients, organisations and even individuals, the company has been providing support in reputation management and strategic communications, helping their varied clientele navigate the world through communications.

“The level of support that we received when we started the business has been tremendous,” said Duke-Westfield.

In addition to encouragement and offers of help from family and close friends, there have been referrals
from colleagues who have been spreading  the word about Westfield Communications.

From journalism to communications

It also helped that in the years she had worked, first in journalism, then in corporate communications, Duke-Westfield had built a solid reputation.

She said a lot of the referrals tell her they considered what she had built over the years.

“I have had a few calls like that—your name does have to speak for itself,” she said.

Her personal brand was shaped by years of experience working for two global multinational brands—before RBC, Duke-Westfield had been media and internal communications adviser at energy company bpTT.

Before that, there had been the 12 years she had spent rising through the ranks at the Trinidad Express, then the Trinidad Guardian, starting out in 1991 as a junior reporter fresh out of the University of the West Indies with a BA in History and Sociology.

After covering multiple news beats, including crime and business, she was appointed an editor at the Trinidad Guardian just when some major developments were taking place at that publication.

Duke-Westfield led the editorial team through the transition from a broadsheet to tabloid, then played a role in the launch of the Business Guardian.

Then came her first professional leap, when she left journalism and joined bpTT in mid-2003. She worked there for just over three years before joining RBC.

More challenges awaited there, with some major Caribbean-wide projects involving technology and production implementations, as well as organisational restructures.

One of the most significant was serving as Caribbean communications adviser for the rebrand of RBC and RBTT as a single regional

It was an exercise that spanned 19 countries, more than 6,000 employees and more than one million clients.

Looking back on those experiences, Duke Westfield revealed: “For me the joy has always been in the work. In my corporate life I have worked with some very talented people. These experiences have been very sustaining me.”

Keeping it real

The common thread through all of her professional undertakings has been the ability to “help people tell their stories well.”

The difference now, she said, admitting that it has given her some nervous moments, is scaling down from a work environment in a large regional organisation to a two-person home business.

“Suddenly I have to do this for me,” she said.

Still, there is a sense of satisfaction for Duke-Westfield in making that professional shift.

Working with her husband as they build the business has been a positive experience, she said.

“Julien and I mirror each other well— my creative mind and his technical talent.”

However, there has to be a reality check from time to time.

She explained: “We have to be realistic about the range of services we can offer to our clients. Yes, I want to make a profit and have a suite of clients but there are only so many projects I can take on at any given time. I can’t do it all.”

Rather than giving a potential client less than a best—she doesn’t want to fall into the trap of spreading herself too thin— Duke-Westfield directs then to one of her talented counterparts.

According to her, in the world of public relations and communications, T&T has a lot of talent.

She said: “We can build a talent network.”

But don’t get the idea that it has been a walk in the park for the Westfields thus far.

They have had their learning experiences and some aspects of the business are still being fine tuned.

Duke Westfield admitted: “As an entrepreneur sometimes the challenge is deciding how and when to monetise that conversation.

You have to learn to draw the line between general advice and your professionalm mode.”

No regrets, though, and no looking back.

Drawing inspiration from other communications professionals who have established successful small and medium-sized businesses, the Westfields are forging ahead with their brand new venture.

‘Communications is more of a strategic role, especially now in the digital age...

Communicating effectively can be the difference between success and failure, not just for companies but also individuals, says Nicole Duke-Westfield, principal consultant at Westfield Communications.

“Brands can be tarnished and things can go wrong very quickly,” she said.

“For the success of your business, who ever is your client or shareholder needs to believe in and be a part of your story.”

Duke-Westfield added: “Communications is more of a strategic role, especially now in the digital age where everyone is communicating through social media.”

She gave the example of the incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia in the United States where the arrest of two black men sparked allegations of racial bias and quickly led to repercussions across the global coffee house chain.

However, the company quickly went into crisis communications mode, with CEO Kevin Johnson apologising for the arrests and describing the incident as “reprehensible.”

Duke-Westfield said while there was fallout, the company managed to contain the damage because of the speed and effectiveness with which its communications strategy was rolled out.

In the other example, where video of passenger David Dao being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight quickly went viral, CEO Oscar Munoz was slow in responding to the public outrage.

Although Dao eventually arrived at an amicable settlement with the airline, the incident was handled was described as a “fumbling response” and a “public relations disaster” and it was felt that Munoz should have been more genuinely apologetic from the start.

“People follow brands and they do so based on a relationship. They are drawn to a particular product and service by what the company stands for,” Duke-Westfield said.

About Westfield Communications

Westfield Communications is a boutique PR and communications company committed to working closely with companies and individuals in the design and execution of strategic communications to help grow their business and enhance their brand and reputation in Caribbean markets.

For more information on the company and the range of services available,

email: [email protected], or view their professional profile: westfield-b0401336.


Categories: News

The EITI: A necessary health check on systems

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:15

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) gauges just how effective the country is at managing and accounting for its oil, gas and mining sector revenue. In this regard, the initiative can be viewed as a health check on the country’s revenue collection and audit and assurance systems. While the EITI’s main pillar is reconciling oil, gas and mining company payments against government receipts, importantly, the initiative also identifies institutional imperfections and recommends steps to correct these faults.

In the latest EITI Report, the independent administrator/auditor, BDO Trinity Ltd, points out several areas for improvement from the need to better monitor production sharing contract obligations/payments to better regulation of the mining sector. The concrete recommendations made by the independent administrator/auditor can help improve how much money the country earns from the extractive sectors as well as how effectively the state manages data and provides assurance.

Some of these recommendations include:

1 Production sharing contract monitoring:

The auditor highlighted the need for greater monitoring of amounts due and paid from production sharing contracts (PSCs) to Government. The auditor outlined several gaps in the reporting system that have implications on the MEEI’s ability to collect monies due. For example, the report generated by the MEEI is not cumulative; therefore, users cannot see the amounts due before the current year, neither all amounts due under PSCs (eg government’s profit share and transfer/assignment fees).

The T&T EITI Report 2016 also reported that, in January 2018, there were 238 expenditure audits and 121 revenue audits due but not yet carried out/completed. It is important to note that during the period from October 2016 to September 2017, the PSC audit unit commenced 113 new expenditure audits and concluded 34 expenditure audits from previous fiscal years. The unit started 25 revenue audits in the same period. In addition to proposing ways to improve the system of reporting PSC payments, the auditor also recommends that the MEEI should urgently review prior periods of PSC payments and review cases of unpaid transfer/assignment fees so that the necessary actions can be taken to collect monies due.

2 Audit and assurance:

Currently, due to confidentiality restrictions in the Income Tax Act, the Auditor General is unable to review the revenue records of the Board of Inland Revenue. The auditor recommended that government promotes legislative change to remove restrictions on disclosure of information to the auditor general.

The Constitution grants the auditor general access to all books and records relating to the public accounts of the country, however, the BIR believes that it is under statutory duty to maintain confidentiality.

The report also states, ‘‘The Auditor General said that the (BIR) has now raised concerns that there are further potential confidentiality issues relating to the FATCA (United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance.’’ This has been a long-standing issue raised in successive EITI reports and raises concerns on the country’s assurance environment.

Recent steps have been taken to improve the country’s assurance environment with the Minister of Finance laying a Draft Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA) Bill in Parliament.

The bill seeks to establish a TTRA, which will replace the Inland Revenue Division of the Ministry of Finance (also referred to as the Board of Inland Revenue/BIR) and replace the Customs and Excise Division. The bill allows for an annual audit by the Auditor General (AG).

The AG will also:

i. Have access to all books and records

ii. Conduct a comprehensive audit of all the activities of the TTRA and

iii. Inform the Minister of Finance of any irregularities. The AG’s Report on the TTRA will also be laid in Parliament annually. The TTEITI Steering Committee has always been a strong advocate for absolving the auditor general from Income Tax Act confidentiality provisions that precludes his access to the BIR’s records.

3 Mining sector regulation:

The White Paper on Minerals Policy 2015 highlights the under reporting of both production and royalty payments from mining companies and states that between 2001 and 2013 only 10 percent of royalties were collected. The paper states that between 2005-2013 the Government should have gained TT$123.3 million in royalty payments, but it only collected TT $13.3 million from mining companies. Apart from the royalty shortfall, only seven mining companies have licenses despite there being 91 active mining operations throughout the country.

Given these legacy issues, the auditor recommends that Government develops a system to independently verify production whether through weighbridges or drone technology. The Ministry of Energy is currently reviewing a drone system to help improve production verification. The auditor also recommends that the system for licensing operators should be simplified and a time-bound plan developed to grant outstanding licences.

The EITI, if used correctly, is a useful resource for the country to assess its extractive sector governance. How well our revenue collection, data management and audit and assurance systems work impacts on our short, medium and long-term plans.

It is important to note that the information and data in the latest report is not the end point but rather a conversation starter. Hopefully, the report provides a platform for greater discourse on the extractive sectors and, more importantly, how we can use extractive sector revenue to effectively fuel our developmental goals.

For more information on the TTEITI and to view the latest EITI report please visit

Categories: News

T&TEC shines light on renewables

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:12

The T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) is leading the way in renewable energy in T&T, says acting general manager Courtenay Mark. While he admits that the utility’s cheap electricity rates are not an incentive for more efficient energy use, the company is using innovative ways to transform that culture.

In an interview at T&TEC’s office, Mt Hope, Mark explained that renewable energy falls into two main categories—dispatchables and non dispatchables.

Non dispatchable renewable energy sources occur naturally such as with solar energy which is only available during the day. Dispatchable renewable energy sources, which are available continuously, include hydro energy and energy produced from waste which can be stored for use as one sees fit.

Non dispatchable renewables are attracting a great deal of interest, he said.

“This is where solar energy is taking root. T&TEC has done research of our own. There are solar panels on the buildings outside where we have four kilowatts installed at this location. We also installed four kilowatts of panels at the University of T&T (UTT) campus,” Mark revealed.

“We have remote access to these facilities to determine the amount of energy we are getting. Typically we would get 20 per cent availability from the installed panels based on the cloud cover and sunlight that we would normally get.”

T&TEC has also done research on wind energy, mainly in Tobago.

“We installed anemometers—these are wind speed devices—at Flagstaff Hill which is the very northern most tip of Tobago and we took wind measurements there. The wind speeds we have discovered, so far, can be used for medium-sized wind turbines—that would be in the range of 750 kilowatts to one megawatt—but would hardly sustain much larger turbines,” he said.

Giving practical example of how much energy powers a house, Mark explained: “A three-bedroom house with lighting, microwave and other typical appliances would use about two kilowatts of power.

“Because the sun is not available constantly, a house could not run on its own if it only had two kilowatts of solar panels installed. If any there was any installation away from T&TEC’s grid, panels have to be installed of a capacity to compensate for that lower level of availability of energy. It also should compensate for when there is no sunlight. That would require batteries to be installed to store energy if you were off grid.”

Mark said T&TEC has contemplated that at some time houses will have solar panels which will offset electricity bills and even put excess power back into the grid.

“The electricity tariffs in the Caribbean are six or seven times more than in T&T. The payback for that investment is quite attractive.

“In the case of T&T, we have the lowest tariffs in the western hemisphere and if we were to make that investment it might not appear to have the kind of payback time to make it attractive.

“That did not stop T&TEC from pressing on in working with a number of stakeholders, like the Bureau of Standards, the Government’s Electrical Inspectorate, our line ministry, the Ministry of Energy and other regulatory agencies to place a framework in place for a renewable energy policy,” he said.

The final step in that process would be legislative changes to allow households to generate electricity and connect back to T&TEC’s grid.

According to Mark, there are practical examples of T&TEC powering street lights via renewable energy, including on the Manzanilla stretch where “there is a portion where extending the electricity from the grid to that area would have been costly. We saw it was more economical to have self sustaining lights.”

He added: “On these structures we have solar panels powering high efficiency LED lights with their local battery storage, so even if there was cloud cover or loss of electricity for up to three days, they would work through the night and keep the lights on.

“That penetration is also being done on the Priority Bus Route right now and there is a vision to expand further in the future. Solar LED street lights have also been installed on the Solomon Hochoy Highway in the vicinity of the Gasparillo overpass.”

Efficient gas use

As it pertains to the gas shortage in the country, Mark underscored the benefits of developing a programme for efficient gas use.

“Gas resources are very tight and T&TEC has to use gas efficiently, so quite apart from renewable energy, T&TEC has been doing many things to be efficient and prudent in the use of our limited natural gas supply. That is why we have the combined cycle plant in La Brea and have introduced LED street lights which use about 20 per cent of the energy used by the high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps we would have otherwise used.

“These street lights have been installed around the Queen’s Park Savannah, BWIA Boulevard, Arima Bus Terminal, Solomon Hochoy Highway in the vicinity of Corinth and Milford Road Scarborough.”

He said the capital investment for the LED street lights could be twice as much as an HPS lamp but in the long run it is less costly.

“The frequency of maintenance is lower and the energy it consumes is lower so in the long run it gives you a better payback. It is a good investment,” he said.

Raising awareness about renewable energy

Because energy is so cheap in T&T and natural gas is accessible at a minimum cost, people do not pay heed to conserving energy or its cost, Mark said.

“I do not think that the average consumer is thinking of how they use energy with gas. They do not make the distinction with gas and the production of electricity. They hardly make that connection between electricity and how it is in the whole value chain.

“They just know that they can turn on their switches and they get lights and they get the bill and it is affordable. There is a lack of awareness and consciousness on the true cost of producing electricity.”

For that reason, the Ministry of Public Utilities has embarked on a conservation drive.

“There is an agreement that government buildings should be taking a lead by demonstrating that they should take off lights, reduce air conditioning demands and be leading by example,” Mark said.

Categories: News

Steel plant deal in jeopardy

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:09

A deal for the purchase of the mothballed ArcelorMittal Iron and Steel Plant by Nu-Iron Unlimited could be in jeopardy as the company has threatened to walk away because of failure to reach agreement with state-owned National Energy for use of a port.

Sources close to the negotiations said negotiations between Nu-Iron—a subsidiary of United States company Nucor—and National Energy, part of the NGC Group of Companies, for the use of the port at Point Lisas has been protracted and Nu-Iron has threatened to walk away from the deal.

In a response to questions from Business and Money, National Energy officials would only say it was involved in mature discussions with Nu-Iron.

The company stated: “Please be advised that National Energy has been in mature and deliberate discussions with Nu-Iron. These discussions are at a very advanced stage. At an appropriate juncture, an announcement would be made by the parties.”

More than two years ago, ArcelorMittal shut down its plant at Point Lisas blaming a combination of local and international challenges which it said had led to severe financial distress since the second half of 2015.

It also blamed proposed increases in natural gas prices by the NGC and higher electricity prices as two reasons was forced to pack up.

ArcelorMittal said then: “Proposed major increases in the price of gas and electricity at a time of falling commodity prices have rendered production costs uncompetitive. Additionally, proposed increases to port rental fees, announced property taxes and business levies have further contributed to the unsustainability of the business.”

With more than a billion dollars owed to creditors and workers, the company was put into receivership and Christopher Kelshall was appointed receiver.

Kelshall admitted he has had to extend the “black-out period” as Nu-Iron has not been able to reach an agreement with NEC for use of the port, or a gas contract with the NGC.

“From the documentation I have received from both the National Energy and the NGC, I am convinced that they are doing a thorough job. It is a fact that use of the port is a condition precedent.

“I have been asked to provide information to the entities and I am satisfied they are treating it seriously and meticulous in their due diligence and all with an interest to making sure they run the rule over the preferred bidder. From what I can see, it is being done in a very professional way,” he said.

Kelshall said other companies had expressed interest in the plant but the selection process was “transparent and meticulous” and his selection was the best one for the creditors.

He added that it had come to his attention that a US-based company, Macarri, with support from the Steel Workers Union of T&T (SWUTT), was being promoted. However, last year when he was open for business “they were no where in the dance” and cannot be considered at this stage.

Should the preferred bidder, Nu-Iron, fail to get the required regulatory approvals, he will seek an alternative, he said.

Nu-Iron Unlimited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nucor Corporation based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company produces direct reduced iron (DRI) which is melted and processed into steel.

Nu-Iron Unlimited is the largest shipper of cold DRI in the world.

Categories: News

Closer look at our Point Lisas model

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:07

Faced with natural gas shortages, higher gas prices, increased global competition and relatively weak commodity prices, the local downstream sector is facing its greatest challenge since inception.

While there has been some improvement in natural gas production, it is still not sufficient to meet the demands of the sector and with cheap shale gas in the US and new production in North America the T&T model is not as bright as it used to be.

For many, the Point Lisas Industrial Estate is simply the country’s main industrial development in which petrochemicals are manufactured and exported. It is, in fact, seen as a monolithic production centre that has some impact on the country’s economy.

While there is some validity in this view, the downstream sector housed at the estate is varied with different dynamics that determine the markets in which they operate, their profitability and the challenges they face.

T&T remains the largest producer of ammonia and the second largest producer of methanol in the world. It is also the largest exporter of urea to the United States. But the country also produces melamine, UAN and metals, so the products are all different but all require natural gas as a major input in their production process.

It is this that has created the conundrum with insufficient natural gas production due to low investment in the upstream during the 2005/2012 period and the rise of production of cheap gas in the major market for the very petrochemical product. As a result, the country’s petrochemical sector is under pressure.

To fully understand Point Lisas and why it became such a backbone of the country’s economy is to understand how it started.

In the late 1960s, Amoco made huge discoveries off the Guayaguayare coast and along with onland production and production from what is today called Trinmar. T&T was producing more than a quarter million barrels of crude a day. This led to further exploration as companies tried to replicate the success of Amoco, now called bpTT but, instead, made significant natural gas discoveries.

This did two things.

It meant the country had windfall cash to invest and also had significant natural gas reserves.

Added to this, businessmen in south Trinidad led by the late Gerard Montano were advocating for development of an industrial base in south Trinidad and a deepwater port.

In tracing the development of the local petrochemical industry, a distinguishing feature is the very critical role played by foreign private capital.

This has been a deliberate government strategy, mainly in response to the need for huge capital injection and access to international markets. Over time it involved a number of joint-venture arrangements with varying levels of state participation.

As the Ministry of Energy notes in its history of the sector, WR Grace was the first multinational on the local scene producing fertilisers, and in 1959 that company commissioned a 250,000 tonne/annum (tpa) ammonia plant, Federation Chemicals Ltd (FedChem).

In a joint-venture arrangement with the Government of T&T, the company commissioned two additional ammonia production facilities—Tringen I in 1977 and Tringen II in 1988—with the Government owning 51 per cent of the shareholding.

In 1981, Fertilisers of T&T Limited (Fertrin), a joint-venture between the Government (51 per cent) and Amoco International Oil Company (49 per cent), commissioned two ammonia plants, each with a rated capacity of 344,500 tpa.

Until 1990, Fertrin was also responsible for the operation and management of the T&T Urea Company (TTUC) plant, which was commissioned in 1984.

Methanol production began at Point Lisas in 1983 with the commissioning of the T&T Methanol Company’s (TTMC’s) first plant, with a capacity of 450,000 tpa, with 100 per cent state ownership. The Government later divested 31 per cent of its holdings in the plant to a German consortium, Ferrostaal/Helm. An expansion project, TTMC II (550,000 tpa), came onstream in 1996 with the Government and Ferrostaal/Helm owning 69 per cent and 31 per cent of the shareholding respectively.

Unlike ammonia, however, early developments in methanol also involved a strong element of local private sector participation. This occurred with the establishment of the Caribbean Methanol Company’s plant at Point Lisas in 1993 with the local insurance company, Clico, accounting for 64.9 per cent of the shareholding, and the remaining partners, Ferrostaal and Methanex, owning 25.1 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

These were all major investments and, up until 2008, there seemed to be consistent expansion in capacity that allowed a country with a small size and small reserves to be a major player in the petrochemical sector.

To what extent is this all now being threatened and what can we do to prevent it?

More on this next week

Categories: News

High cost of environmental degradation

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:05

Earlier this week an Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone dumped heavy rains across T&T. With that excessive rainfall came flash floods across the East-West corridor and parts of central and south Trinidad which receded to expose the tonnes of waste, shrubbery and silt which were among the causes of the problem, clogging drains and polluting watercourses.

Clean up and repairs are still in progress in some of the worst affected areas but the costs from this latest deluge are only a fraction of the heavy costs being inflicted on this country from weather events, as well as climate change and the environmental degradation. Wasteful, unlawful and destructive practices are taking place because of lax enforcement, as well as corrupt systems.

Often the focus in the aftermath of these events is on losses suffered by households and farmers. Little or no attention is paid to the bigger picture of the longer-term economic losses, not just in terms of remediation and repairs, but also in lost opportunities when industries and entire sectors lose their competitive edge.

If this is not already an area of concern for our legislators, planners and developers, it should be.

T&T, as a small island developing state (SIDS), is already highly vulnerable to natural disasters like tropical storms, earthquakes, floods and droughts, as well as climate change and rising sea levels. This week’s severe weather and the episode of coastal erosion—which forced the relocation of some families from Cedros—are only the latest reminders of how this can affect the quality of life for citizens.

But, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we make matters worse for ourselves with unhealthy and irresponsible acts such as polluting waterways and coastal areas, illegal dumping and slash and burn farming—the main reasons for the accelerated deforestation excessive soil erosion and depletion of fisheries and wildlife.

It is all well and good to point fingers at whatever government happens to be in power, or manufacturers and other big businesses but the responsibility for the loss of wealth being suffered by this country due to ecosystem degradation has to be more widely spread. Priority needs to be given to reducing degradation and protecting the environment, including developing economic and sector policies for improved environmental management.

Counting the cost of the environmental damage already inflicted in this country might not yield completely accurate figures and only estimates of the costs of remedial action might be possible at this stage. But let’s not get too carried away with getting the figures correct, right down to the decimal point. All around us there is clear evidence of the high price T&T is already paying and the situation will only continue to get worse unless decisive action is taken to halt, then reverse, the decline.

As an example of the damage and expense inflicted through environmental degradation, consider the sources of our water supply.

Approximately 80 per cent of the surface freshwater sources exploited by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) comes from the Northern Range and about US$2.23 million is spent every month to purchase the remaining ten per cent of the water supply from the desalination plant.

However, the watersheds in the Northern Range have been degraded by deforestation, unplanned developments, squatting, quarrying and bush fires. Pollution from human activities combined with the sedimentation from soil erosion are other concerns.

Add to that the unreliability of the water supply from WASA—and it is not a stretch to say—there can be consequences and a significant cost due to lack of safe potable water. For one thing, there is the increased expenditure on bottled water, as well as increased pressure on the country’s health system from diseases caused by an unsafe water supply.

In a situation where there isn’t clean water for drinking and hygiene purposes, inadequate sanitation facilities and sanitary practices, there is the risk of illness—putting entire communities at risk—as well as the cost to the public health system for treatment, medication and protective measures.

Consider, also, the scourge of uncontrolled and unplanned development and construction—another of the destructive practices which digs deep into the pockets of taxpayers.

In many parts of the country this has led to degradation of forests, with serious implications for the country. The loss of forest reserves means the loss of buffers against the impacts of catastrophic weather events. As recent natural disasters in the region have proven, T&T and other countries in this corner of the world are now at the mercy of changing weather patterns.

Then there is the matter of the many illegal quarries across T&T that cause various environmental harm, including destruction of natural vegetation and air and water pollution, negatively affecting the surrounding communities. The extent to which quarrying is taking place in so many areas with little consideration for the environment and surrounding human settlements is an issue that should be more fully engaging the attention of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

The EMA has recently signalled its intent to crackdown on illegal quarrying in Toco. It would be a lot better if the agency embarks on a countrywide campaign.

Tourism cannot thrive unless visitors are guaranteed an unspoiled destination. Since 90 per cent of tourists go for coastal tourism, T&T doesn’t offer as much in the way of white sandy beaches as other neighbouring Caribbean destinations. Add to that the reality of coastal pollution, particularly in the Gulf of Paria, and one of the key challenges of developing tourism as a sector to drive economic diversification becomes apparent.

Go to Tobago, some would say, where world famous Buccoo Reef, Nylon Pool and other natural attractions await.

According to a recent study, the economic contribution of tourism from Buccoo Reef alone is estimated at US$7 to US$8.8 million annually. However, here too, destructive practices have taken a toll, caused in part by reef walking, boat groundings, anchoring and illegal fishing, plus sewage discharge and other forms of pollution which have increased coral bleaching and disease.

Reef-based tourism and recreation can make valuable contributions to the T&T economy but actions and policies will have to be introduced, sooner rather than later, to halt then reverse the degradation of Buccoo Reef.

These and many other issues that need to be tackled will incur some short-term costs. Consider that a valuable investment in longer-term economic and ecological benefits for the country that will far outweigh that financial output.

While we are on the subject, since we also happen to be two small islands that are heavily industrialised, there is also the matter of adopting best practices to prevent air, water and ground pollution from the various manufacturing processes.

Laws need to be revised, modernised and developed and incentives offered for the protection of our fragile SIDS environment and for development of more eco-friendly systems and operations. There is no escaping the fact that we all need to take better care of the environment. The future prosperity and sustainability of these two islands depends on it.

Categories: News

$10,000 at stake in bmobile Business Technology Award

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 22:47

bmobile joins the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce in inviting applications for the new Business Technology Award category in the Chamber’s 2018 Champions of Business Awards.

The new technology award was added to this year’s lineup of prestigious awards to acknowledge and reward companies which leverage Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to provide excellence in services and solutions. The winner will receive a customized bmobile Business Solutions Package valued at $10,000.

Nominations are open until August 17 at midnight and the award will be presented to the winner at the Champions of Business Awards Ceremony and Gala to be held on November 1 at the National Academy for Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain.

The buzz and excitement that was generated by the introduction of a new award focusing on ICT underscores the significance of technology in all types of businesses, large or small with simple or complex operations. Research on the link between ICT adoption and business productivity and even on a country’s GDP, shows that it is a critical enabler of sustainable business growth in the private and public sectors, as well as the development of the national economy as a whole. The growth becomes even more pronounced with the consistent effort and collaboration of both the public and private sectors.

“As the technology leader in the local telecom landscape, bmobile is proud to continue to do its part to support our business and national development through our sponsorship of this new and important

Business Technology Award,” said Rakesh Goswami, TSTT’s executive vice president, strategic alliance, enterprise and Tobago operations.

Companies being nominated for the award do not have to be ICT companies, but are companies which have successfully demonstrated how technology helps their business to deliver excellence in their services and solutions.

“In this digital era, ICT is the underlying force that is driving much of the innovative solutions that have resulted in an increase in the productivity of goods and services in all sectors” said Goswami.

“Whether small, medium or large, more companies worldwide are using technology to handle customer services in a more efficient and cost-effective way. The businesses which are responsive to these changes will be the ones to achieve market success.”

The Champions of Business Awards is one of the T&T Chamber’s signature events which highlights the contributions of some of T&T’s finest business minds, recognizing their performance and excellence within the local business community. Established leaders, emerging entrepreneurs and high performing companies are nominated by peers and members of the public from which winners are subsequently selected.

The bmobile Business Solutions Package will consist of customised communications services specifically designed to support the further advancement of the company receiving the Business Technology Award.

Nominees must satisfy several criteria including, being a citizen of T&T or a registered business operating locally or internationally and must have demonstrated how the technology-based solution or service had a significant impact upon its target market.

More info

Further information about the award and the nomination form can be obtained from the T&T Chamber website at

Categories: News

Nestlé joins CEO talk session at UWI-ALJGSB

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 22:44

Nestlé T&T Ltd joined in the panel discussion at the UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business (UWI-ALJGSB) for their CEO Talk session for the closing of the international business study abroad programme for the delegates of the FHR Lim A Po Institute for Social Studies (partner institute to UWI- ALJGSB).

CEOs joining the discussions were: Patricio Torres, head of market Nestlé Anglo-Dutch Caribbean, David Dulal-Whiteway, CEO, UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business and Dave Ramkissoon, group CEO, EIL Group.

The CEOs spoke on company strategies, their purpose, passion and business ethics.

“At Nestlé, no matter where we are in the world, we have one simple purpose—to enhance the quality of life and contribute to a healthier future. As a multi-national company we anticipate and adapt to local needs, and this is seen through the development of our products to our local initiatives which promote healthier and happier lives, working within our communities and safeguarding our environment,” said Torres, Nestlé head of market.

Nestlé had a particular interest in the CEO Talk session as it is perfectly aligned to one of the company’s key initiatives—its Nestlé Needs YOUth programme. This Global Youth Initiative aims to strengthen and develop the employability of young people all over the Caribbean region and important strides have already been made in T&T, Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana.

By 2020 the company plans to hire at least 81 young people, engage 90 young people through trainee programmes, internships and apprenticeships and develop 7,650 students through ‘readiness to work’ activities. Additionally, Nestlé will expand its Alliance for YOUth, working with suppliers, industry partners, government ministries and NGOs to create another 304 jobs.

Torres sees sessions such as these CEO talks, as another avenue where the company can add to the knowledge base of the youth.

With an engaged audience, the students posed questions to each CEO on their personal goals, their definition of success for their companies, what they take pride in and the journey to their pinnacle of success.

The CEOs recognised the importance of culture for their businesses, taking risks, being competitive and having the agility to learn.

The session, part of the study mission for second-year bachelor of business administration students of the FHR Lim A Po Institute for Social Studies, gave a vast understanding of business activities and ways of working across the Caribbean territories to which both students and lecturers alike were receptive.

Categories: News

Parenting in the age of Alexa

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 22:21

Hey parents: What if there was a machine that could respond to your children’s every command, never tiring, even if they ask it to tell jokes for two hours or answer all their homework questions?

It’s a blessing and a curse for moms and dads that machines kind of like that do exist in the form of Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. These in-house digital assistants don’t always understand questions or serve up useful answers (which some parents say is a good thing).

But they do create challenges and opportunities for parents—especially those raising younger kids.

Even as Amazon and Google are adding options that control access and require kids to speak politely to their voice-controlled speakers, devices like the Echo Dot and Google Home can make a big and unexpected impact.

It took Mary Beth Foster a few days to notice, but it was undeniable: Her son’s first words weren’t “goo goo.”

Her one-year-old was saying, “Ok, Google,” after hearing his parents say it over and over.

When she realised that, Foster says, “my husband thought I was nuts. Babies say ‘goo’ all the time, right? Until he heard him mimic us talking at the Google Home in context.”

Meanwhile Foster, who lives in Mint Hill, North Carolina, says the device has created some confusion for her 4-year-old daughter over who, exactly, is in charge.

Because the family accesses Netflix, Amazon Prime content and YouTube TV through their Google Home, their daughter has begun asking questions like: “Mom, can you ask Google if we can watch Beauty and the Beast?”

Speed bumps like this have led some parents to avoid these devices.

Suzanne Brown, mother of two boys ages 7 and 4, is keeping Alexa’s seemingly easy answers out of her Austin, Texas, home while her boys are young.

She’d prefer to visit the library or search the internet together with her kids to build their “curiosity and problem-solving muscles.”

When they have a question, she says, “we try to work through it or go figure out how to find the answer.

And we actually go searching for the answer, and sometimes that leads us to other questions.”

But for parents who have invited a digital assistant into their home, here are some of the challenges: Answers can come quickly, but might be wrong or incomplete Are the children calling out questions and accepting a single response as the entire story, without questioning where that answer comes from?

Alexa’s info most often comes from Wikipedia, which kids may not know isn’t always accurate.

On the bright side, if a child is calling out a question— rather than silently typing it into a device—a parent can hear it and engage.

Also, it’s a welcome change in some households if the child isn’t looking at a screen (though some devices, including the Echo Show, include a screen that shows question prompts and video).

Without screens, children have to process information aurally, which “could make you think a little bit more because you don’t have the visual,” says Erin Boyd-Soisson, professor of human development and family science at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

Children can get frustrated because digital assistants don’t always hear high-pitched voices correctly, or might be confused by a child’s diction or phrasing.

Parents can use this to encourage clearer use of language and better diction.

But be aware that digital assistants “may privilege some dialects over others,” says Shannon Audley, assistant professor of education and child study at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Short answers won’t encourage critical thinking

If a child is asking Alexa to answer a math problem, that instant answer “takes away their own strategies for problem solving,” says Audley. One option is to use parenting controls so kids can’t access the device during their homework session.

Teach young kids that they need to be able to arrive at answers and synthesise information through their own methods and thinking, says Boyd-Soisson.

As children get older, this naturally gets easier.

Amber Norwood, who is raising two children in the United Kingdom, says she loves that her 8-year-old son engages with both Google and Alexa.

“He watches a lot of videos about rockets and space, requests cool music, and connects with buddies from school,” says Norwood. He’s also building some research skills, she says.

“I think he’s going to be ready for the kind of world he’ll grow up in. I’m a writer, a teacher of writing, and a lover of books, but I also feel like this is what the future of learning and engagement looks like,” she says.

“I want to teach him to do it well, and critically.”

You can hear it all, and sometimes that’s too much It’s delightful to see a child discover just how much incredible music and information is floating in the virtual cloud. But all that access can induce overload.

“This spring we stayed with my parents for six weeks while we did house renovations,” says Jillian Kirby, who lives in Burlington, Vermont.

Her son is not quite three years old and was delighted that his grandparents had Alexa at their house.

“If we had ever entertained any ideas of getting one,” Kirby says, “they would have been extinguished by that experience.”

Soon after meeting Alexa, Kirby’s “music-loving son became power-hungry and impatient, and wanted to change the song the moment it came on, yelling ‘Alexa! Nex’ song!’”

It took several weeks back home and away from digital assistance to start getting through whole albums again.

“We have had a similar issue when people have handed him tablets or phones to play with. We aren’t a no-screentime family, but we stick to co-watching of movies and children shows,” Kirby says.

“With both access to Alexa and with the tablets, he has gotten really irritable, and behaviour takes a nosedive.”

The key to parenting in the age of Alexa and Google, according to parents and child-development experts, is making sure the machine doesn’t replace good, inquisitive interaction between parents and kids.

“It’s not that the technology is good or bad,” says Audley.

“It’s essentially how we use it.”

Categories: News

Leadership matters

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 22:17

Through my research in social entrepreneurship, I have been fortunate to review the cases of successful global and local social entrepreneurs.

For commercial entrepreneurs who launch a startup to generate profit, being successful depends on money, whiles for social entrepreneurs, success depends on social change.

However, to achieve large-scale social transformation, my research has revealed that leadership matters.

For social entrepreneurs building and growing their companies, the understanding and practice of leadership are critical for their organisation’s long-term success.

Forbes cites the top 10 leadership qualities as honesty, the ability to delegate, communication, sense of humour, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, intuition and ability to inspire.

These are easy to understand and represent the main capabilities a leader should have (Prive, 2012).

There is also the “4E’s of leadership”— envision, energise, enable and empower (Yates, 2004).

According to the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship publication, Leadership in Social Enterprise How to Manage Yourself and the Team (2014), leaders of social enterprises face manifold challenges.

Many leaders do not have a formal business education and are driven by the passion to solve a social cause.

Their intrinsic motivation comes first and economic reasons rank low but business procedures need to be implemented, teams built and money earned to run a social enterprise successfully.

What makes the difference is that leadership matters.

This week’s article will focus on three leadership matters drawing on the great work of local social entrepreneur Nichola Harvey, founder, We Say YES Organisation (Youth Entrepreneurship for Self Empowerment).

Embrace the Forgotten

There are those who sympathise or empathise with those who are considered base of the pyramid. And that’s all they do— offer their thoughts.

A true social entrepreneur goes beyond by taking action.

They take advantage of embracing the forgotten others usually miss. They have the ability to challenge the way things are done.

We say YES! (WSY) programme founded by Nichola Harvey started as a response to the increase in gun violence and gang warfare in East Port-of-Spain communities and a need to create more success stories out of these areas.

Beat the odds

Social entrepreneurs have a desire to challenge the status quo and arrive at a solution that will tackle social or environmental issues. They find solutions to constraints.

WSY programme targets children from at risk areas in East Port-of-Spain and environs, including Ovid Alley, Lower Laventille, Mango Rose, Gonzales, Beverly Hills, John John, Success Laventille, Morvant and Stephensville.

WSY beat the odds or changes the status quo through the delivery of a structured six-year programme that focuses on youth entrepreneurship and self-empowerment, tapping into their God given talents and potential.

Rally social troopers When we are passionate about a cause, we often immerse ourselves with the view only “I” have the solution. The “I” mentality indicates we are afraid to lose power and control.

Harvey, through WSY, has been able to rally social troopers building a powerhouse of advisory leadership committee, executive advisory leadership committee, chaperones, volunteers and facilitators as well as corporate and individual social partners.

In conclusion, extraordinary people, like the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, come up with brilliant ideas from the forgotten and against all the odds succeed at creating new products and services that dramatically improve people’s lives, just like Nichola Harvey.

For social entrepreneurial success, leadership matters.

Nirmala Maharaj is a doctoral candidate at the UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business. Her research is in social entrepreneurship.

Mobile: 689-6539 / E-mail: [email protected]

Categories: News

Progress report on tripartite council

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 22:12

T&T face challenges in productivity, diversifying its economy and the industrial relations climate. However, there can be no way forward without consensus among the country’s major stakeholders—government, labour and the private sector. This is the aim of the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC).

At a recent session to give a progress report on the work of the council, private sector representative Dr Ramesh Ramdeen, CEO of the T&T Manufacturer’s Association (TTMA), said there are some things business and labour have in common. For example, the business community is supports salary increases for workers but wants them tied to increased productivity.|

“From a business perspective, productivity, output increases and wages must go hand in hand. I cannot see anyone in the business community who will say if they can get increases . . . they would not want to share that with labour but it must be tied to productivity,” he said.

Ramdeen warned of negative consequences if increases in wages occur without increases in productivity.

“Inevitably there is going to be inflation. If we do not do anything to tie wages to productivity, we are also going down in a spiral in terms of our competitiveness.”

He said surveys to measure the performance of management and workers are important since all inputs into the process of productivity must be measured “to get that output that we are looking for.”

Modern labour laws

Ramdeen highlighted the urgent need to update labour legislation and said the business community is in agreement with the process currently being undertaken by NTAC.

He said: “All the three pieces of legislation that have been identified do in fact need remodeling. If you look at the date of the various pieces of legislation, specifically the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) that came into effect in the early 1970s, we recognise that when these things came abut it served a particular purpose at a particular time.

“We are living in a new dispensation, a new time, so we need to revisit these pieces of legislation.”

Responding to claims by Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) president Michael Cabrera that the private sector cares only about profits and not workers’ interest, Ramdeen said: “We want to see a piece of legislation that will enhance the livelihood of workers in T&T.”

He said there had been consultations on the way forward with new legislation but some “small areas” of disagreement remain

“We do not expect in an environment like NTAC, where there are three diverse groupings coming together, consensus will happen overnight,” he said.

Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, giving details of the labour laws being reviewed, said over an 11 month period NTAC had been deliberating on three policy position papers referred to them by Cabinet.

They have to do with amendments to the IRA, the Workmen’s Compensation Act and the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act (RSBA).

NTAC is in the final stages of deliberations on the IRA and consensus should be reached by next month. Comments from sector representatives on the Workmen’s Compensation Act are being collated, while in the case of the RSBA, consensus is being sought on harmonisation of measures for the protection of retrenched workers.

She explained: “The draft position paper on amendments to the RSBA is the outcome of a national stakeholder consultation which was held by the Ministry of Labour on May 18, 2016, as well as comments solicited from stakeholders who comprised the leadership of employer organisations, trade unions, government, academia, the legal fraternity ad other agencies with technical expertise.

“The paper was developed to lay the groundwork for the introduction of a Bill in the Parliament of T&T to give effect to amendments to the RSBA with a view to bringing legislative provisions in line with contemporary social and economic conditions.”

Baptiste-Primus said one of the critical items being considered is a provision to guarantee the payment of severance benefits in circumstances where workers are terminated due to redundancy, insolvency or receivership. These were not catered for in the original RSBA which took effect in November 1985.

Prior to that, severance payments were generally made only where specified by collective agreements, or at the sole discretion of employers.

“While there is unanimous consensus among the tripartite partners that payment of severance benefits should be legislated for among the amendments currently being proposed, two very critical issues have stymied NTAC’s progress in arriving at consensus on this provision. One of these is that of determining the most appropriate mechanism by which these retrenchment payments should be made.

“The other is that of making a determination as to where, in order of prioritization, should payment of benefits be placed when stacked side by side with legal, regulatory and fiduciary obligations especially of cash trapped institutions. There is no simple solution to these intricacies,” she said.

About NTAC

NTAC’s mission is to give effect to commitments in Government’s Official Policy Framework for tripartite engagement, dialogue and consultation and to promote consensus building and democratic involvement among key stakeholders on national development issues. It was launched March 15, 2016.

The council is mandated to advise government on:

• Effective implementation of government policy.

• Identification and review of sustainable national development goals.

• Development of a culture of innovation, invention and use of initiative.

• Enhancing the level of productivity in all sectors of national endeavour.

• Development of a national campaign on productivity and proper work ethics.

• Creation of additional job opportunities.

• Maximisation of the use of science and technology.

• Focusing attention on the needs of the poor, the socially displaced and the most vulnerable in our society

• Maintenance of industrial peace and harmony nationwide.

Members of NTAC


Chairperson: Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert
Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste Primus
Minister of Education Anthony Garcia
Minister of Social Development and Family Services Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn
Secretary of Settlements and Labour, Tobago House of Assembly, Marslyn Melville-Jack

The private sector:

Chairperson, Employers’ Consultative Association, Keston Nancoo
CEO, T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Gabriel Faria
President, Tobago Division of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Claude Benoit
CEO, T&T Manufacturers’ Association, Mahindra Ramesh Ramdeen
CEO, American Chamber of T&T, Nirad Tewarie
President and CEO, The Energy Chamber, Thackwray Driver

Labour movement:

Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM)
Steel Workers Union of T&T (SWUTT)
President, Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU)
The National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) President, James Lambert
General Secretary, Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN), Michael Annisette
Secretary-General, Communications Workers’ Union (CWU), Joseph Remy
First Vice President, Oilfield Workers Trade Union, Carlton Gibson

Categories: News

No additional gas from Angelin

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 01:44

bpTT’s Angelin natural gas field will not relieve the chronic natural gas shortage facing downstream companies and Atlantic LNG.

The company admitted that Angelin will only allow it to maintain its natural gas production at 2.1 billion cubic feet a day and will “Upcoming developments are aiming to keep bpTT at a plateau level of production around 2.1 bcf/d,” the company said.

This will be disappointing news for the downstream sector that has been so hard hit by the natural gas shortage and which is now facing higher prices and shorter contract terms as they negotiate with the NGC.

It will also mean that Finance Minister Colm Imbert will not be able to get more revenue from either higher natural gas production, or higher methanol, ammonia or urea production.

Last week, bpTT announced the arrival of its Angelin platform in T&T. Angelin, which will be the energy company’s 15th offshore platform, was fabricated in Altamira, Mexico. The topside and jacket sailed from Altamira on June 30.

The Angelin facility will be located 60 kilometres off the south east coast of Trinidad in water depths of approximately 65 metres. Angelin was originally discovered by the El Diablo well in 1995 and appraised by La Novia in 2006.

The development will include four wells and will have a production capacity of approximately 600 million standard cubic feet a day (mmscfd).

Gas from Angelin will flow to the Serrette platform via a new 21 kilometre pipeline.

First gas is expected in the first quarter of 2019.

The company’s regional president Claire Fitzpatrick said: “Angelin is part of bpTT’s long-term plan to develop its resources in the Columbus Basin and the development underscores bpTT’s commitment to T&T.

The safe arrival of the jacket and topsides is an important milestone and we are now focusing on the next stages of the project as we progress towards first gas in 2019.”

A recent report by the Ministry of Energy projects that this year natural gas production will average 3.79 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d), increase to 3.94 bcf/d next year, 4.05 bcf/d in 2020 and 4.14 bcf/d in 2021.

The country’s installed capacity is 4.2 bcf/d and part of the overall production of natural gas is re-injected into lift more crude oil.

The report said the increase is likely to come from Royal Dutch Shell which will bring on additional gas this year from its Starfish field. The company announced in May that it had produced first gas from Starfish.

The ministry’s report put first gas at a modest 22mmsf/d but noted that two more wells are expected that will increase and hold production at 138 mmscf/d.

Starfish was originally drilled by the then BG Trinidad, which is now Shell, and was a spectacular failure that eventually led to a major shake up at the local company.

The ministry’s report states that Starfish will be produced using existing subsea infrastructure between the Dolphin platform and Starfish Field.

Shell is also expected to add 100MMscf/d from the Dolphin field with the drilling of four wells. The additional gas should come on by the fourth quarter of this year.

Shell is also planning two development wells for block 5( c) and one exploration well in 5 (d).

bpTT is expected to remain in fairly aggressive mode over the next two years and will drill three development wells in Cannonball and two in Cashima.

It will also seek to replicate its success by drilling two exploration wells in 2019 —Ginger and Jasmine.

The ministry’s document shows that bpTT will bring its Cassia compression platform into service in 2020 as it maintains its high production rates from the prolific Columbus basin.

Categories: News

Can bpTT hit big oil again?

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 01:41

Can bpTT once again become a major oil producer in T&T? This a distinct possibility as the company has used new technology to identify significant prospects deep below the Teak/ Samaan/ Poui (TSP) acreage.

At its recent Open House, bpTT revealed that its Ocean Bottom Node seismic technology has identified exciting prospects in the deep waters below TSP.

Ocean bottom nodes (OBN) are relatively new type of seismic systems which are free positioned on the ocean floor. OBN plays a significant role in scientific observation in special areas where steamers cannot be or cannot stay for a long time. Importantly, seismic data recorded by ocean bottom acquisition is usually much cleaner than surface acquisition.

This could be great news for T&T should the oil and gas major be successful. The TSP fields were discovered between 1968 and 1972 and were producing by 1974. They had a peak production of 144,000 barrels a day and have so far produced more than 1 billion barrels of light sweet crude oil.

In 2005, bpTT reached agreement for the sale of TSP to Perenco and Massy Energy for US$239 million. The sale was conditional on whether Repsol YPF, a shareholder in bpTT, exercised its pre-emption right to purchase the TSP assets. Repsol exercised its right and the Government of T&T had 60 days to exercise its option to purchase up to 15 per cent equity holding in the TSP assets. Petrotrin was vested the 15 per cent which it then sold it to the NGC.

Even at the point of the sale in 2004, bpTT was convinced there were more hydrocarbons to be found in the deep waters and kept ownership of it as a condition of the sale. With the new seismic system, it appears they are even more convinced of that theory.

In an emailed response to questions, bpTT said it recognises the potential for oil and gas in the deep waters of TSP.

“Improved quality seismic helps to improve our understanding and confidence levels on whether we think there are hydrocarbons present. This increases the likelihood that we will be competitive in sourcing funds to drill the prospect,” the company said.

“Even with increased confidence, there remains the risk that we do not encounter either any, or sufficient amounts of hydrocarbons. bpTT recognises the potential for both oil and gas in the TSP deep acreage.

However, our current focus is on a deeper understanding of the acreage.”

Local geologists appear mixed on the possible success of this new approach. While many say bpTT’s approach has a very good chance of success, Dr Krishna Persad said he would be shocked if it finds oil in the deep waters.

He said bpTT would have to show him a working system below the existing TSP field for him to believe it. He said the company would have gone through the gas, condensate and black oil already and unless there is a separate system, he does not believe bpTT will be successful.

Sources at bpTT said they are confident and expect the prospects will be drilled within three to five years.

While that may seem far away, the company has several drilling programmes, including two prospects next year and wells to bring on in fields like Angelin, so it has to plan and get the wells sanctioned globally.

“We are actively assessing the TSP area’s prospectivity, competitiveness and its fit within our exploration portfolio. When this exercise is completed, we will be better able to provide a timeline for the drilling of the prospects in the TSP acreage,” bpTT said.

While bpTT produces more than half of the country’s natural gas it is also a major contributor to the country’s 67,000 barrels of oil a day, and is responsible for close to 12 per cent of total oil production.

Categories: News

A man on a mission

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 01:38

Jabbor Kayumov is a man on a mission, channelling his passion for telecommunications to ensure the type of transformation that meets the highest possible standards for a sound customer experience.

Originally from Moscow, Russia, he is Digicel T&T’s new chief executive officer, replacing John Delves who resigned in March.

His appointment was announced last Friday at a luncheon at Jaffa Restaurant, Port-of-Spain.

Kayumov has more than 13 years’ experience at the senior management level in telecommunications and has been CEO at several top organisations, including Telia (previously TeliaSonera) and Vimplecom, now VEON. He said he is more than excited to be stationed in T&T.

His impressions of this country so far include that it is a place of amazing ethnic diversity. Since he has a taste for spicy foods, he has already fit right in and is enjoying this country’s many culinary offerings, including curry.

So how exactly did Digicel find the Russian national?

“They actually found me the way companies are finding talents— by recommendations, online. I have been working in different companies, transforming them, or making their performance different,” Kayumov explained.

“I actually know some people in Digicel. I have only heard a lot of good things about Digicel and the fact that everyone is one family. I think these are important factors for me to join the team.”

He joins Digicel at a time when the company is in the middle of a transformation which he considers to be critical if the telecommunications giant is to stay ahead of the competition.

Recent developments include the recent launch of Digicel’s LTE network, as the company transforms itself to meet the demands of its customers. The launch of the $250 million LTE system means customers can now enjoy speeds ten times faster than 4G.

“My new role gives me an opportunity to work with a team that is focused on quality service to our customers. With my desire to take this organisation even further, I’m sure together we’ll be able to create a legacy that will stand the challenges that come with a dynamic industry that rapidly and continuously reinvents itself through the latest technology,” he said.

The Caribbean region is new to Kayumov who arrived in the country only a few week ago. However, he has already started advancing plans for the company’s development.

“The primary focus will be the quality of service which comes along with the network quality— voice quality, data quality—it’s going to be our number one focus.

We want to have happy customers and this is something we are going after,” he said.

Kayumov did not shy away from concerns about staff cuts and job losses triggered by an announcement earlier this year about a Digicel 2030 global transformation programme. The company said the initiative is aimed at delivering to customers a completely new communications and entertainment experience through a more agile application of resources.

The new CEO explained: “The Digicel that we are building for the future will be lean and agile with the right people and the right skill sets.

“While we signalled last February that we would be reducing our global headcount by around 25 per cent over an 18-month period, it’s important to point out that this transformation programme will also mean investment for T&T and new opportunities for new skill sets in line with the digital demands of our customers.

“That means we will be enhancing our capabilities in areas of our business like digital and business solutions in line with the decreased demand for voice services.” Kayumov said Digicel’s transformation will be “a bit broader” than cutting staff.

“This exercise was done for the good of the company. We want to refresh the blood of the company and find new strengths because we believe the younger generation actually has better ideas on how to transform the industry and transformation as such will be cultural as well.

“Digicel has a lot of things to carry on and, at the same time, there are lot of things that can be gained in the industry because the demand of customers is also changing,” he said

On the specific issue of job cuts, Kayumov said this might not be the case. He reiterated that the company’s focus is on efficiency.

“If that means having more people—skilled people—in a team I think that is something I will be proposing to the board.

“If efficiency means something different, then definitely that’s going to be a proposal of the leadership or management team of the company,” he said, adding that in the last three months some 50 or 60 people have been hired in different areas, including the technical and commercial departments.

This is part of the vision of reinventing the business as the demands of customers must be met, including reliable service 24/7, he said.

According to Kayumov, the company’s key performance indicators show that it is doing really well.

Digicel Home Entertainment Services, the company formerly known as Digicel Play, announced price increases that took effect on August 1. A notice from the company stated that costs associated with delivering its service continue to increase across numerous aspects of its operations.

Kayumov said the increase is in tandem with quality and reliability.

“To assure quality sometimes the cost is going up and the company has no other choice but to increase the price and make sure customers are still getting quality and reliable service rather than getting a cheap and low quality product,” he said Android boxes and licences Android boxes are a problem for the telecommunications industry, Kayumov said.

“This is a poor quality product.

It is not reliable so, at the end of the day I think customers are paying twice and still not getting the proper service. To me as a customer, I’m not in favour of something that’s not legal,” he said.

On that issue, Digicel’s director, legal, Desha Clifford, pointed out that the boxes in themselves aren’t illegal and that the issue has to do with the software.

She said a consultation document has been released by the Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) soliciting feedback from the industry on how content from android boxes can be regulated.

“Our position is we will comply with any directive given by the regulator, any court of law. If there is a piece of legislation enacted that requires us to do something to deal with this we will comply with that.

“For now we are just going to be participating in that consultation. We’re discussing it as a company, we’re coming up with our position and we will submit comments in accordance with TATT’s deadline,” Clifford said.

Asked whether Digicel was disappointed that TATT has not yet officially issued the 4G LTE spectrum, Kayumov’s responded: “What do you think?”

He added: “It again comes to the customer experience because we need spectrum to deliver better quality, faster speed.

“This spectrum will enable us to deliver a better quality product. At the same time it’s going to be for the benefit of the country. It’s not something Digicel asked for itself. It just enables technology which we are ready to deploy.”

Asked how the company was able to roll out an LTE network despite not having the spectrum, Clifford explained that different types of spectrum can be used for LTE.

“But the spectrum that is best suited for LTE would be the 700 megahertz band. That’s the band TATT has not yet licensed. We are ready to use that spectrum.

“If we are granted a license tomorrow we can do amazing things with it. We’re just waiting for that process to happen.

“Disappointment…perhaps it’s not even correct to use that word. We are just excited to get our hands on it and we’re hoping that happens very soon,” she said.

Clifford said there is no word yet on when the license will be granted but Digicel officials have been enquiring almost daily about the matter.

Digicel’s competitiveness

Kayumov described the level of competition in the local telecommunications industry as healthy. He said T&T’s population is not as big as in many countries, so there is room for only limited players.

“If you look at home and entertainment you see several different players being on a field which makes a good choice to the customers in terms of choosing which provider they want to be with,” he said.

He said since Digicel’s LTE launch, thousands of customers have changed their SIM cards.

“They do understand it’s a better customer experience. There are some regions in the country where we don’t have LTE coverage yet but this is going to be fixed in the next couple of months.

“And an interesting thing about that is customers from even those regions are coming to upgrade their SIM cards in advance, which is a very good signal,” he added.

Over the top services

Are WhatsApp, Facebook and other free calls applications a threat to the industry?

Kayumov said over the top (OTT) services have affected the sector locally and internationally, so it is important to find ways to operate alongside them.

“We think the OTTs push us to develop something which is going to be even more valuable to the customer,” he said.

“They need operators to have access so we are giving it. We are the true enablers for WhatsApp in Trinidad, giving access to internet and enabling these applications to deliver the service as well but definitely it’s a challenge.”

Kayumov said while the number of people using call options has declined, there is high internet usage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s balanced yet but business is transforming itself to make sure it’s balanced,” he said.

Clifford said it is important for regulators to recognise that OTTs are a reality in the sector. She urged them to “reset their thinking” and “move away from sector specific regulation to regulation that encompasses different types of industries to take into account some of these realities.”

She said: “That’s where the conversation should lie—not really in terms of mobile versus OTTs. It’s the regulation part of it that’s really going to dictate how all we move forward in this type of environment.”

What is 4G LTE?

4G LTE, or fourth-generation long term evolution, sometimes is referred to as “the gold standard of wireless technology,” thanks to its ability to deliver both speed and power in more places of the world.

Specifically, 4G stands for the fourth generation of data technology for cellular networks, as defined by the radio sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R). 4G follows 3G, or the third generation.

LTE means long term evolution, or the highly technical process involved in high-speed data for smartphones and mobile devices, which most of us think of as wireless broadband speeds that meet our increasing wireless demands.

LTE came about because the 4G standards set forth were a bit far reaching; in other words, the existing technology could not live up to the 4G standards, so the ITU-R agreed that the term LTE could be given to the technology that is put in place as networks pursue the 4G standards.

Today, 4G LTE is the fastest connection available for wireless networks.

Categories: News

Economic reforms and T&T’s growth outlook

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 01:29

Only a few weeks ago, the IMF released a statement on T&T embracing the reforms undertaken by the twin-island sovereign in recent months. After two years of economic recession the IMF projects a return to growth in 2018.

While such a recession is to be expected in a country that is very dependent on its commodities—particularly gas reserves, in the case of T&T—the reforms could be a game changer. The rebound in commodity prices is certainly welcome news, but the progress towards fiscal consolidation and economic diversification is even more significant for the sustainability of the country’s long-term development.

According to the IMF, GDP contracted by 2.6 per cent in 2017, a marked improvement from the 6.1 per cent drop in 2016. While gas production rebounded in late 2017, oil output remained flat. The non-energy sectors also failed to provide respite from the oil and gas crisis, with construction and financial services largely idle due to delays in public projects and a foreign exchange shortage.

Regained optimism amid rebounding commodity prices and regulatory reform

The reforms have brought about improved fiscal performance and a brighter—albeit modest—medium-term economic outlook, which was reflected in our third Oxford Business Group Business Barometer: T&T CEO Survey.

Regulatory changes and the recovery of commodity prices have led local business leaders to adopt a more optimistic perspective. In fact, their forecasts for GDP growth far exceed those of the IMF: while the fund expects nearly flat growth of 0.25 per cent for 2018, 52 per cent of survey participants project expansion of up to 1 per cent for the year, and 15 per cent expect this figure to surpass 2 per cent.

Furthermore, 69 per cent have positive or very positive expectations of local business conditions in the coming 12 months.

This marks a considerable rise from the 57 per cent who had positive expectations in our survey released late last year, and it is a nearly four-fold increase on the 18 per cent figure recorded in our inaugural OBG Business Barometer in T&T two years ago, when the nation was in the midst of an economic crisis.

This wave of recovering optimism is a key factor motivating plans to make capital outlays, with 67 per cent of participants reporting that their company is likely or very likely to make a significant capital investment in the next 12 months

Tax environment remains competitive

In a recent interview with OBG, Christopher Lewis, president of InvesTT, the domestic investment promotion body, said that the relatively low cost of doing business in T&T makes it a particularly attractive investment destination.

“In spite of the recent increase in corporate taxation, with rates going up from 25 per cent to 30 per cent, the country is still very competitive when compared to other jurisdictions in the Americas or the Caribbean,” he said.

CEOs appear to agree, as a notable majority (64 per cent) find the tax environment to be competitive or very competitive on a global scale. This was only a slight decline from 67 per cent in last year’s survey.

Given the global trend of declining corporate tax rates, T&T’s 5 per cent increase is likely to weigh on global competitiveness. However, the government needs to prioritise fiscal strength over the global tax race for the time being.

Indeed, T&T’s focus is internal, but the trends of its Caribbean neighbours remain key to its economic performance.

Guyana is perceived to be the largest player by far influencing T&T’s interests, with 56 per cent of respondents naming it as the Caricom country with the most potential as an export and/or investment destination. This was followed by Jamaica, a distant second with 27 per cent, and Barbados with 9 per cent.

Shortage of soft skills

T&T is also facing a skills mismatch. As we see in many emerging markets where we conduct our CEO surveys, leadership (49 per cent) was cited as the skill in greatest need in the country, followed by customer service (29 per cent).

This indicates a greater perceived shortage of soft skills than that of science, technology, engineering and maths capabilities.

Persistent challenges to address for longer-term growth

With all this in mind, our outlook for T&T is cautiously optimistic: indicators have certainly taken a positive turn, but we must also understand the unique challenges facing the twin-island nation, including volatility in energy prices,v pending reforms, delayed public projects and a lack of soft skills.

Furthermore, to maximise growth potential, the government will need to promptly execute the tax reform and address the foreign exchange shortage. C-suite executives agree that these efforts will require consistent measures to diversify the economy and increase the competitiveness of non-energy sectors.

Investor sentiment improving

A sizeable majority of executives interviewed for the 2018 edition of the Business Barometer: T&T CEO Survey carried out by Oxford Business Group (OBG) had positive expectations for the coming 12 months, in a sign that the country’s fiscal consolidation efforts, assisted by rising commodity prices, are beginning to bear fruit.

As part of its survey on the T&T economy, the global research and consultancy firm asked more than 100 C-suite executives from across the country’s industries a wide-ranging series of questions on a face-to-face basis aimed at gauging business sentiment.

From the CEOs interviewed, 69 per cent felt either positive or very positive about local business conditions for the next 12 months, up from 57 per cent in OBG’s last survey, which was released in late 2017.

In answer to a separate question, 67 per cent of business leaders thought it likely or very likely that their company would make a significant capital investment within the same timeframe, compared to 60.7 per cent previously.

Respondents’ positive outlook may well be down in part to their largely favourable views on T&T’s tax environment and the relatively low cost of doing business in the country. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) described the tax climate as competitive or very competitive on a global scale, despite a recent increase of 5 per cent in corporate taxation.

Business leaders were also confident that the economy would return to growth in 2018, following two years of recession, with more than half (52 per cent) of those surveyed expecting GDP to reach 1 per cewnt for the year, well above recent forecasts made by the IMF of 0.25 per cent.

This survey has been designed to assess business sentiment amongst business leaders (chief executives or equivalent) and their outlook for the next 12 months. Unlike many surveys, the OBG Business

Barometer is conducted by OBG staff on a face-to-face basis, across the full range of industries, company sizes and functional specialties. The results are anonymous.

OBG Business Barometer is based on data from companies with revenue within the following parameters, among others:

• 81 per cent of companies surveyed were private

• 25 per cent of companies surveyed were international

• 31 per cent of companies surveyed were regional

• 44 per cent5 of companies surveyed were local

The data generated allows for analysis of sentiment within an individual country, as well as regionally and globally. Additionally, comparisons can be drawn between both individual countries and regionally. The results are presented statistically within infographics and discussed in articles written by OBG managing editors.

T&T CEO survey About Oxford Business Group

Oxford Business Group is a global research and consultancy company with a presence in over 30 countries, from The Americas, Africa and Asia to the Middle East. A distinctive and respected provider of on-the-ground intelligence on many of the world’s fastest growing markets, OBG has offices in London, Berlin, Dubai and Istanbul, and a network of local bureaus across the countries in which we operate.

Through its range of products, OBG offers comprehensive and accurate analysis of macroeconomic and sectoral developments, including banking, capital markets, tourism, energy, transport, industry and ICT.

OBG provides business intelligence to its subscribers through multiple platforms: Economic News and Views, OBG Business Barometer—CEO survey, roundtables and conferences, global platform—exclusive video interviews, the report publications and its consultancy division.


Regional editor,
North Africa and the Americas,
Oxford Business Group

Categories: News

Are we learning from our gas mistakes?

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 01:25

T&T is still an energy dependent economy just embarking on recovery from the downturn of the last few years. Therefore, as important as it is to accelerate the diversification drive, future prosperity also requires proper development and management of the country’s hydrocarbon resources.

In late 2015, when then Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran announced that the country was officially in a recession after four quarters of negative growth, symptoms of the decline had already been apparent.

The most obvious was the precipitous fall in energy prices. But even before that, an extended period of gas curtailment had signalled that all was not well. T&T paid a heavy economic price for not giving enough attention to those warning signs and taking action early enough to, at the very least, mitigate the effects of that approaching downturn.

We have a tendency in our everyday conversations to refer to the “oil money” which we seemed to have in more than enough quantities for a number of years. Even now, many citizens see that “black gold” as the source of the country’s economic fortunes.

However, the truth is that for quite a few years natural gas has been of greater importance to the T&T economy. That has been so since the mid to late 1990s, which was when the country shifted from an oil-based economy to one based on natural gas.

This change presents some unique challenges for the country’s planners and policy makers which must be confronted if T&T is to successfully navigate the international relationships that are vital for our natural gas sector.

Although we have experienced some gas pains recently, T&T is still the largest natural gas producer in the Caribbean. In fact, until the shale gas boom began to change the dimensions of the global industry—this transformation began somewhere around 2014—this country had the distinction, given our small size, of being the sixth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world and the largest supplier to the United States.

Unfortunately, along with the upswing in shale gas production, the country got hit by a perfect storm of hydrocarbon lapses, deficiencies and declines.

A temporary halt in investments by upstream producers just around the time of the global economic crisis, an unfavourable fiscal environment and unfortunate miscalculations leading to an inaccurate forecast of an oversupply of gas due to cancellation of downstream projects, were among the elements that combined to send the industry into a freefall.

Although the decline has been halted, returning to a position of growth and strength is contingent upon several factors, including bringing new gas reserves into production to meet existing upstream contractual obligations and to recover from the recent curtailments.

Projects already on stream, or just beginning to come on stream, have yielded some of the positive results that prompted Finance Minister’s declaration a few months ago that T&T, though not yet out of the woods, is on a promising economic path.

The gas projects that have starting to make a difference include the Sercan field located in the East Manzanilla Joint Venture Development Block. This is a joint development between bpTT and EOG Resources with the capacity to produce 250 mmscfd and bpTT’s Juniper project with a production capacity of approximately 590 mmscfd.

There is also the Trinidad Onshore Compression (TROC) project which is optimising the upstream gas delivery system by increasing production from low-pressure wells in bpTT’s existing acreage in the Columbus basin to reduce the current gas supply shortfall within Atlantic LNG so they can meet their contractual export commitments.

bpTT’s TROC and Juniper projects have already boosted the energy giant’s overall production. By the end of 2017 the company’s average production was 12 per cent above their 2016 figures, accounting for 56 per cent of total production last year.

There have also been positive results from efforts by BHP Billiton to increase output from its Angostura Phase III to meet natural gas demands of the downstream sector. This project is estimated to contain 500 bscf of recoverable natural gas reserves.

However, as promising as all these developments are, they must be viewed against the backdrop of the country’s changing natural gas situation, particularly the fact that total proved natural gas reserves have been declining since 2007.

Also, although there has been a lot of talk about shifting to renewable sources of energy, there is no sign of real progress in that direction.

At present, natural gas still makes up the majority of our primary energy consumption, accounting for 99.8 per cent, according to the latest figures from the Energy Ministry.

Even with the recent increases, the current gas production level of approximately 3.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day is below the total installed demand of more than 4 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

The latest Scott Reserves audit puts T&T’s natural gas reserves at 22.7 tcf and gas resources are estimated at 43.7 tcf. This does not include the recent finds of the BHP discovery in Block 5, or the bpTT Savannah and Macadamia fields, however.

These reserves are being consumed at a estimated rate of 3.5bcf/d or 1.2 to 1.4 tcf annually, divided between LNG production of about 60 per cent and downstream industries including power generation, using about 40 per cent of the gas supply.

In this environment, rebuilding upstream capacity is key, but that will take some time.

However, that is just one of several issues in the industry that must be addressed.

By surviving the hardships of 2015 and 2016, the local gas industry has demonstrated its resilience but it would be foolish to take that for granted. There are important lessons that should have been learned from those years when the sector took a battering.

Bearing in mind the fallout, including job losses, that was experienced during the period of decline, the aim should be to avoid making the same mistakes somewhere along the line.

The good news is that bpTT, Shell and the other big multinational players with significant stakes in the local industry have already indicated that they are here for the long haul. In fact, bpTT has committed to invest up to US8 billion in T&T over the next decade.

Even so, this country must press on and accelerate efforts to foster international growth, diversification and competitiveness. The focus should be on strategies to improve the attractiveness of investment in the sector.

The supply situation must be kept firmly on the radar. T&T simply can’t afford another shortfall, particularly one of the duration of the one from which we are only just emerging.

Proper alignment between the upstream and downstream players and Atlantic LNG (ALNG) plants is essential, so that on those occasions when, inevitably, there must be shutdown activity, the resulting reduced supply can be offset by reduced demand from downstream plants.

These should be among the critical elements shaping T&T’s energy policy going forward. Recent negatives experiences should have taught us the importance of having the right structural and commercial systems in place, so that in the forseeable future, the country will be able to better withstand the shocks that can buffer the sector.

Categories: News