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Letter: Making Trinidad and Tobago business-ready

Dear Sir:

Movie Towne, South Park, C3 Center, Trincity Mall, Harry’s Water Park, the pubs and restaurants along Ariapita Avenue, Nicholas Tower and West Mall all contribute towards enhancing the image of Trinidad and Tobago. These are just a few of the many private businesses that not only create employment for thousands of our citizens but contribute to our national wealth through taxes and foreign exchange income from tourists.

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One would think that any government faced with a reduction of income from traditional sources in the energy sector will do everything possible to encourage private sector investment and development. The reality is that doing business in Trinidad and Tobago is not easy.

Security is a major challenge. It is almost impossible for most business personnel to access legal firearms for personal protection while criminals buy and sell guns and ammunition without fear of repercussions. This is despite being targeted for robbery and kidnappings.

Daily, it is not uncommon for one to spend four hours daily in traffic. There is only one narrow roadway from Westmoorings to Chaguaramas, where the headquarters of our military and our major marinas are located. There is limited access to the coastline along the south and north of Trinidad.

Water supply is intermittent and it is illegal to access water from rivers or wells without permission from the water authority. Legally accessing alternative sources of water is not only bureaucratically burdensome but expensive.

Accessing government services is a major hurdle. It is common for one to spend over four hours to complete a vehicle transaction at the vehicle licensing office. Similar lengths of time are usually required to submit forms for taxation, government insurance services, registration of businesses and accessing banking facilities.

Agricultural access roads are few and there are very little incentives for food production and food processing.

The days of government accessing easy money from the energy sector over. The new economic reality challenges us to support multiple sectors of business. This new economic climate must be anchored in a new vision, one where the businessman is a partner and friend and not a person to be taxed and stifled.

This new path requires a new network of roads, a light rail system owned and operated in partnership with the business community and a licensing structure that minimizes the time one spend doing vehicular transactions.

Business personnel who meet the requirements for legal firearms should be given a permit without having to wait years for response to their application. Agriculture must once again be a major player in earning foreign exchange. WASA should change their regulations regarding accessing underground water and water from river tributaries.

In general, our laws and regulations need to be modernized to support a renewed energy and drive towards building a better Trinidad and Tobago. One that encourages partnership with our business community.

God bless our nation.

Steve Alvarez