CCIC’s Annual Christmas Banquet and Awards Ceremony
December 1st, 2022 | Related To: The Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC)
Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) Annual Christmas Banquet and Awards Ceremony, took place Saturday 26th November 2022.
The theme of this year’s event was “Creating Pathways to a Sustainable Future.” The welcoming remarks were delivered by CCIC’s President, Richie Sookhai.
Let me offer my warmest greeting by welcoming each and every one of you to the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) Annual Christmas Banquet and Awards Ceremony. We have a wonderful evening set out for us today, one of entertainment, fruitful talks, observance of excellence and recognition of achievement for the business community of the Borough of Chaguanas.
Allow me to start by highlighting the achievements of the CCIC over the past year. The CCIC prerequisite for success comes from working towards meeting our goals and visions. The main goal of the CCIC is to connect business professionals with each other. Today, as I stand before you I can proudly articulate that within the last year we were able to achieve this said goal despite dealing with the limitations of having to work in an economy recovering from the effects of several lockdown measures, in an effort to help curb the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
REGARDING THESE ACHIEVEMENTS:
- Trade and investment opportunity with India High Commission to Trinidad
- On the 6th of August we were successful at our Free Medical Health Fair for the general public. Through a number of partnerships, we offered several screenings such as: Cardiovascular Risk Assessment, Blood Pressure Testing, Diabetes Counselling and Blood Sugar Testing to name a few.
- On the 4th of November, we hosted our business mixer,
- Property Tax Seminar
- Entrepreneurial mindset Seminar
Goals that have been achieved is an opportunity to celebrate!
Now that we have highlighted our achievements, I want to commence by addressing some of the major issues we as a nation and business community are constantly bombarded with.
Problems are inevitable and this is because we live in an environment that is constantly growing with complexity and diversity. The crux of the matter is that we cannot ignore the fundamental issue of poor leadership existing both at a country and business level, which is the root to most of the problems we are facing today. The effects of poor leadership have even trickled down into our workforce culture. According to the UK government in their ‘Overseas Business Risk Assessment of Trinidad & Tobago’ (2021), poor work ethics in our national labour force is one of the four main challenges we face as a country, as it leads to a reduction in productivity levels. Further, statistics from a study conducted by the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) illustrates that Trinidad and Tobago’s Annual Average Growth Rates of Productivity significantly dropped from 5.9% for the period 2000-2010, to a low of 0.5% between the periods 2010-2016. The lackadaisical attitude, poor work ethic and feeling of entitlement by our workforce threatens our productivity and efficiency levels. Let me illustrate an example, the average worker, comes to work late, takes an extended lunch hour and leaves work early. Time is an asset, and the less time devoted to work negatively impacts on overall productivity. The question we must ask ourselves is, ‘Is this a workforce culture issue or does this stems from an overall country culture issue?’ We need to work in tandem, towards building a new culture of efficiency and transparency, and one that is less of bureaucracy and corruption. This all starts with each and every one of YOU, through the implementation of proper management systems and through the restructuring of your business model to account for measures tailored towards the improvement of overall productivity.
The last two years is a perfect example of why we must continuously modify and reshape our business models. How many of you can say you were prepared for the unprecedented economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic? The financial losses incurred by the SMEs during that period was severe. The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA), in a joint survey revealed that 78% of SMEs experienced negative sales. This is an alarming issue, since according to the World Bank, the SMEs of Trinidad and Tobago accounts for 50% of the GDP alone. Taking into consideration these negative effects over the last two years, how many of you can say you have implemented measures to handle such situation in the near future? These are matters that needs to be brought to light and managed with robust discussions. We should be able to have measures in place to deal with any unplanned events. When I say measures I am referring to reshaping our business models to incorporate a SME ecommerce networking system to ensure no abrupt disruption in sales. Such measure will help the economy in the direction towards successful globalisation.
Globalisation is key for forming interconnectedness with alliances from international countries. However, external factors such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and current ‘Russia-Ukraine War’ is currently putting pressures on the areas of globalisation, as well as stress on our socio-economic environment which only adds to the volatility of our economy. We see a rise in the cost of living. Statistics reveal that Trinidad and Tobago cost of living is 1.05 times more expensive than the world average (Living Cost, 2022). We are seeing high unemployment levels. Currently our unemployment rate is at 4.50% in the last quarter of 2022 (Trading Economics, 2022). Is the issue really due to lack of job availability or is the issue one that relates to our sluggish work culture, where individuals refuse to work and are dependent on government assistance? Due to the lack of statistics on migrants, let’s use recalling as a means of illustrating some facts. Think to yourselves and give an account of how many migrant workers you see on average everywhere you go. More than ever, we are seeing migrants from neighbouring countries filling job vacancies usually lower ended jobs which our locals refuse to work in. If these individuals are willing to work it is our duty to provide training opportunities to help improve these workers efficiency in the workplace.
Furthermore, we continue to see a constant upsurge in our crime rate. According to the World population review, Trinidad and Tobago ranks number six (6) in the top ten (10) countries for highest crime rate, with an overall crime rate statistic of 71.63%. This is not only unattractive for foreign investors, but it also impacts on local businesses, for examples, losses from theft and burglaries, and even decline in the number of customers in store visits, affecting retail sales. This will only continue to worsen from the economic pressures our country is currently experiencing.
Moving on to the issue of food security. Severe food insecurity in Trinidad and Tobago has soared to a high of 72% within the last two years (Daily Express, 2022). We are seeing supply chain disruptions in our international trading systems due to the dual hit from the ongoing pandemic and current war. Consider the following question, can food security and sustainability exist without the other? The answer is no. To be a sustainable economy we as a nation must ensure there is food security by working together with the appropriate stakeholders to mitigate any negative impacts associated with commodity shortages, price increases through enhancement of crop productivity and resource efficiency. It even means forming alliances with neighbouring countries to import food, rather than seeking the same from distant nations, as this will aid in reducing the overall cost that is passed down onto the customer. It also means offering incentives to our farmers to occupy unutilised lands.
Contributing to the issue of food security is climatic change. A major issue that has been under heavy discussion at COP17 over the past two weeks with the aim of lowering carbon emission and providing support and funding to developing nations in an effort to reduce its negative effects. Climate change has a detrimental influence on the overall agricultural production levels, which solely has a ripple effect on the supply chain, pricing, and on overall food security. Let’s look at our economy for example. The effects of rising temperatures have resulted in an increase in precipitation within the last year. This have resulted in widespread flooding throughout the nation’s major roads. Places that never experienced flooding is now battling with having to deal with the losses it incurs. Farmers have suffered thousands of dollars in damages, which led to a fall in the supply of market goods and an upward spiral in prices. Take for example the cost of Bhigan and Tomatoes per pound today. Alleviating these issues is a collective effort. Together as a business community and as a nation, we must identify the root cause of such problems at the same time be able to provide suggestions to help authorities shift there way of thinking in dealing with these calamities. This issue brings us back to the point of restructuring our business models to include proper plans for the management and handling of road and drainage systems maintenance, all in an effort to help curb the current flooding issues we are facing. If everyone in the community plays their part in preserving the environment, I promise you, we will begin to see changes in the behaviour of our climate.
More so, another important issue that many of us are guilty of dusting under the rug is the subject of mental illness in the workplace. How many of you can corroborate that you have some form of system in place to deal with issues relating to employees’ mental health? According to the Mental Health Atlas 2020, there are approximately 19, 596 treated mental health cases within our nation. An unhealthy workforce will only hurt business operations more as it will have a negative impact on overall productivity, lower workplace engagement, increase communication problems with co-workers, as well as have an adverse influence on physical capability and daily functioning. Findings have linked mental illness such as depression in the workplace to higher unemployment rates and disability rates. The question we must ask ourselves is, what MUST be done? As employers, business owners and entrepreneurs, you should aim towards developing, implementing, and executing effective workplace health promotion programmes in an effort to deal with mental health issues, eliminate toxic work environments, eradicate workplace bullying, and lower overall work-related stress. For example, you can have health fairs for your employees, offer subsidized health screening, even offer health insurance plans, lifestyle coaching, host seminars and workshops to address the issues, create a quiet and safe space in the workplace, and even train managers on how to recognise signs and symptoms.
The key to handling ALL of the aforementioned issues, comes back to the point of reshaping our business model in a systematic and efficient way so as to attain long-term value, while at the same time, delivering value to customers.
I would like to thank you for joining us today and for your unwavering support towards the CCIC. As we aim towards growing, let us also jointly work towards rectifying these challenges and making our economy a better place.