Investment or assets sale?

By George Alleyne
January 25 2012 –

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-BissessarGovernment should state clearly the nature and extent of the planned Indian investment in Trinidad and Tobago, which it is trumpeting, and whether this relates to the setting up of entirely new businesses or whether it will be the acquisition, wholly or largely, of State-owned and other existing companies.

Will it be a case of investment of Indian capital and expertise in wholly new projects which will serve to further expand the process of development of Trinidad and Tobago and create additional employment, revenue and foreign exchange earnings? Or will it be as hinted above the acquisition of assets of existing and already profitable State-owned or controlled enterprises?

If it the latter, then such a strategy, as short sighted as it is meaningless as far as Trinidad and Tobago’s interests are concerned, will be profitable only to the Indian investors. If Indian or any other businessmen with to invest in this country, it should be an investment of assets and expertise designed to stimulate economic growth in Trinidad and Tobago. Or is the People’s Partnership Government going to sell off some of the nation’s assets as was done several years ago, admittedly on a restricted basis, in the case of ISPAT?

Does the present administration plan to sell to already in waiting Indian investors such highly profitable assets as First Citizens Bank and the National Gas Company and later any interests it may have or acquire in the Republic Bank and methanol? Incidentally, Trinidad and Tobago is the world’s largest exporter of methanol, a cyclical industry whose international sales long before the end of this decade are expected to be in the billions of dollars, annually, for a considerable period.

This Column would be among the first to welcome Indian, indeed any new investment whose plan it was to generate balanced growth. But the country should not be in the business of literally transferring already highly profitable assets under the guise of attracting investment. What should be clearly understood and this Column would be prepared to repeat it until the setting of the sun, is that Trinidad and Tobago’s energy based economy is today faced with the grim reality of rapidly declining crude oil and natural gas reserves.

If we should argue that the relatively short time given for the running out of proven crude and gas reserves would be extended by the discovery of new, but as yet unproven reserves, nonetheless we have to be realistic and appreciate that even unproven reserves will, in all probability, be history before the end of the century. In the meantime, Government’s long announced policy of diversification of the economy should be aggressively pursued. The demands of regional and international markets should be closely examined.

Any wooing of investors, with the emphasis on meaningful wooing, should recognise this. In turn, there should be a study made both of available skills and the need to expand existing skills in a bid to satisfy market demands. Government should invest in the training and development of skilled personnel, while at the same time offering inducements to individuals willing to be trained. In addition, it should consider expanding its on the job training programmes.With respect to the issue of training, Trinidad and Tobago could perhaps tap into the Indian skills market for further development of the country’s skills basin.

Meanwhile, what has been and is being done since the establishment of the 33-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to stimulate the economic development of the countries of the region.

While, understandably, the setting up of CELAC is relatively new, nevertheless early action should be taken with respect to attracting investment from within the region and developing a policy of export based growth. The issue of export based growth was dealt with in an earlier Column.

Returning to the issue of Indian and other investment, the People’s Partnership Government should introduce legislation which would make it mandatory that all new investment in Trinidad and Tobago should be at least 51 percent owned by resident nationals or by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and resident nationals of the country. Too great a share of the profits earned by companies in Trinidad and Tobago, with specific reference to corporations registered overseas, remain overseas with a resulting loss of revenue (including corporation tax) and foreign exchange earnings.

It is an unfortunate by-product of our colonial past and needs to be changed and quickly. Any industry which is 51 percent owned, nationally, will be registered in Trinidad and Tobago with a full taxing of the profits taking place here with optimum benefits to this country. It is time that we adopted the Singaporean model of development and consign the old system, which has worked and continues to work against us, to the dustbin of history.

4 thoughts on “Investment or assets sale?”

  1. This is a timely and well-written article that goes to the heart of the question “where do our loyalties lie as citizens and government of Trinidad and Tobago?”. Statements emanating from the prime minister’s office and other sources are not convincing that we hold the constitution and country dear to our hearts and mind. Before proceeding on this matter, I must add that that one of the things we are terribly short of in this country is good journalists and thinkers who inform the public about matters that are essential to our development and foundation to nationhood if that is still a priority for this government. As a matter of fact the so called “fourth estate” is so lacking that a prime minister spent 15 days out of the country, went on a visit she herself termed as a state/trade mission. After such a lengthy absence, it can be assumed that the PM is tired and has a lot at home to attend to. So, she rightly called a conference where our mighty news media attend (sparsely). Since ordinary citizens do not have the credentials and opportunity ask informative questions on behalf of the people, we fully expect that our learned Press would act on our behalf and ask the pertinent questions of the Prime Minister, so that we can have a better understanding of what she attended to on our behalf whilst on her trade visit. Our “informed” Press was only able to tell us how the PM cried when she visited her ancestral village, the meeting with the Indian President and the kissing of her feet. The details of her visit as told to us by the Press was minute, considering that it cost more than ten million of taxpayers money. We need a vigilant and agitating media that will do whatever is necessary to give is an intelligent feedback as to what our elected government is doing. That is the purpose of the media. What passes for journalism nowadays is mauvis langue in print form that can compete with the National Enquirer and Bomb. The management of these mediums do not want well-trained journalists either because they have to compete for government contracts in order to boost their incomes, so there is no desire to inform the public about national affairs period. This brings me back to the writer and this article which brings up serious and important questions on foreigners coming to this country and given our assets and then have them termed as “investors”. Whilst the writer has not stated conclusively that this is the case he has raised the question as to how our assets and resources are handled and possibly given away to non-citizens. I therefore applaud the writer for delving into such important national issues. Thank you and I hope that many interesting perspectives can be derived from it.

  2. Only dumb businessmen sells its crop earner while business people only sell their crop. This Gov is horsetrading indigenous successful Trini-origins as sales items.
    The Germans and the Chinese shared development thus exchange in technology became the chief component in the oil&Gas sector thanks to the skillful Genius&Patriot Prof Ken Julian who extended our successes beyond our shores to the Gulf Oil&Gas Producing countries and West African countries. In fact TNT’s PertoChem Power industry brain child with the blessing of God and Dr.Eric Williams spawned from Prof Kenneth Julian and his chosen crews. I dare anyone to challenge this fact. Prof KJ is now witch hunted by this PPGov due to the envious malicious few how just can’t stand his successes much less challenge or compliment it.

    A jealous hating child-like few starting with the PP’s Gov first appointment to the charge the ministry…ah eh callin names.

    She was diss by the learned professor for failing to produce a single publication:the proof and means to academia.

    She took after KJ with a vengeance almost ruining our relations with Ghana and China with Moronic off d cuff statements from a bamboo junk yard sale as though this was T&T’s new commercial and foreign policy.
    However that dear Ministress was fired so fast I forgot to stir my coffee as the news hit meh, not even the media followed up on this sordid story as to how come the PPGov anointed her to begin with.
    The PP don’t appoint, they anoint, after all it is a religious based incarnation with a divine pogrom to caste-up de place;even the Muslim base Central are feeling de heat from de bonn fires of the fresh water banks.

    They cya even fly London or to Miami as they use too in those days-need say no more….Remember de plot to kill PAM. It was so moronic, they put RoboCop with a School Principal in the same sachem that US&British immigration find it convenient to confiscate their money and robb them down at any POE.
    One must take into consideration of the economic trauma the EU&US are facing that they welcome any opportunity to terrorize and rob Muslims at the slightest hint that they threaten to kill as much as a mouse. It wouldn’t surprise me when central Muslims start performing tawaf around Balise house.

  3. I concur with the analysis and deductions of this article… What people often forget is that this present government existed in another dispensation. Many of them came from the bowels of the ONR/NAR or the ‘academic/intelligensia class’ which later morphed into an integration within both the UNC and COP. As a matter of fact it is my belief that much of the ‘paranoia’ associated with the declaration of a State of Emergency (SOE) stemmed from the parallel resemblance of events pre-1990 attempted coup and the intent of labour to shut down the country. As I recall the protest snowballed into a mass disenchantment with the policies of the then government as it evolved into nationwide solidarity. So in light of subsequent revelations and utterances, one may deduce that the initial rationale for calling the SOE was not to safeguard the nation from ‘external threats’ but rather to preempt a recurrence of 1990 and to ensure that the crime statistics did not spiral out of control.

    I have mentioned the above to highlight the economic philosophy of this present government. This government will do well to observe the global trends of a clamouring for a new order of wealth distribution and equity; with the ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ coming readily to mind. The masses are crying out for fairness and a leveling of the playing so that all and not a few benefit from the distribution of scarce resources. The fact is that ‘Reaganomics or trickle-down economics has failed in theory and not delivered on what it promised… This coupled with globalisation in which multi & transnational corporations function in a primarily unregulated environment and banks indulge in high risk investment, which benefits the few rather than the majority, have all contributed to a global ground swell of support for radical and meaningful change to the global economic system.

    This government like the NAR before it, that the role of government is of ‘FACILITATOR’ and therefore the private sector should lead in economic activities (Listen carefully to the utterances of the Prime Minister, the Finance & Planning Ministers). If this be true then the disposal of state owned assets will be the order of the day, as the private sector take, what is perceived to be their ‘rightful’ place in leading economic activity. We must be sidetracked by CHINA / INDIA meteorite rise on the world stage and any ‘diasporic’ ambitions by our leaders for political expedience and patronage.

    If investment is to the benefit of the investor and undermines longterm sustainability then the possibility exist that movements witnessed from afar may land on our doorstep with all its repercussions and fallouts. OUR LEADERS MUST THREAD CAREFULLY.

  4. You know folks, the Wisest Lady dat ever lived in my adorable , late Grandmom , would often say ,”ah rather you than me ,” especially ,when referring to defeatist efforts aimed at finding solving a problem.
    Kian , you guys ,simply have a lot more patience than I , to continually attempt to decifer the workings ,of what I like to call ‘de new Trini Peti coat politics,’ where virtually every conceivable issu,e in our nation is dragged through the ringer , with much unwarranted drama,so as to make the already naive , ethnically confused , and clueless masses ,think that progress is being made , when in actuality , nothing of worth is achieved.
    Take the above affair with ex PM Pathos , a man who half of de Trinidad population , WAS TOLD . or rather , came to hate , more than , any Jewish person , towards Hitler, and yet today , we see them playing out the not too transparent ,political script ,of jumping over themselves ,in pretense at concern for the man’s health.
    In the interim , our disgusting , neglected , sub par Health Service , decrepit Hospitals, unprofessional local medical elites – still referred to as doctors , and health administrators , are ignored, with no one with power to do a thing , any wiser ,or concern, and we know the resons why, hmmm? They too can fly on their Health tourism vacations, to either Miami, Boston,Melbourn , or such havens. Go figure.
    We wish our people well!

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