Trinidad and Tobago’s national development strategy, Vision 2030, completes its first five-year segment in 2020. What has been achieved to date? The Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis, answers CONTACT’s questions
by Kay Baldeosingh-Arjune, Freelance writer
Published in CONTACT Magazine
What are the basic principles of Vision 2030?
Vision 2030, our national development strategy, lays the foundation for Trinidad and Tobago to reach developed nation status by the year 2030. It is based on five principles:
- Every citizen is valued and has equal opportunity to achieve their fullest potential
- All citizens will enjoy a high quality of life, with healthcare available to all
- All citizens are assured a sound, relevant education system
- The family is the foundation of the society
- The diversity and creativity of the people is valued and nurtured.
Five development themes are the pillars that support Vision 2030:
(1) Putting people first: nurturing our greatest assets
(2) Delivering good governance and service excellence
(3) Improving productivity through quality infrastructure and transport
(4) Building globally competitive businesses
(5) Placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development.
Each thematic area has actionable and achievable goals, such as improved health and poverty eradication; strong and independent democratic institutions; superior infrastructure and transport systems; a globally competitive economy; and a climate-smart environment.
What key milestones does the government expect to achieve in 2020 that will affect the business sector?
By 2020 we expect to reach several key milestones which will address our main national challenges, including low productivity, weak institutions, crime, traffic congestion, pollution and climate change. These will positively impact the business sector. They include:
- Addressing the skills gaps in the workforce
- Reducing the most problematic factors for doing business
- Increasing access to timely and accurate data to inform decisionmaking
- Improving connectivity and efficiency through improved transportation networks and increased opportunities for new domestic business development
- Increasing opportunities for higher value-added goods and services
- Greening of manufacturing processes to protect the environment.
Some of the actions involved are:
- Development of a draft National Manpower Plan to bridge the gaps between the labour market and the education system, and to grow the sectors identified for diversification of the economy
- The National Crime Prevention Programme, which is already operationalised; its impact will be felt in 2020
- Establishment of the National Statistical Institute of Trinidad and Tobago to provide quality data in a timely manner to support evidence based decision-making
- Initiatives to enhance road infrastructure, reduce traffic congestion, and support productivity
- Construction of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate in Couva and the Moruga Agro-Processing and Light Industrial Park, which will help to move the economy further up the production value chain while earning foreign exchange
- By 2020, government expects polystyrene products, such as styrofoam containers, will be illegal in
Trinidad and Tobago. This is in keeping with international best practice and has already been legislated by other countries in the Caribbean.
The government has undertaken a number of initiatives to ensure that the benefits of the plan do trickle down to citizens and the private sector. The business community has already experienced quite a few benefits related to the ease of doing business, increased facilitation of export competitiveness and productivity, and measures to curb the negative impact of commercial activity on the environment.
Other initiatives include:
- Movement away from manual applications for company registration, towards electronic applications. This has reduced the length of time it takes to start a business from ten days to three.
- The Construction Permit System, DevelopTT, will automate, modernise, and streamline the construction permit process to reduce the transaction time, the number of processes and the cost of obtaining construction permits. DevelopTT is expected to roll out in the fourth quarter of 2019.
- A secured Transactions and Collateral Registry System is under development. This will facilitate the use of movable property (intellectual property, agricultural products, accounts receivable, machinery and equipment) as collateral, and will provide small and medium-sized enterprises with improved access to finance.
- An Electronic Funds Transfer Framework for government agencies is being developed. It will be able to make and receive electronic payments. Efforts towards building capacity within the Inland Revenue Division to improve taxpayer services are under way. A unified legislative framework that harmonises the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act with other relevant legislation, including the Companies Act, has also been created.
- The EXIMBANK Forex Facility, in the amount of US$100 million, was launched in May 2018 to help manufacturers purchase the raw materials needed to increase exports and improve forex earning capability. To date, the EXIMBANK has assisted 38 manufacturers.
- Several policies were developed to help boost competitiveness, expand market access, increase export capacity and improve the business and trade-enabling environment.
- Government proposes to introduce an incremental foreign exchange earnings tax credit for the manufacturing sector. This will particularly affect agriculture and agro-processing, food and beverage, non-energy and non-petrochemical products. Legislation will be introduced in parliament during this fiscal year.
- The continued expansion and enhancement of the Single Electronic Window (SEW).
- Improvements to port facilities are ongoing with the introduction of more sophisticated container scanning equipment.
- Implementation of international agreements under the World Trade Organisation to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods at the border and improve infrastructural works at the ports of Port of Spain and Scarborough.
We are building a new society in which every citizen and business becomes involved in shaping the future of our nation; a place where everyone will have an individual responsibility to keep our streets clean, our communities crimefree, our roadways safe, and our economy stable.