Friday, October 4, 2013

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar speech at opening of ACF in Panama

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the opening of the ACF in Panama City
"I look forward to welcoming you to Port of Spain."
(TT will host the 2014 ACF)
Thank you for affording me the privilege of addressing this Americas Competitiveness Forum, which brings together some of the most influential leaders from the hemisphere representing governments of 34 states along with business executives, trade delegates, academics, representatives from the region’s public and private competitiveness councils, non-governmental and international organizations.

I also wish to express my sincere thanks to our host, President Ricardo Martinelli, and the government and people of the Republic of Panama for their hospitality. I am delighted be back in this wonderful city.

President Martinelli has brought dramatic changes to his country and we congratulate him for his efforts at poverty eradication, which has included pensions for the elderly, establishment of a minimum wage, providing subsidies for students and reform of the income tax laws. 

His administration has also presided over an ambitious multi-billion dollar infrastructure expansion project aimed at enhancing Panama’s role as a global hub and increasing its international competitiveness. This involves investment in roads, hospitals, sewers, schools, and a Panama City transit system.

But perhaps the most ambitious development project during President Martinelli’s administration is the Panama Canal expansion project that would double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2015 by creating a new lane that would increase traffic and allow access to larger ships. 

It is only fitting that President Martinelli is overseeing this project since he previously served as chairman of the board of the Panama Canal and Minister for Canal Affairs.


Trinidad and Tobago is particularly excited about this development, which will have two new locks, one each on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific sides.
We are excited about this because it opens great opportunities for trade within our hemisphere and beyond. 

For us, we look forward to establishing bunkering facilities in the Panama Canal on both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific coasts. 

We trust that the friendly relations that have developed will continue as we expand trade through the Partial Scope Agreement between our two countries.
We are excited as well because as we look to the future we see the Panama Canal as a main economic artery for the Americas and the creation of opportunities for our respective countries. 

I am particularly happy to see that the expansion of the Panama Canal is listed as one of the main issues for our two days of deliberations. 
This mix of talent and experience at this forum is the formula for success that has driven this forum over the years since was developed by the U.S. Department of commerce. 

Today, it has grown into one of our hemisphere’s largest public-private policy dialogue and business events. 

In past years we have dealt with issues such as renewable energy and green technologies, education and workforce development, entrepreneurship and small business development, travel and tourism, public-private partnerships, and regional trade and integration.

This year we are focusing on Infrastructure and Technology in the Americas and next year when my government hosts the ACF we will deal with the human imagination at work and how this is driving competitiveness and powering Innovation.


I look forward to welcoming you to Port of Spain.

I want to take this opportunity to tell you that our twin-island Republic is also an untapped treasure trove of business opportunities, the engine of which is fuelled by sustained economic development. 

My government is committed to free enterprise and doing everything that’s possible to facilitate business expansion by our indigenous entrepreneurs and the partnerships they develop with progressive businesses abroad.
As you know our economy is energy. 

1. The energy sector accounts for 40% of real GDP

2. 90% of Foreign Direct Investment and 69% of exports measured in terms of value

3. Trinidad and Tobago accounts for 17% of the volumes of oil and natural gas produced by BP globally and in the case of BG it is 12%

4. In the downstream we account for almost 42% of the methanol that is produced by the Methanex Corporation of Canada. 
It is 60% of the global output of ammonia for Potash Corp or PCS as it is known in T&T.

5. It is the energy sector which has contributed to the almost $US5 billion that now sits in the Heritage and Stabilization fund

6. Our country is also the 6th largest exporter of LNG in the world.
I mention these facts to give you an idea of the role of T&T in the global energy business and our economic relevance in our hemisphere. 

The composition of this forum provides great optimism for our hemisphere since it brings together a diversity of interests with the principal goal of inspiring programs, policies, and partnerships to improve our economic prosperity. 

Your participation ensures that we will explore a variety of options while staying focused on creating a brighter future for all our people at the local, national and regional levels.


Ladies and Gentlemen as you know, education is the tool that creates opportunities for becoming competitive. That is why I am particularly pleased that when we look at infrastructure we are also dealing with the question of whether we have the adequate infrastructure for education to meet the challenges of the new and ever changing world of the 21st century. 

Many of our states have not yet broken free from the colonial systems with which we grew up. That is why addressing education infrastructure in the context of national and regional development is of such importance.
The question we must ask, the issue we must keep in focus is whether we are training our respective populations to assist in the true development of our hemisphere to keep us truly competitive in our globalised world.

In Trinidad and Tobago our focus is on developing education infrastructure that keeps our citizens and future leaders connected. 

My government has recognised that education must include the technology that keeps out students in touch with the 21st century.

We introduced a policy of handing to each child entering secondary school a laptop computer. Today we have distributed more than 70,000 laptops and our vision is to have a laptop in every school bag, including those of students at the primary level.

Our policy of connecting technology and education has caused us to climb up rapidly in the global competitiveness index.

Apart from Education, training and jobs and a more inclusive approach to economic participation to boost competitiveness we are also building in Trinidad and Tobago infrastructure between research and application, between idea, incubation and business creation and ICT technology and innovation.
Our focus on innovation includes seeking out creative solutions to critical issues such as climate change collaborating with regional counterparts such as Jamaica and Belize


One of the priorities for Trinidad and Tobago as we address the principles of competitiveness is the placing of priority on the development of human capital and promotion of continuous on-the-job training. 

Our government is also investing heavily in expanding and decentralising educational infrastructure to create more opportunities for our population.

We have invested heavily in development of information technology through our 2012 - 2016 National ICT Plan that focuses on enhancing the quality of life, improving service delivery, increasing national competitiveness and creating new opportunities for citizens and businesses.

Our vision is to create an education infrastructure that will result in a dynamic knowledge-based society, driven by the innovative use of ICTs to enhance the social, economic and cultural development of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

ICT can best be used as a catalyst for transformation - Education, Community, Business, Infrastructure and Government.

By focusing on educational infrastructure in development we are creating a labour force that is better equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. 

We recognise the urgent need for becoming innovative and embracing the latest technologies.

We have been paying attention as well to gender equality, providing greater access to women in governance and in the decision making process within the public sector.

And we are sharply focused on better management of the environment. This is a global challenge and our hemisphere needs to collectively commit to sustainable management of the environment

Ladies and Gentlemen, our goal must be to cultivate an innovative society in which our citizens are empowered and human imagination drives social transformation and economic growth. 

Our mission must be to create a meaningful partnership involving the state and private sectors as well as academia and civil society to develop innovative and creative solutions to enhance our competiveness. We must do it individually and collectively.


Creative and innovative strategies combined with the human imagination are the assets that drive competitiveness. One of our great assets is our human capital – well-trained, well-educated and in tune with the needs and requirements of the 21st century.

We have an abundance of talent in this room representing every aspect of human development. Our challenged is to put our talents to work to produce meaningful ideas and workable solutions to manage infrastructure and technology development in the Americas.

I wish you God speed and every success in working together to create a more competitive hemisphere. 

Thank you.
(Speech supplied by the Communications Division, Office of the Prime Minister)

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai