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Trinidad and Tobago to move from ‘red tape to red carpet’

6/12/2014, 10:28 a.m.
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Trinidad and Tobago has created an enabling environment for foreign direct investment and will be moving from “red tape to red carpet.”

That’s the word from the twin island republic’s minister of trade, industry, investment and communications, Sen. Vasant Bharath, who put the spotlight on his country at the 2014 Invest Caribbean Now summit in New York City on June 4.

Bharath said his country has cut the time to start a business from 43 days to three days and sliced the verification of address process to 24 hours as part of its “Easy Doing Business” initiative.

Trinidad and Tobago has also sought to diversify away from oil and gas, growing its financial services, agro-business and creative sectors, Bharath told delegates, who included representatives from Merrill Lynch, the World Bank Group, Goldman Sachs, OPIC, Sandals Resorts International, DHL Caribbean, HBO Latin America, One Caribbean Television, First Citizens TT, InvesTT, interCaribbean Airways, Bright Capital, Aegis Capital, Medici Group, Adiuvo Partners LLP, the Lugano Group, the Woody Wilson Fine Clothing of Beverly Hills, Global Med Choices, American World Clinic, Aspenall Energies, MPowered, Sir Richard Branson’s, Carbon War Room, the Goodness Company, China Daily USA, Caribbean Commerce magazine; NATCOM International, One Caribbean Television, FlyingICU, GeoTechVision, Auto Planet Japan Ltd., Super Green Solutions, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Invest Saint Lucia, KandL Gates, Lu Ning Architecture, New Sports Group, the Pont Group, Damoola, the Chinese American Business Development Center, the Sino-American Friendship Association and the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.

He revealed that his country’s reserves have doubled to $5 billion and unemployment has declined to 5 percent. A bond offering in London last year was oversubscribed by a multiple of 10. Four hundred foreign firms operate in the country, including Microsoft, General Electric and BP, using Trinidad as their regional headquarters. The country’s location on “Brazil’s doorstep” means that the government is diversifying beyond oil and gas and is now pursuing financial services, tourism and maritime services. A 700-acre economic zone is also being developed.

“It can’t be done incrementally. It has to be a transformation,” Bharath told other Caribbean ministers and U.S. and Chinese political representatives, including Deputy Secretary-General of the Beijing Municipal Government Dr. Ma Lin; Premier of the island of Nevis Vance Amory; St. Kitts Minister of Tourism and International Transport Sen. Ricky Skerritt; Minister of Tourism, St. Martin, Jeanne Rogers-Vanderpool; Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and Commissioner of Tourism, USVI Department of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson Doty; Chairman of the CARICOM Consular Corps of New York and Deputy Consul General, Antigua and Barbuda, Omyma David; Consul General of St. Lucia to New York Julian DuBois; Vice President of the Trade and Investment International Division at the Empire State Development Corporation Claire McLeveighn; and Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia, representing the 33rd District of New Jersey, which includes Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City and Weehawken.

Invest Caribbean Now was founded in 2011 by Hard Beat Communications CMO Felicia J. Persaud. The 2014 ICN summit was presented under the theme “Advancing Wealth.”

ICN 2014 also included several panel discussions, including “Global Trends and the Caribbean,” “Beijing-Caribbean Tourism and Investment Opportunity,” “Introducing the New Trend in Tourism: Medical Tourism,” “Introducing a New Trend in the Caribbean: Clean Energy” and “The Caribbean Diaspora as a Source of Investment.”

Additionally, the first half of the event included an opening address by Persaud; a keynote address by Harvard graduate Dr. Isaac J. Newton of Paramount Communications Consultancy; an investment announcement on the Caribbean market village of St. Lucia; and a focus on “Advancing Wealth in the Caribbean With Technology” from Trinidad-born, L.A. resident Anthony Wellington Phills, branding specialist of Disney’s “Million Dollar Arm” and founder of Caribbean Commerce Magazine/Media, Calypso Cloud and Blinglet.