The government and InvesTT are actively cutting red tape and improving legislation; and with super-low energy costs, a skilled workforce, a geographically strategic location and numerous fiscal incentives, the investment climate in Trinidad and Tobago is as warm as the Caribbean waters that surround it.
Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) economy has relied heavily on its gas resources, but a slowdown in gas production last year gave the manufacturing industry its time to shine. According to Kristine Gibbon-Thompson, Chairperson of investment promotion agency InvesTT Trinidad and Tobago (InvesTT), the manufacturing sector alone was responsible for a 2% increase in GDP, against a “backdrop of maintenance-related curtailment in domestic gas production.”
This was good news for the dual-island nation which has been actively trying to diversify the economy away from the gas industry, an endeavor in which it is banking on the support of foreign investors.
Support for investors comes in the form of InvesTT. The investment promotion ‘one-stop shop’ plays a vital role in making the investment climate as warm, welcoming and attractive as the beautiful Caribbean country itself. Mrs. Gibbon-Thompson says that it is championing the creation of an enabling environment (incentives, legislation, etc.) to encourage investors.
“InvesTT offers investors complete support – from providing them with all the information they need to make an investment decision to facilitating the cooperation that is required locally. We coordinate meetings on behalf of investors with potential customers, suppliers and government agencies. Rather than dealing with a variety of government agencies, InvesTT fast tracks any necessary applications through a central contact person. Finally, once the investment is operational, InvesTT provides ongoing support.”
The InvesTT chairperson adds: “The country has made a renewed, sustained effort to up the ante with respect to diversification. Achieving a more diversified economic base requires focusing on our strengths as a nation and creating investment opportunities that leverage on those strengths.”
InvesTT has profiled a number of the country’s competitive strengths. As an energy independent state, energy costs are extremely low. (The country ranks 10th in the world in the Getting Electricity indicator of the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 index; the cost of electricity is 7% of income per capita, or IPC, much lower than OECD average of 79.1% of IPC). T&T also boasts a talented, skilled and English-speaking workforce. With free trade agreements with the U.S., EU, Canada and neighboring countries (opening up a market of 700 million consumers), investors focusing on exporting can take advantage of its geo-strategic location. To encourage export-oriented activities, the government has established a network of free-trade zones with enticing financial incentives.
Unlike many emerging economies with substantial oil or gas wealth, T&T has a stable democracy and open and consistent legislative framework which provides for transparent and accountable business transactions. Investors can also count on modern and well-developed infrastructure, and 100% ownership of locally registered private companies.
According to the Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications, Vasant Bharath, the government has made impressive strides in reducing bureaucracy and cutting red tape. “Our motto today is: ‘Red tape to red carpet’. Two years ago we ranked 97th globally in the World Bank’s Doing Business index. Now we are at 66th, and we hope by the end of this year we will be 50th. You will see the most obvious improvements when trying to start a business. For example, in the past, if you wanted to start a business, the entire process would take about 43 days; today it takes about three days. By taking the bureaucracy out of the process, we’ve made it easier to do business in Trinidad and Tobago.”