George: Repeal ‘repressive’ Foreign Investment Act

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber, Martin George, has reiterated his call for the immediate and unconditional repeal of the Foreign Investment Act.

In a media release on Friday, George said the chamber had been championing this repeal for many years. This “repressive and obstructive legislation,” he said, represents a palpable absurdity, especially in the face of the severe scarcity of foreign exchange in TT.

“Instead of facilitating direct foreign investment like so many other islands in the Caribbean are doing, this archaic and anachronistic Foreign Investment Act has us placing and maintaining hurdles and obstacles in the way of investors.

“The simple fact of the matter is that the act needs to go. It needs to be repealed and expunged from our laws immediately and entirely.”

This, he said, would allow the inflow of much badly needed foreign exchange into Tobago, with obvious spillover benefits for the entire country.

On crime and security, he said, while the scourge of crime has still not yet tarnished and sullied the image of Tobago as badly as it has in Trinidad, there are still concerns over the increases which have been witnessed in the proliferation of illegal drugs and guns on the island.

“We have repeatedly asked for there to be vehicle scanners implemented at both ports, along with sniffer dogs and undercover police officers on the ferry, with these police officers having a list of names and photographs of wanted criminals who may come to try to hide out in Tobago or seek to try to ply their evil trade therefrom. In this regard, we propose that the minister and the government introduce legislation to…create a Tobago regional police service (TRPS) in much the same way as there are the municipal police outfits in the various borough corporations.”

This TRPS, he said can then work in collaboration with and alongside the TTPS “to ensure that we stamp out the scourge of crime and criminality in Tobago so that Tobago can once again become a safe place and a safe space.”

On CEPEP and URP, he proposed an enhanced programme not just for Tobago, but nationally, and that these programmes should be restructured and revamped to create full-time jobs in a revived and reinvigorated agricultural sector.

“It can no longer be a couple of hours in the early morning. It has to be full-time, whole-day employment with an attractive, rewarding salary linked to effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. Nationally, so this would cater for both Tobago and Trinidad.

“We say that if we are serious about developing agriculture for the nation, it must be government-led and government-driven and the expanded/enhanced CEPEP/URP programmes can provide the labour pool for this initiative.”

Inter-island transport, he said, ought to be given the necessary funding and resources to make it more efficient and effective in serving the needs of the travelling public. He said Caribbean Airlines (CAL) needed to understand it has to prioritise the Trinidad-Tobago run before it goes off to service other newly created routes like St Kitts, Dominica and Cuba.

“Reliable, efficient and effective air transport between Trinidad and Tobago is a right, not a privilege. We have noted the posts by CAL to suggest that they have had excess capacity on their flights for many of the peak season with many unoccupied seats.”

This, he said, again represents a failure of CAL as opposed to a failure of the public.

“CAL’s booking system is archaic and inflexible and never represents a real-time scenario, so they show seats as booked up, yet when you get to the airport, you hardly see persons on the flight. They need to improve their systems in this regard.”

He said Tobago was still awaiting a second, essential cargo vessel for the seabridge which he said had been promised by the Minister of Transport.

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