Category: Media Releases

One-Millionth Customer Served

Tobago’s 211 Call Centre lauded a success

The success of the Tobago House of Assembly’s 211 Call Centre was put in the limelight during a ceremony at the Victor E. Bruce Financial Complex yesterday, held in recognition of the one-millionth customer served.

The call centre is operated under the purview of the THA’s Division of Finance and Enterprise Development (DFED) and is administered by Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL). Established in 2008, the 211 Contact Centre provides members of the public with easy access to real time information on Tobago by calling the toll free telephone number – 211.

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Technology Transforming Tobago

DFED ushers in new era of development

A new era of progress and development in Tobago has gained momentum with the recently opened Mt. St. George Information Technology, Literacy and Homework Walk-In Centre located at the Mt. St. George Multipurpose Community Centre.

This facility is the 17th Walk-In Centre opened in Tobago and the initiative is being facilitated by the Tobago Information Technology Limited (TITL), a state enterprise under the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development (DFED).

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Tobago Economic Conference Opens New Horizons

Division Of Finance Charts The Way Forward

There is an air of cautious optimism about the future outlook of the sister isle following the Tobago Economic and Business Conference 2016 held at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort on Tuesday, November 8.

The 10th edition of this benchmark discussion charted a pathway for economic development and diversification for Tobago, spearheaded by a panel of dynamic presenters, bolstered by sound contributions from a participative audience representing a wide cross-section of the island’s population.

It was a poignant moment as Orville London delivered remarks at what marks his last appearance at the annual event in his capacity as Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

“Tobago has a critical role to play in getting Trinidad and Tobago out of these difficult times, especially with the decline of the energy sector and the need to focus on other foreign-exchange earning facets like tourism. I am confident that we will emerge from this conference with great ideas, but they will not resonate unless we take them away from this room and put them into action. Each of us needs to recognise that Tobago has a role to play and we need to step up and take charge of the responsibility that each of us shoulders. This is especially relevant in the context of the Bill advocating the self-governance of Tobago that lies before Cabinet. We each have to become an agent for the change and progress that we wish to see in our nation,” the Chief Secretary said.

London also highlighted a number of upcoming opportunities that will serve to catalyse the development of Tobago and create employment, including the continuing expansion of the ANR Robinson International Airport, increased electricity generation capacity at COVE Eco-Industrial Estate, a desalination plant and the proposed construction of 750-room Sandals Resort.

The conference, hosted under the banner “Exploring Innovation, Embracing Opportunities, Enhancing Economic Resilience”, highlighted the second day of Finance Week organised by the THA’s Division of Finance and Enterprise Development (DFED). The week of events serves to provide information, get feedback from the population and aims to unearth and develop persons with entrepreneurial ambition in the Division’s drive to bolster and diversify the economy.

Finance Secretary, Assemblyman Joel Jack, delivered the welcome and closing remarks: “This conference serves to provide a forum where topical issues that impact the economy are discussed by presenters from varying fields of expertise. The attendance grows each year and that is a sign that we are doing something right. But the proof isn’t only in the numbers of interested people, but also in the outcomes of past conferences. The ideas generated over the years have resulted in a number of positive initiatives, including the restructuring of the Business Development Unit, the introduction and rationalisation of the Business Development Grant and Loan programmes, the introduction of the Venture Capital Equity Fund and the current development of the Innovation Centre at Tobago Technology Limited.”

Jack added, “Since the first conference in 2007, over 3,000 new jobs have been created and our economy has grown more diversified and resilient. All of this has been possible to a great degree through the vision and foresight of the Chief Secretary and we owe him a depth of gratitude. I also renew my commitment to maintaining the quest to ignite the Tobago economy and achieve as much of our limitless potential as possible.”

The conference fulfilled a number of objectives, including understanding the challenges Tobago faces and developing policy prescriptions to overcome those challenges; providing a forum where entrepreneurs can share experiences and gain knowledge and insight; and also to sensitise Tobagonians about the opportunities created by the THA to stimulate entrepreneurial activity.

Topics such as the implications for economic slowdown, adjustments required for dealing with the economic reality, improving productivity and innovation and managing in a challenging economic environment, were delivered by keynote speakers. They included Professor Andrew Downes, past Pro Vice Chancellor of The University of the West Indies; Wendell Mottley, former Minister of Finance; Hayden Blades, Economist and President of Business Insight Limited; Jason Julien, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Business Generation, First Citizens Bank; and Claire Davidson-Williams, Administrator, DFED. Keeping the rhythm of the conference flowing and engaging the audience was the charismatic moderator and accomplished daughter of the soil, Dr. Eastlyn McKenzie.

Sharon Christopher, recently retired Deputy Chief Executive Officer of First Citizens Bank, led a panel representing “Women in Business” that gave firsthand experiences and insights from successful female entrepreneurs and which generated the greatest level of audience participation.

The presenters and participants maintained a vigorous flow of information that left a feeling of energy and optimism regarding the future of economic growth and development in Tobago and the nation as a whole.

This sentiment was reflected in the words of Rhona Jack, late-blooming entrepreneur: “There aren’t enough words to describe how excellent this conference was. I believe that we are lucky in Tobago to have leaders like Mr. London and Mr. Jack who have the vision and support innovators and entrepreneurs. The information shared here opened me up to realise that, even at the age of 51, I can fulfil my potential and encourage others to follow this path also. Very soon from now, it will be me up there relating how I became an important part of the Trinidad and Tobago economy.”


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Tobago Youths Urged to be Trailblazers

Young adults converged at the John Dial Community Centre in Bacolet/Mt St George, Tobago, seeking to explore future career opportunities as the Youth Energised for Success (YES) programme held its first Annual Career Fair on Thursday.

Representatives from different sectors were on hand to provide information on career options to the young people. These included health, business, the environment, institutions, agro-processing, tourism and hospitality, arts and craft and skills training. Some enterprising persons even walked with copies of their resumes and filled out application forms.

The YES programme established in 2012 operates within the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development (DFED) of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA. The Career Fair served as a platform for offering a unique hands-on experience for youths to gain relevant information from various departments within the THA and private entities on the skills and requirements needed for employment. The initiative was also aimed at supporting persons who are entrepreneurial-minded, thereby encouraging self-employment and small-business development.  In addition to the hosting of career fairs the programme offers workshops in areas of Life Skills, Resume Writing and Interview Skills, Professional Development, Youth Entrepreneurship and Summer Internships.

Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development, Assemblyman Joel Jack, who formally opened the Career Fair, pointed out that the initiative “seeks to create a nurturing environment and harness the untapped potential of our young people as we create and support enriching community-based activities for youth development and employment.”

Jack announced that the John Dial career would be the first in a series targeting young persons from different communities which would challenge them to capitalise on opportunities to them to shape a bright and successful future.

“The Division is committed to empowering and assisting communities and stimulating community-based entrepreneurship. Community wealth-creation and generation are important elements of the Tobago business model and we will continue to enable the transfer of wealth locally, and within families,” Jack told his audience.

He exhorted the young people: “As the island’s future leaders, I challenge you to create your own success. Use the tools you have and fearlessly pursue even that which is unfamiliar. Be a leader, an innovator, a trailblazer. You have all the capabilities necessary to contribute meaningfully to Tobago’s development and I expect that you all will.”

For Nkocy Fletcher, 19, student of Calder Hall, the career fair was very interesting and eye-opening. “I loved the variety of stakeholders who were at the fair because it didn’t only focus on those who are academically-inclined. I was particularly interested in the NESC booth and I actually applied to do a course in facilities maintenance. I do not want to limit myself to the academic sphere but to equip myself with trade skills. It was amazing to see the wide range of career options available right here in Tobago. It is up to us, the young people, to maximise the opportunities that are presented to us,” said a confident Fletcher.

The other Career Fairs will be held at Louis D’Or/Betsy’s Hope, Lowlands, Mason Hall and Parlatuvier.



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Assemblyman Joel Jack to Participate in Government’s US$ 1 Billion Bond Issue

Tobago’s interests will be represented when Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development, Assemblyman Joel Jack, accompanies a team led by the Minister of Finance on a multi-city road show in order to raise funds to finance government spending for fiscal 2016.

In an initiative supported by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT), the Government’s bond managers and arrangers First Citizen’s Bank and Deutsche Bank, presentations will be made to premier international banks and investors during the period July 25th to 29th.

The road show is targeted to raise US$1 billion through the sale of ten to 12-year international bonds in order to finance the fiscal budget 2016. The Tobago House of Assembly’s Finance Secretary will accompany the team that will lead the Los Angeles and New York legs of the mission. In order to expedite the process, another expert team will be targeting investors in Boston and London.

“Apart from the technical aspects of the meetings and presentations, I will also be assisting in marketing Trinidad and Tobago as a viable investment destination to international investors. This mission is a very critical component for encouraging wide investment and investor participation in the bond sales. Thus far, the government has already raised $3 billion through bond sales on the local market and this initiative will further serve to finance expenditure going into 2017. Despite the economic issues raised as a result of declining energy prices and global uncertainty, we are working to secure the continued development of the nation. I am confident that with the team assembled, we will achieve our targets,” Jack explained.

Assemblyman Joel Jack is a member of the team is headed by Honourable Colm Imbert, Minister of Finance and includes; Ewart Williams, Advisor to the Minister of Finance; Suzette Taylor-Lee Chee, Permanent Secretary (Ag.), Ministry of Finance; and Alister Noel, Senior Manager – Operations, CBTT.

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Capacity Building Workshop in Collaboration with the Canadian High Commission

The Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) project implementation personnel are now equipped to identify successful Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects because of the collective efforts of the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development and Canada’s High Commission to Trinidad and Tobago. Twenty six (26) persons from various Divisions of the Assembly participated in a two day workshop on March 23-24 facilitated by Canadian consultants from the firms DLA Piper and KPMG.

In his address at the seminar’s opening, the Secretary of Finance & Enterprise Development, Assemblyman Joel Jack under whose purview the session was held, spoke of the Assembly’s commitment to exploring opportunities for financing the island’s development projects in light of the severe cut in expenditure under the development programme. The PPP model he said is highly effective in ensuring opportunities are exploited to continue Tobago’s development. According to the Finance Secretary, “PPPs provide a unique opportunity for collaboration between the THA and the private sector by allowing government to capitalize on the strengths of both the public system and the market solution while mitigating many of the risks, be they financial, political, environmental, social or operational.”

The workshop provided participants with tools and skills to support successful PPP projects and tested the group’s ability to comprehensively and objectively evaluate public sector projects for application of the PPP approach. They were challenged to rigorously assess a project’s suitability, screening for efficacy while also becoming familiar with key control mechanisms and procurement related issues.

In his address to the participants Canada’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago His Excellency Gerard Latulippe shared Canada’s experience in PPP financing which spans more than 20 years. He emphasised that much of the success in the use of the modality was as a result of committed governments, a strong legal framework, an emphasis on value for money, strong financing markets, public sector expertise through dedicated agencies and a competitive, efficient, transparent and fair procurement system. This he believes can be successfully implemented in Tobago; and pledged his support to work with the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development and the THA to assist in successful implementation of PPPs.

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YES Programme Secondary Schools Resume Writing and Interview Challenge

The YES Programme challenged young persons and they responded. A total of 43 students participated in the Youth Energised for Success’ (YES) inaugural Interview and Resume Writing Competition with Ms Cassia Sobers of Bishops High School ultimately emerging victorious.

The competition which was open to all CAPE and CSEC students on the island was conducted between February and March of this year. During that time the students attended a series of workshops where they were taught the intricacies of cover letter and resume writing, preparing for, and participating in a successful interview.

The Division of Finance and Enterprise Development’s Administrator Mrs Claire Davidson Williams speaking at the competition’s award function congratulated the students sharing with them the importance of the activity. She stated the YES Programme and the competition in particular is one of many components in ensuring the THA assists with the development of its human capital by exposing young persons to capacity building initiatives.

The competitors all learnt the intricacies of applying for employment by strengthening their writing and oral skills. According to Ms Cuquie Melville-YES’ Programme Administrator, “the participants are now better equipped to enter the world of work having successfully applied the information shared at the workshops.” This she indicated was because of the competition’s practical component which had the entrants apply for and be interviewed by a panel.

Mahkale Henry of Signal Hill Secondary placed second while KJ Hamilton of Goodwood Secondary placed third. The other finalists in the competition were – Ian Lawrence (Scarborough Secondary), Akola Ashby & Avinola Arthur (Speyside High School).

The YES Programme was established to collaborate with the Divisions of the Tobago House of Assembly, the private sector and other local, regional, and international agencies, to expand and enhance young professional development, training, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities for young Tobagonians, thus preparing them to lead in the development of Tobago. It is co-ordinated by the YES Unit at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex.

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Holiday Happiness at the Division of Finance’s Annual Children’s Christmas Party

The Division of Finance & Enterprise Development hosted its largest Children’s Christmas Party on record last weekend. Close to 800 children and adults experienced the spirit of giving at the Division’s annual event held at the Victor E. Bruce Financial Complex. In his message which emphasised the importance of spreading joy during the Christmas season, Assemblyman Joel Jack expressed his pleasure with the attendance and the philosophy behind the activity.

This, he explained was an opportunity for the Division to strengthen the bonds among families and build linkages with members of staff of the Division and the wider community. Both Assemblyman Jack and the Division’s Administrator Mrs. Claire Davidson-Williams presented gifts to children of the Family First Foundation home who are usually treated at the event by the Division. The home has been adopted as part of a programme by the Division to strengthen its corporate social responsibility. The children were visited by Mrs. Claus and other cartoon characters and enjoyed a variety of entertainment, games and activities for all ages. The event was coordinated by the staff of the Division and is anticipated yearly as it is centred on celebrating the Christmas season with members of staff, family, friends and children.

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Secretary Of Finance meets with new Tobago Chamber President

The Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development, Assemblyman Joel Jack says he remains cautiously optimistic about the impact of the global recession on Tobago’s economic position. According to him despite the recent declaration, by the Central Bank Governor that the country is in a recession, continued budgetary adjustments and reproritised programmes by the House of Assembly will ensure limited impact on the island’s economy. He, however, insisted that now more than ever the Assembly must deepen its partnerships with the private sector.

These issues were the centre of discussions today when the Secretary met with representatives of the Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Industry of Chamber and Commerce. The Chamber’s team included the newly installed President Mr Selby Leslie and two past presidents Ms Diane Hadad and Mr David Wong. The Assemblyman formally welcomed the new President and updated the meeting on the issues raised earlier this year.

The Secretary intimated his unwavering desire to continue to work closely with the group which is required even more so now. He said, the need for economic diversification requires a more intimate working relationship with the Assembly and particularly the Division of Finance. Mr Leslie, also expressed his commitment to advancing economic development plans for the island and pledged his support for the establishment of Tobago’s Productivity Council.

Discussed at the meeting were the Assembly’s plans for the fiscal year with updates being provided on several key initiatives being undertaken by the Division of Finance and Enterprise Development including the Innovation Centre, the enhancement of the Assembly’s accounting system and projects of the Business Development Unit and the Venture Capital Equity Fund Limited. The availability of foreign exchange on the island and Tobago’s labour market conditions and GDP statistics were also examined with the Chamber representatives making recommendations on several activities. The next meeting is scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.

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FLS and UTC Partner to Support Financial Literacy

A diverse group of close to 150 Tobagonians attended the Financial Literacy Secretariat’s (FLS) second investment information seminar for the year. This session was facilitated by the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation at the Victor E. Bruce Financial Complex. In his remarks, Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development, Assemblyman Joel Jack encouraged the large gathering to exploit the various investment opportunities offered, building on the Tobago ethic of savings and thrift in an effort to increase their assets and strengthen the legacy of intergenerational wealth transfer on the island. UTC’s Vice President of Advisory Services-Ms Amoy Van Lowe applauded the Assembly on its initiative and partnership over the years.

She commended the Secretary of Finance in particular for his positive response in supporting activities which allow citizens to take charge of their future, in addition to his vision and commitment to the enhancement of financial literacy. The gathering was presented with information on wealth generation by Mr Garth Thomas of Comprehensive Planners and Associates. Mr Leslie St Louis of First Citizen’s Brokerage and Advisory Services explained the first steps to be taken when investing in the stock market. Meanwhile Mr Sekou Mark-Vice President of Investment Research and Portfolio Management at the UTC gave insights into the operations and philosophy behind the UTC Calypso Macro Index Fund.

The session was highly interactive and participants engaged all facilitators directly on their respective presentations. This was the largest gathering of persons since the FLS has commenced hosting of information sessions which according to the Secretary of Finance augurs well for Tobago’s financial future. The Secretariat in the upcoming months will continue to implement education programmes to increase the level of financial literacy on the island.

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