The Ashanti prince who designed and built a signal station in Trinidad for the British in 1883
War with the British in the 1870s, became more complicated for the Ashanti, who had seen several other tribes in the Gold Coast seek protection from the British and in turn join them to fight. In the ...
Trinidad and Tobago Seeks Buyers from Atlanta, Will Partially Fund Trip to Export Fair
The export agency of Trinidad and Tobago is seeking qualified buyers from Atlanta to join a trade fair on Fourth of July weekend. ExporTT will fund the majority of the trip July 4-5, including hotel ...
Trinidad: Jack Warner to pay ex-councillor 650K in bribe claim
(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — Former politician Jack Warner will have to dig a little deeper in his pocket to compensate former Chaguanas councillor Faaiq Mohammed, in relation to a 2014 lawsuit filed against ...
Medical fraternity in Trinidad mourns murdered colleague
(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A wooden pallet, rim and tyre found in front of Dr Vin Sein Chiang’s vehicle at Lovers Lane in Wallerfield where he was killed yesterday. The news of Dr Vin Sein Chiang’s death ...
Man killed after officer-involved shooting in Trinidad; investigation underway
LAS ANIMAS COUNTY, Colo. — An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by officers in Trindad following a pursuit on Sunday evening. Officers were called to an Alta Convenience Store ...
DEVOTED to its core mission of promoting peace and love, Rootsyardd Dub will mark the first anniversary of its signature foundation reggae music event Rootsyardd Dub and Night Market (RYDM) tonight.
The small team of organisers, led by Rootsyardd Dub founder Jude Patrick, is set to put on its tenth event and anniversary edition One Love, One Sound tonight in the open space at the corner of Nook Avenue and St Ann’s Road from 6 pm.
The event has a roots reggae music focus and hosts a night market made up of a range of local artisan entrepreneurs with their craft, personal care and gourmet food products. More recently, it has also included massage, therapeutic and wellness services.
In a media release Patrick said, “There’s something truly unique about the vibe of the foundation classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s, when combined with the energy of our vendors and others who fill the space. For us, this music drives the overall ‘good feeling’ people get and the sense of connection we seek to facilitate.
We dwell in so much heat on a daily basis – at work, on the roads, in public discourse – we just want to use what we have to shed some light now. We want everyone coming here to know peace and love, and radiate it.”
Among the standard features of Rootsyardd, this special RYDM edition highlights one of TT’s leading artists, watercolourist Jackie Hinkson and international guest selector out of the US Virgin Islands Tippy I Grade.
Now going into their second year, event hosts are determined to up the ante on their positive outreach, and will feature a social enterprise as their first special guest vendor. Tomorrow’s event will therefore see the TT Blind Welfare Association (TTBWA) showcase its collection of baskets and hand-woven products.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a movement that appreciates the value of inclusion and the need for our organisation to have access to regular markets and creative spaces – especially during Blindness Awareness Month”, says TTBWA CEO Kenneth Surat.
Rootsyardd is as reliable for its roots and rockers jams as it is known for its commitment to its original, custom-built analogue sound system, said the release. “In order for people to feel what I wanted them to feel, I knew the music had to be played on vinyl records. And using vinyl meant only original old-school speaker boxes would do, which in turn meant getting them built,” Patrick said.
Since its first instalment on May 19, 2018, the event has been held every five to six weeks apart, with the most recent edition held on April 14 as part of the New Fire Festival at Ortinola Estate in St Joseph. The following two events are already scheduled for July 13 and then August 17 as a fringe event of Carifesta IV (August 16-25).
May 24 marks World Schizophrenia Day, which aims to raise awareness about schizophrenia and reduce stigma towards people affected by this mental disorder. A team of researchers at King’s College London and the University of the West Indies have recently done research in Trinidad on schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, and are now conducting a large-scale research programme to follow up on these findings, which were found to be high in Trinidad. A large-scale international project is now investigating risk factors and health needs associated with the disorder.
The majority of research on schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders has been conducted in North America, Western Europe or Australia, leaving us with little accurate information about these conditions in the rest of the world.
Psychotic disorders are conditions in which people experience symptoms such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and false thoughts or beliefs (delusions). These disorders usually begin at a young age, when people are in their 20s, and can cause long-term distress and disability, but recovery is possible, said a media release.
Researchers at the University of the West Indies and King’s College London, in the UK, are trying to address the imbalance in mental health research by generating robust evidence on psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia in Trinidad through a high-profile international study. This study is funded by the UK Medical Research Council, and is led by Prof Gerard Hutchinson in TT and Prof Craig Morgan in London, in collaboration with international partners at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and the Schizophrenia Research Foundation in India.
Their latest study revealed that rates of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia in Trinidad were higher than expected based on previous international research (26.5 per 100,000 person-years, which was similar to Nigeria but higher than in India).
This constitutes the most up-to-date information on how common psychosis is locally, which is essential for evidence-based policy and service-planning to address these conditions. Now, the same researchers aim to uncover the risk factors that lead to psychosis in Trinidad and explore the health needs of people suffering this disorder in order to develop better services and public health strategies. This novel study, called Intrepid II (INTernational REsearch Programme on Psychoses In Diverse settings), will also be conducted in sites in India and Nigeria, making it not only one of the largest studies of its kind, but also ground-breaking in its intention to understand psychosis on a global scale.
The Intrepid II research team is now investigating potential risk factors for psychosis, such as childhood trauma and cannabis use, as well as aiming to understand how the condition affects people's lives, which factors support recovery, and the physical health needs of people with psychosis.
Hutchinson said in the release: "Psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia disrupt life perhaps like no other illness, and understanding the way it develops and impacts on individuals and families is critical for the design of effective interventions.”
With one year of data collection recently completed, the first results from Intrepid II will be released in "summer" 2020, taking one step closer to a truly global understanding of schizophrenia and other psychoses.
For more info on the findings from the original Intrepid study here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/incidence-of-psychoses-in-diverse-settings-intrepid-2-a-feasibility-study-in-india-nigeria-andtrinidad/EB2768CDC8020E1E07BC5BC2D169FC0E
Find out more about Intrepid II here: https://www.intrepidresearch.org/; https://twitter.com/INTREPID_psych
Read Intrepid II’s most recent newsletter here: https://www.intrepidresearch.org/publicity.html
Tessa Roberts, PhD is a research associate INTREPID II
ACKNOWLEDGING that while traditional mail was on the decline, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said TTPost is attempting to capitalise on the “ballooning” trend of worldwide e-commerce.
He was speaking at the launch of the Address Improvement and Postal Code Implementation Project for the Penal/ Debe Regional Corporation area, at Paria Suites, La Romaine on Wednesday. He said the project started in 2011 and was due to be completed by year’s end. “TTPost and the delivery of mail has been one of the arteries – a main artery of communication in times gone by, but, I think we all understand how easy it is now to communicate with your friends via the telephone, via e-mail, via WhatsApp, and the technology is evolving in such a manner that letters is something we rarely do.”
He said industries such as the banking sector were moving away from mailed printed statements and were encouraging customers to use their online services.
“We recognise that technology is definitely impacting this business, and by the same token what is really starting to balloon in this business is e-commerce.
“And we, TT, because we have one of the best standards of living in the western hemisphere, and a lot of us go online to make orders for delivery, so too TTPost’s business is transforming. And in keeping with world standards, we are seeing mail delivery dropping. But again, we are trying to increase delivery or take advantage of e-commerce that is ballooning throughout the country and worldwide.”
Earlier, corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy welcomed the project’s implementation saying it would make it easier for government agencies to co-ordinate with the corporation to deliver goods and services to the sprawling corporation which has a population of just over 90,000.
However, he expressed hope that the privacy of residents would be safeguarded and not shared with large corporations.
TT PLAYER Breana Stampfli moved into the quarter-final round of the ITF World Tennis Tour Hibiscus Classic Women’s 15s tournament yesterday.
At the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua, Stampfli eliminated eighth seed Maileen Nuudi of Estonia 7-5, 6-0.
Number two ranked Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia trounced Switzerland’s Pauline Wuarin of Switzerland 6-0, 6-0 in another second round fixture, third seed Lexie Stevens of the Netherlands took care of United States’ Amy Kaplan 6-2, 6-2 and seventh seed Nadia Echeverria Alam of Venezuela knocked out American Payton Andrews 6-3, 6-1.
However, two seeds were sent packing yesterday.
Sabastiani Leon ousted fellow American, fifth seed Akilah James 6-4, 7-6(4) and, in another all-US contest, Safiya Carrington overcame sixth seed Rushri Wijesundera 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.
Two doubles quarter-final matches were decided courtesy walkover results yesterday.
Olga Brozda and Paulina Jastrzebska, both of Poland, advanced at the expense of the third-seeded pair of Nuudi and Stevens.
Echeverria Alam and Leon, the top seeds in the doubles category, progressed after the US tandem of Zoe Hitt and Kriti Williams withdrew.
FIVE of TT’s best Under-17 prospects have been selected to attend the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Youth Camp in Puerto Rico from July 11-14.
The first pick went to high flyer, Jael Lewis of the Maloney Pacers Basketball Club and Youth Development Programme. Completing the top five all-star cast wiill be Nickolai Mills of the Stories of Success Basketball Academy, Jadon Daniel and Jelani Blackett both of Maloney Pacers, and Nwadike Felix of the Detour Shak Attack Basketball Development Programme.
On reserve are Daniel Constance of Scarborough Secondary School and Samuel Waldron of Maloney Pacers.
The final selection process took place on May 5 at the Eastern Regional Sport Complex, Tacarigua. Twenty-four of the shortlisted participants were evaluated through advanced skills and in-game activities.
When asked about being selected first, Lewis replied, “Well, this is just the beginning. I am proud of myself knowing I have earned my pick at number one for this camp and I have been working really hard on increasing the standard of my game.”
Regarding his actual participation in the forthcoming camp, he stated, “I look forward to dominating in the CBC camp and showing the world the talent I possess.”
YOUNG fashion designers from TT, Grenada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Lucia and Tortola – to name a few – have been brought together for the Fashion and Contemporary Design Accelerator, which participants said left them feeling empowered and ready to contribute to building a stronger regional fashion industry.
[caption id="attachment_766102" align="alignnone" width="766"] Kimon Baptiste-St Rose talks about her design at the UTT, John Donaldson Campus workshop for fashion desginers from the Caribbean on Friday.[/caption]
The course sought to strengthen ties in a regional industry which has shown room for greater expansion as designers gain increased international recognition. Instructors included a range of experts who operate both regionally and internationally. Instructors included fashion writer for Refinery29 Channing Hargrove, Ouigi Theodore of the clothing brand The Brooklyn Circus, international fashion marketing specialist Hannah Hafeez, illustrator James Hacket of The Lush Kingdom, Broom Betoni Rauseo, Maria Cooper, Michael Lalla and Sharif Murdock.
In February 2018, for instance, a number of regional designers, including Meiling from TT and Arlene Martin for drennaLUNA from Jamaica, were featured and had their work displayed at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace.
The two-week programme which began on May 6 was hosted by the University of TT (UTT) John Donaldson campus in Port of Spain, in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Cultural & Creative Industries Innovation Fund.
[caption id="attachment_766877" align="alignnone" width="614"] Some of the designs on display at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, John Donaldson Campus at the closing of a two week workshop held for young fashion desginers from around the Caribbean on Friday afternoon.[/caption]
Programme leader at UTT Academy for Caribbean Fashion and Design Sandra Carr said the participants were selected from an application pool of 78. Requirements included designers having been established for at least five years, with a line of products and other features in place including a website. "Selecting the participants was a rigorous process."
The intention of the programme was to empower designers by strengthening their technical skills and add to their business approaches by expanding their understanding of what is required for effective trade and export within the region and beyond.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Barbados-based services specialist at Caribbean Export Development Allyson Francis said the creative industry is an important sector for Caribbean Export. “We have been doing work in this sector for years. The focus for this year is the creative industry with emphasis on fashion, music, animation and film.”
[caption id="attachment_766101" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Melanie Thorpe, a designer from Barbados, talks about her creation at the UTT, John Donaldson campus workshop for fashion desginers from the Caribbean in Port of Spain on Friday. PHOTOS BY VIDYA THURAB[/caption]
Francis said Caribbean Export was pleased to contribute to designers' receiving the finishing touches required for marketing their products. She said when considering export, the first thought is generally in reference to shipping products to the US and Europe. However, an intention of the programme was to encourage the first step being export and trade within the Caribbean. This, she said, would contribute to a strengthened culture of regional integration – which would, in turn, affect the strength of the regional economy.
“I hope that through their networking, the designers will come together to show the world even more of what the Caribbean as a whole has to offer to the world of fashion.”
Co-ordinator at the Cultural & Creative Industries Innovation Fund Marielle Barrow said the programme facilitated sharing a vision for collaboration as a way for growing the sector. She said the fund, which was established in 2017 through the CDB, wanted to instil the idea of partnership as the best way forward.
"As our fashion designers would have learnt in their export development class, we cannot stand alone. We must work together to form agile initiatives that are sustainable."
TT-based designer Daniel Clarke, owner of the band Florescent Black, said it was an intense programme, and he learnt more about the strength of collaboration and the ability of that to take the industry further.
Barbados-based designer Melanie Thorpe said she learnt more approaches for fine-tuning her brand as she seeks to embark on a global market.
Owner of KimmysticClo, based in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Kimon Baptiste-St Rose said the programme helped her fine-tune her technical and business skills.
"As much as many of us think we are export-ready, there are still so many things we still need to know and learn, which includes the details of what it means to meet international standards."
[caption id="attachment_766878" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Young designer Ayanna Dixon poses next to one of her designs as she does an interview with Newsday's Marshelle Haseley at University of Trinidad and Tobago, John Donaldson, Campus Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain on Friday.[/caption]
Jamaica-based owner of ASD Ayanna Dixon said, "For our businesses to grow, we cannot stay within the confines of the countries we are from. Now we are able to meet the needs of a broader market, which is great for any industry. This is a positive transition for any entrepreneur in any industry."
She said the information she received throughout the programme made the concept of exporting less daunting. "It was invaluable information as it was my first time figuring out how I can move my products beyond borders. Exporting products, regional trade shows, labelling laws and connecting with presenters added to my confidence for making new moves in business."
Business Day spoke with two local designers who have made an impact on the regional and international industry for feedback on their thoughts about integration and collaboration for trade and commerce in the Caribbean fashion industry.
[caption id="attachment_766880" align="alignnone" width="684"] Local designer Meiling was among a number of regional designers whose work was displayed at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace, England in 2018.[/caption]
Meiling said even though many people throughout the region buy fast-fashion imports, inter-island support contributes to the growth of the region's fashion industry, and any programme or initiative to nurture regional integration in the creative industry is important.
"Initiatives such as Caribbean Fashion Week have been expanding across the region, showcasing the wide range of talent and exposing the work of artisans and designers – thus creating a space for further collaboration, trade and commerce.
"Caribbean Export has been influential in the process of integrating the region's creative industries. Sometimes the returns may not come right away, but it makes the rest of the region aware of what every island is doing."
She said social media apps such as Instagram and technology overall are powerful forces for the discovery of regional designers and create a space for establishing a space for collaboration and the maintenance of relationships between those in the creative industries and their potential clientele throughout the region.
Robert Young of The Cloth said he considered the programme forward-thinking and worthy of congratulation. He said his company has been sending products to Barbados since 1986. However, the flow in trade within the industry was slowed by the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York and the increased presence of Chinese businesses which brought low-cost clothing options in the region, owing to tariffs introduced by the World Trade Organisation.
[caption id="attachment_766895" align="alignnone" width="809"] Designed and founder of The Cloth Robert Young Photo source: The Cloth[/caption]
Young said while the region is going in the right direction regarding greater collaboration for economic growth within the region, greater emphasis should be placed on manufacturing fabric in the Caribbean, which would increase the rate of production of Caribbean-based producers. He said The Cloth is built on a concept of celebrating cultural differences and merging the aesthetics to create something that can represent the Caribbean space.
He referred to the work of University of the West Indies senior lecturer in the department of liberal arts Paula Morgan.
"She had a piece called Pan-Caribbean World, using CLR James' thinking, where she said anything that touches the Caribbean Sea is the Caribbean – which is a space to trade, from Miami to Guyana and Belize. Anything that can help to make that come into being is significant."
Young also mentioned Caribbean Fashion Week, which will have it's 19-year staging in Kingston, Jamaica between June 13 and 16 this year, as an exemplary initiative for showcasing Caribbean fashion. He said it creates a space for greater exposure and collaboration, adding that fashion shows throughout the region help bring fashion designers together – facilitating collaboration between the English, Spanish and French-speaking territories. For non-English-speaking territories, such as Guadeloupe, he said, greater collaboration and integration means they would have a strong market within the region, rather than seeking only to ship products to France.
Carr said she was pleased to be part of a programme that polishes both the skill sets and business acumen of regional designers., and she anticipates young Caribbean designers being more prepared for global competitiveness.
"Our young designers are talented, but they needed further guidance with getting their products in wider markets regionally and internationally."
Carr said this was the first of what UTT and its partners hope will be an annual programme.
It's been just about six months since the transition from Petrotrin to Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL), including the creation of Heritage Petroleum Ltd and Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd. Business Day spoke via e-mail to TPHL's chairman, Wilfred Espinet on the progress of the companies and their viability and long term sustainability.
What was the transition from Petrotrin to Heritage/Trinidad Petroleum like?
Shutting down Petrotrin was an extremely difficult decision. The board explored all options before it was determined that this was the only one that allowed for the creation of a viable enterprise. Change as radical as we propose is unsettling and challenges the status quo. As one would expect there are elements with vested interests, some of whom are still seeking to take advantage of the situation to their own benefit. The transition has progressed at an exceptional pace and the teams that have participated at all levels have demonstrated world-class capabilities.
What was the breakdown in cost for starting over, for example, rebranding and refurbishing? In the context of Petrotrin, how cost effective was all of this? Especially since saving money was the reason for the whole restructure.
One has to understand that the cost of restructuring is an extraordinary and non-recurring expense. The decision to redesign the state petroleum sector was an imperative. Petrotrin had accumulated substantial losses for several years that was funded by increasing debt. The company was on the brink of insolvency – the company was losing almost $2 billion before tax in each of the preceding three years. It was evident that given the historical pattern of increasing cost, it would not survive beyond 2019. The major cost was the $1.7 billion spent on termination payments. While it may seem substantial, it is done as a corrective measure and allowed us to create a company that is purpose built; is operating according to international benchmarks; profitable and can be sustained.
What is the current financial status of Heritage? It has been operational now for about six months, so I assume you have a fair assessment of its viability. What was the reason for the US$2.8 million (TT$18.9 million) loss up to January and how was the company able to rebound so quickly to be able to pay TT$131 million in royalties by March?
Heritage Petroleum recorded a loss in the first month of operation, and this was largely driven by one-off start up costs. The company has managed to achieve all its monthly financial targets since.
Tell me about competitiveness. Can Heritage hold its own on the world stage?
Heritage was purpose-designed to operate the exploration and production assets that were operated by Petrotrin. The company operates in a global market and the model we developed was geared to compete in that environment – this includes covering the debt payments that were owed by Petrotrin and based on Heritage maintaining production levels consistent with the past five years. The model purposely resisted the temptation to include aspirational production figures since it had to be achievable to convince our financiers to support it.
What about incentives and the overall business climate? What does Heritage need to be viable? I ask that in the context of the supplemental petroleum tax, which the Government has said it will not modify, whereas small operators — many of who partner and sell products to Heritage — have found it to be punitive. What’s been Heritage’s experience?
Heritage pays royalty and other taxes on production. The Government collects approximately 54 per cent of every dollar of revenue. That is before or regardless of if the company makes a profit. This is the environment in which we operate and the model that was developed envisaged that the taxes are met.
In the six months or so since the company has been operating, do you think its performance now justifies the decision to restructure? I mean, you were pretty much vilified for spearheading this decision to restructure, so has it been worth it?
Six months in the life of a company can be compared to six months in the life of a person – it is in its infancy. We have daily progress reports on the operation but it is premature to make predictions. The performance of both Heritage and Paria has been better than anticipated. I want to caution against a simplistic assumption that the good fortune that we have enjoyed so far is a given. Both of the companies operate on internationally benchmarked standards and are producing positive results and meeting all of their commitments. This clearly justifies the decisions made so far.
The challenges continue to be the management of the non-operational companies within the TPHL Group. Both Guaracara and Petrotrin demand resources that are required by the operating entities to ensure they develop and grow so that the accumulated debt will not continue to be a liability that could burden the finances of the State.
Are you happy with the current business model of Paria? Is it sustainable over the long term, especially given its role in energy security?
Paria was created to ensure the uninterrupted supply of fuel to the local market. This was not a strategic business decision – it was consequential. We determined that the free cash flows generated from the exploration and production business were insufficient to fund the losses and capital expenditure needed to keep the refinery in operation. When we determined that refining had to be discontinued we needed to ensure we were able to provide a secure supply of fuel to the country, hence the need for Paria.
[caption id="attachment_766874" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The performance of Paria Trading and Heritage Petroleum has been better than anticipated says Wilfred Espinet, chairman of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings.[/caption]
If the refinery is sold or leased or otherwise transferred to another entity, what would happen to Paria, since it’s on the refinery property?
Despite challenges to its operations inflicted by regulatory and procedural hurdles, the company has produced positive operational results that surpass the budgets. The company acquired various assets that were part of the refining operations of Petrotrin specifically the port, storage tanks and product transport systems. We expect that if the attempt to get the refinery restarted is successful, the operators will need the assets to operate. The likely outcome is that the refinery will supply Trinidad and Paria will not need to continue to import fuels.
What’s the latest with the bond renegotiations? There have been reports that investors are not pleased with the new terms. Can you say if it’s been settled? Do you believe that the company, now that it’s been restructured, can honour its refinanced debt commitments?
The refinancing of the debt is a work in progress. TPHL did not exist eight months ago and is seeking to get some of the most sophisticated bankers in the world to lend us US$1.2 billion. That is more than TT$8 billion or 15 per cent of the country’s annual budget. Given the recent startup of Heritage we have no historical performance data that would normally form part of the documentation that supports such loan applications.
TPHL chose to approach existing bondholders to participate in the settlement of existing bonds. The proposal is to exchange a portion of the existing bonds for new ones. In spite of all the challenges, our assessment continues to be that we will succeed in raising the finance and the payment of the bonds due in August will be made.
China is pulling out all the stops in its courtship of TT. Just this month, Government signed multi-million-dollar deals with Chinese state-owned Shanghai Construction Group to construct the new central block at Port of Spain General Hospital, and with China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co for 6,000 Housing Development Corporation units by 2020. And Shanghai Construction will also be building an arch across part of Charlotte Street in Port of Spain designated to be TT’s very own Chinatown.
China has been making overtures to the country for years now – Premier Xi Jinping even stopped over for a brief visit in 2013 and both former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and incumbent Dr Keith Rowley have made official visits to China in 2014 and 2018, respectively. It’s still the romance phase of the courtship, though, and the country is fully ensconced within the Chinese government’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road manifesto, and its promises of greatness. On Rowley’s return last year, among the treats he announced were a US$100 million tech park in Point Lisas and a dry docking facility in La Brea projected to bring in US$500 million in revenue – projects conveniently funded by concessional loans.
China has enticed the country’s leaders – across administrations – with the promise of investment and growth. It has provided billions of dollars worth of concessional loans to fund ostensibly politically expedient mega projects, with the assurance to TT that these preferential arrangements will be beneficial in the long run.
TT clearly has already put out too much in this dynamic – the country reportedly owes China over $6 billion.
Too many of these edifices built with easy Chinese money remain critically underused, from the National Academy of the Performing Arts to the Couva Hospital. Only last week, the Health Minister announced the hospital will be managed as a multi-purpose facility by the North Central Regional Health Authority.
As munificent as these arrangements appear, in the long run, they can backfire. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, ceded to China for 99 years as repayment of debts, is the most glaring example.
TT also seems to be drifting further from its traditional friends, many of whom are concerned at the amount of time the country is spending in the company of China.
In an interview with Business Day in March, US scholar Dr Evan Ellis noted that one of the consequences of these preferential loans is that they eschew the traditional criteria for transparency, which can sometimes enable corruption and undermine institutions. And countries that do deals with China based on these types of arrangements need to be vigilant of the repercussions.
At this time, there’s not much else to do other than wait and see what happens. Many of the newer projects are in the feasibility-study phase, and none seems to be deliverable within this fiscal year.
As China continues its thrust into the region, we can only suggest caution. The US, traditionally one of TT’s strongest allies is currently embroiled in an escalating trade war with China, the repercussions of which will inevitably reverberate through the region. There will be opportunities for TT to capitalise on, of course, especially with direct-to-China trade, education and culture but at the same time, it would be foolish to alienate completely our most powerful neighbour in the hemisphere.
As this relationship grows more complex, and as China demonstrates a clear dominance in the power dynamic, TT must remember it is a strong, independent nation. We welcome deeper ties with China but we hope the country doesn’t sacrifice its sovereignty for the sake of a few pretty promises.
CLIVE WEBB, ACCA senior professional insights manager
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the emerging technology in the finance function. What are the opportunities?
AI itself is an encompassing term that embraces a number of technological advances including:
• Machine learning – using neural networks, statistics and operational research to identify insights in data without being programmed what to conclude
• Deep learning – using many layers of computing power and improved training techniques to identify patterns in data.
In delivering an AI solution you may be combining a number of technologies. For example, enhancing analytics and forecasts by using structured and unstructured data to deliver forward thinking insights. Cloud-based storage may be an asset for the data volumes involved and the computational power needed.
Organisations have examples of using forms of AI to address some of the data validation errors encountered in RPA processes by applying machine learning to the errors. Some organisations are creating process chains where data is captured through chatbots, entered using RPA tools and errors resolved using machine learning.
Implementing AI in finance
There are opportunities to apply AI in finance. For many organisations this is the level of opportunity, one which may yet only be emerging as a proof of concept rather than as a robust solution. Perhaps the most significant issue for finance is the skills needed to support this next technological wave. AI needs individuals who understand the data and the processing capability and how to frame the problem. This takes the skills needed in finance to another level. Bias is an issue which these individuals need to be able to recognise and address. Bias in output occurs when the input data set is not representative of the outcome and the machine 'learns' in the wrong way. This needs to be identified and corrected before reliance is placed upon the solution.
The following impacts and issues need to be considered:
• Do you have opportunities where the use of AI could improve your decision making processes?
• Do you have the skills within the team, or can acquire them, to make AI feasible?
• Does your IT strategy support the computational resources needed to deliver on AI?
Key considerations for the finance team
• Identify whether you are ready for AI?
• Ensure that you have the skills and resources required
• Plan your activity and use proofs of concept to pilot and test
What would you say if I told you there was a special school that taught crime? The core courses are run-of-the-mill: break-ins, theft, drugs. Then you graduate to exciting ones: murder, rape, guns.
Like most advanced education, prison gets more expensive by the day. Tuition, room and board costs at least $300,000 a year for each of the 4,000 students, according to government statistics.
But the pass rate is pretty good. Anywhere between 53 and 74 per cent of students successfully commit a crime in the three years after graduating. At last official count (back in 2010), we released more than 2,608 prisoners each year. That amounts to about 1,400 people who are just about guaranteed to commit a crime.
Apart from the cost in blood, there is the cost in treasure. We already know that crime costs us more than $5.2 billion a year (3.5 per cent of GDP). Eighty-five per cent of firms spend more than two per cent of their revenue on security.
There are many factors that feed crime, but our broken prisons are at the heart of them.
Despite the efforts of brave prisons officers led by Commissioner Gerard Wilson (too many of whom have attended murdered colleagues’ funerals), our prisons remain dark and brutal. More than half of prison officer jobs remain unfilled. Officers that remain are exhausted and overwhelmed; partially contributing to last week’s dramatic prison break.
With inmates packed as many as seven or eight to a cell, beatings, brutality and rape are common. Some cells have open sewers, and free defecation is common.
Rehabilitative programmes are thin on the ground. In most cases, inmates can’t work or gain anything beyond a basic secondary education. Legislation, one inmate reminded me, dates to the 19th century.
When almost everyone knows someone who has been murdered, attacked or robbed, it is understandable that the prevailing sentiment is “let them rot.” But like it or not, most inmates will be released. The question is whether they return to the vicious cycle, or not.
Other countries have managed to arrest it. Uruguay’s National Rehabilitation Centre has a rate of just 12 per cent, says Baillie Aaron of British NGO Spark. Norway’s recidivism rate is 20 per cent.
Recent experiments by a team of economists from Oslo and the US have proven that a large percentage of Norway’s success is due to its prison system. Long mocked for giving prisoners “luxury accommodation,” Norway is having the last laugh. Its prisons lower the probability of reoffending by 27 per cent.
What makes Norway different? Norway locks people up for shorter periods. It protects inmates with a policy of one inmate per cell. It fully separates petty offenders from more serious or violent offenders, putting them in different prisons with different conditions. Inmates have access to drug treatment, mental healthcare, and education and training programmes up to the tertiary level.
Crucially, newly released ex-convicts have access to a programme that helps them find jobs and access housing and social services.
Why spend more money on benefits for criminals while ordinary citizens suffer? The same team of economists explains. Spending on rehabilitation lowers reoffending, which saves criminal justice and court costs and the cost of crime to victims, while increasing employment.
To free up funds in parallel, we can pass the parole bill. Electronic monitoring will make parole easier and is cheaper than housing inmates. It will permit inmates to be a productive part of the economy and prepare them to re-enter society.
Electronic monitoring would also help to alleviate the great injustice and save millions in our remand system, where almost 2,700 inmates await trial. I spoke with two men who have waited for seven and eight years each while their trials drag on.
We can also allow inmates to work and sell products or services from inside prisons. Some could train as coders or graphic designers and work with computers. Part of the proceeds can be returned to the inmates, so they have something to fall back on when released. The rest can be used to help fund the prison system.
There is hope, embodied by patriots like Debbie Jacob. Last Saturday, I visited the debate team she coaches in the maximum-security prison. They made many of these suggestions themselves.
I was struck by their real desire to move on from their past lives when they returned “outside.” If more programmes like Jacob’s were put in place, how many more inmates might feel that way? And how many more of us would feel safer in our beds at night?
Kiran Mathur Mohammed is a social entrepreneur, economist and businessman. He is a former banker, and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh