A pledge for dialogue
'Let us all pledge to make T&T the nation we can all be proud to call home'
The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce welcomes the Government's establishment of a Task Force with the responsibility for the development and operationalisation of a social dialogue process in Trinidad and Tobago, and is pleased to have representation and be part of this initiative.
A bit of history always helps us to understand the past and allows us to improve for the future so I recall that on October 31, 2000, the Business Sector, Labour and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago signed "Compact 2000 and Beyond" to address economic and social issues. The objectives of Compact 2000 and Beyond included sustainable development, maintaining a stable and collaborative industrial relations climate, productivity, competitiveness, enhancing the social security system and expansion of the economy. Compact 2000 was initiated in an attempt to ratify the ILO Convention 144 on tripartite consultations. Unfortunately, however, this Compact did not get the attention it deserved and as such the project ceased.
Since then the Chamber has continued to advocate for a social dialogue approach to governance for a number of years and has been calling on all relevant stakeholders to consider such an option whereby honest and constructive dialogue can take place and a dedicated commitment to a solution is arrived at by all. The Chamber is therefore hopeful that this revitalised effort to once again establish a Social Dialogue process in Trinidad and Tobago will use some of the groundwork already established by Compact 2000 to help chart the way forward. We stand ready to once again meet with all relevant government, social and civil parties in this regard.
In the 2011/2012 Competitiveness Index, this country ranked a lowly 81st out of 142 countries (with 1 being the highest). One of the three "Most Problematic Factors for Doing Business" was "Poor work ethic in the national labour force." This translates into low productivity by the work force. The fact that this country needs to improve its work ethic and increase its productivity levels, I am certain, has been recognised by all stakeholders, which is one of the reasons why we are here today. But a social dialogue process is not only about the labour environment but about every facet that impacts on the country's advancement. This process can have a positive impact on reducing crime, another of the Chamber's national areas of focus.
If we are as a nation, indeed, "Open for Business", as stated by our Honourable Prime Minister, and as supported by this Chamber, we must make a concerted and sustained attempt to collectively address all the issues that plague our efforts at competitiveness and attractiveness as a business investment destination.
In almost every country where a serious and committed social compact arrangement has been made, all key players have benefitted substantially, thereby clearly demonstrating that once the will is in place, the way becomes a powerful reality. As part of our representation on the Task Force, we are pleased to represent the business community and work with all stakeholders to strengthen and promote economic and social prosperity. With several efforts having been made over the years to establish a working relationship among State, labour, business and civil society, it is our hope that this will be the start of a truly long and lasting relationship-building process, with real agreements made that are enforced and followed through.
We recognise that the responsibility to improve our competitiveness cannot rest squarely on the shoulders of government; nor can any national ambition to advance our country be realised by antagonism and confrontation among the very parties charged with making it happen. It is therefore imperative for all national stakeholders to genuinely come together in multipartite efforts to reignite our economy and society, and that these efforts must not be hinged on any insular stakeholder agendas.
I an once again giving the Chamber's commitment to this Social Dialogue Process and we look forward to having fruitful discussions both during and in the follow-up to this workshop. Let us all pledge to make T&T the nation we can all be proud to call home.
The above is an edited version of an address delivered Chamber CEO, Catherine Kumar at a Workshop on a Social Dialogue Process hosted by the Ministry of Labour on June 26, 2012.