Crime continues to be a major deterrent to effectively enhancing Trinidad and Tobago's economic capacity for growth.
And the negatives do not only apply to attracting foreign investors, but local investors continue to feel the constraint.
"Crime is a big problem for us, especially if we want to run that night shift," says president of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers' Association Dominic Hadeed.
"It is always a problem to get staff to work that. Some companies have to take steps of providing transport at great cost to and from the compound for staff and it's a deterrent for multinationals who are accustomed to working around the clock," he added.
Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce CEO Catherine Kumar says many members continue to face the perennial problem, noting that in the World Economic Forum Competitive Index rankings, for a many years, crime remains the top setback for Trinidad and Tobago's desirability as a nation to invest in
"There are travel advisories out there. We are talking about reviving tourism, but when you have advisories you're not going to get people coming in. we might say there are other countries in the world with higher crime rates than we have, but guess what? We should not be comparing ourselves with those worse, but make ourselves like those better than we are," she told the Business Express recently.
Government has tried many interventions, including resorting to the usually last resort option of a national State of Emergency last August to December. While businesses hailed the initiative as a welcome attempt to curb lawlessness, the drastic action did have a major effect on the economy. In some cases, certain sectors, like night shifts and other night-time activities like restaurants and nightclubs took a major blow to profitability. The economy took a major hit, with growth in the last two quarters of 2011 contracting by 2.6 per cent, according to the Central Bank.
"During the SoE we said from early on that we supported because we felt the nation was bleeding and without a bandage the country would bleed to death. But it got to a point where the bandage wasn't stopping the bleeding and instead everyone from business to the small man felt the curfew needed to be removed. But though it all, we made it clear that this was not the solution to fighting crime. It needs to be more deep-rooted and affect the main causes of crime- social issues, promotion and performance in the police service, kept calling for a holistic crime plan," said Kumar.
She said the Chamber was "not happy" that enough effort post-SoE had gone into fighting crime.
"It is not up to the Minister of National Security alone, because there are many other ministries that hold up the legs of National Security in the fight, example Finance, Education and Social Development," she said.
To that end, there has been a June 22 appointment to the Ministry of National Security. Jack Warner, former Minister of Works and Industry, was appointed National Security Minster last month during the Prime Minister's Cabinet re-shuffle.
But business associations are keeping an open mind about Warner, and more than that, the entire portfolio about national security.
President of the American Chamber of Commerce Hugh Howard said whatever the crime plan, it must be coherent and measurable, and its effectiveness must be able to be articulated in terms of goals and milestones.
"You also have to have the community's trust or you will not be able to get much done," Howard added, comparing Trinidad's situation with one of Canada's major cities, Toronto, where citizens feel comfortable giving information to the police because anonymity is assured. The detection rate for crime, he said is higher, and the murder rate in a city of 2.5 million people is less than 100.
Interestingly, the Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, and his Deputy Jack Ewatski are both Canadians and have been proponents of a community based policing effort-one which Jack Warner has criticised as being ineffective.
"There's been a lot said about (Warner) not supporting the 21st century police initiative. It is something the Chamber has supported," Kumar said, adding that there may be facets that need to be tweaked or done better.
She said whatever the new plan from Warner, the Chamber was willing to work with him, but everything must be done with proper governance, and expeditiously.
"We have seen situations where the government has put things in place. I think execution is where we have the issue. Crime drives costs up, and that will inevitably pass to the consumer," she added.