Combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism does not seem as if it would have any connection with the preparations now underway for Trinidad & Tobago's 2012/2013 national budget.
But for Finance Minister Larry Howai, there is a direct relationship between the two and the Trinidad & Tobago International Financial Centre (TTIFC) in Port of Spain.
He told the Business Express last week about this confluence of seemingly disconnected circumstances after he met with a team from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at the Hilton Trinidad.
The FATF is the global body responsible for evaluating and grading countries around the world on their anti-money laundering (AML) and combating terrorism financing (CTF) systems.
Also in attendance at the meeting with the FATF were Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, National Security Minister Jack Warner and Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran.
Trinidad & Tobago, long seen as a place to do business by several energy multinationals such as BP and BG, is now on the FATF's list of countries with an ongoing process of improving compliance with those standards - the so-called grey list.
The government is hoping to be placed on the FATF's list of fully complaint countries.
"If we're going to get all of these international institutions in they would want to make sure they operate in a jurisdiction that is fully compliant and, therefore, putting this, laying this groundwork is very important for us from the point of view of ensuring that we are a jurisdiction that banks of the repute that we would be looking for would be pleased to come and set up their operations here," Howai said.
Both Howai stopped short of saying that T&T would be taken off the grey list and placed on the fully compliant list after the FATF evaluation as he expressed his satisfaction the meeting at the Hilton.
"They (FATF representatives) did indicate to us that in many countries throughout the world legislators and regulators continue to struggle with the issue of managing terrorism and money laundering but they were very impressed with the improvements we have made over the last year or so," Howai said.
Warner expressed similar sentiments.
"I feel very sanguine, very optimistic that this could be achieved. One could never be sure about anything but from all the things I have seen and heard this (Tuesday) afternoon, I am very comfortable, very happy," Warner said.
He said the government did all it could have done "under the circumstances".
Warner also said the FATF representatives described the progress on the local AML/CTF systems in the last two years as having been "remarkable".
"And I said to them that our Prime Minister, Mrs (Kamla) Persad-Bissessar, is doing her utmost to bring everything within compliance and we gave them the assurance that within the shortest possible time we shall fulfill all the other areas where we may be deficient," Warner said.
Satisfying all the FATF requirements would be key to any plan to have major international investment and financial institutions establish operations at the TTIFC.
During the tenure of the 2007-2010 PNM administration led by the then Prime Minister Patrick Manning, the TTIFC was touted as a new direction in achieving diversification for Trinidad & Tobago's oil and natural gas-based economy.
But that administration did not succeed in its efforts to populate the two high rise buildings that comprise the TTIFC with international investment and financial firms and cited the international financial crisis as the cause.
While in Opposition, the United National Congress (UNC) criticised the construction of the TTIFC was wasteful government spending.
The TTIFC now temporarily houses the Parliament and serves as the headquarters for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.
Many of its floors, however, remain empty.
Howai indicated a major turnaround for the TTIFC is in the offing when asked about the impact of the FATF evaluation on the ongoing plans for the 2012/2013 Budget.
"It certainly speaks to one of the initiatives we have which is the development of the International Financial Centre (IFC) that continues to remain an initiative and I am pleased to see some of the progress that is being made," he said.
Howai said the government was due to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) "with Scotia(bank)" last Wednesday "for them to expand some of their business" in Trinidad & Tobago.
"And there is another international bank likely to come in soon after that," he added.
But stimulating economic growth is just one part of one of the intended objectives of the upcoming Budget – Howai's first as Finance Minister.
He took the job two months ago as part of a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the country was facing major fluctuations in global oil and natural gas prices.
The Opposition and some in the business community have raised concerns about slowed economic and what they call an unprioritised high level of government expenditure.
Howai outlined the main philosophy now guiding the Budget preparations after he was asked if the country should brace for a "belt-tightening period" in fiscal 2013.
"Well, you know, we need to grow but we also need to manage expenditure So I think what you will see is a judicious mix of both..initiatives to deal with growth but also initiatives to manage a big part of our expenditure so we can eventually get to a balanced budget," Howai said.
Asked if cuts in funding for State programmes or any major impact on the Public Service were in the offing, Howai said, "Well I think I would suggest listen to the Budget when it's read, I wouldn't want to..at this stage...sort of preclude any options that are currently on the table and being considered."
He said he has only been Finance Minister for two months and "a lot" of these things require a lot of study.