Interview: Philip Knaggs

What is the current FDI outlook?

PHILIP KNAGGS: Global FDI flows increased by 24% in the first half of 2019, compared to the first half of 2018. However, upon removal of one-off transactions and repatriations due to US tax reforms, global FDI was up 4%. Within the Latin America and Caribbean region, FDI flows decreased by 4%. However, the overall prospects for 2019 remain in line with the earlier prediction of a 5-10% increase in total FDI.

The energy sector accounts for the majority of investment in the country, with BP announcing more than $8bn of investment over the next 10 years. The areas identified as the most attractive for FDI are offshore, trans-shipment, business process outsourcing, logistics, light manufacturing and energy-intensive manufacturing. For instance, the development of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate, close to the Port of Point Lisas on the Gulf of Paria, is expected to act as a strong catalyst for the on-boarding of logistics, light manufacturing and energy-intensive manufacturers.

We are also working to improve Trinidad and Tobago’s standing on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index and the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Report”. We have made effort in areas such as the registration of businesses, the creation a more robust and speedy business framework, and the improvement of access to credit, among others.

To what extent can T&T act as a point of entry for investors interested in Guyana?

KNAGGS: The country’s vibrant finance and manufacturing sectors, and its infrastructure are more mature than those of Guyana. The development of our energy sector has led to the presence of a large amount of skilled and less-skilled labour, as well as the creation of a number of specialised energy courses both in universities and vocational institutes.

T&T has a well-developed shipping and logistics industry that includes the Galeota Port on the Atlantic coast of Trinidad. This port was designed specifically for the energy sector and offers closer proximity for shipping between our two countries than the traditional Gulf of Paria ports. We also have reliable air connectivity through our national carrier, Caribbean Airlines. In addition, T&T and Guyana have similar ethnic and cultural demographics, as well as many years of solid business relationships.

In what ways is digital disruption changing how businesses interact in T&T?

KNAGGS: Global digital disruption is an opportunity for our nation. It has been evident primarily in the areas of digital communication, marketing and logistics, and it is happening in ways that allow businesses to react more efficiently to their dynamic environment. Companies are successfully developing digital solutions in order to remove the traditional pain points of daily life, as well as to innovate in providing new goods and services for the export market.

The implementation of both the National ICT Plan 2018-22 and the National e-Commerce Strategy 2017-21 will not only provide the infrastructure for businesses to become more competitive locally, but also to profit from new opportunities in international markets.

How do you see the country evolving and adopting more comprehensive digital practices?

KNAGGS: There is an opportunity to drive the implementation of a public sector-wide electronic funds transfer system and increase the interoperability of government e-services through data-sharing. All countries need to consider implementing some iteration of data responsibility legislation that will guide the private sector and other data collectors towards their duties in this new era. Our role in collecting and managing data, as well as our duty to take precautionary measures to protect shared information, will have to be taken into consideration when drafting these new policies.