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Tuesday, October 24 2017 @ 05:16 AM AST

Crime remains No 1 issue affecting business

Crime continues to be the number one issue affecting business in T&T and "is a main deterrent to economic development and investment," the president and the immediate past president of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce have said. "Two years ago, when I first took over the helm of the chamber presidency, I stood before the membership and spoke of my hope for the Chamber to focus on a few national issues. At that time, I said – and I quote: 'I would say to you, number one on everyone’s mind has been crime; the economy comes second.' Two years after that statement, it seems that not much has changed. Crime continues to be the number one issue affecting our country and, more specifically, our business community as it increases the cost of doing business and also detracts from new investment," Andrew Sabga, immediate past president of the chamber said on Wednesday (April 24) during the chamber's annual general meeting at the Hyatt in Port of Spain.

"As a businessman myself, I understand that crime reduction is of paramount importance to every business, but it is also equally important to every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure you have heard me say on several occasions in my interactions at our chamber's breakfast meetings or in media interviews that crime is not something that can be tackled by the government alone. While we continued to lobby for a more holistic approach to combating crime, we also recognise the importance for each citizen to be a part of crime fighting initiatives. My stance today as I move on from chamber presidency, remains the same," he said.

Speaking minutes after, new TTCIC President Moonilal Lalchan echoed Sabga's sentiments. He said: "Crime at all levels impacts society. Whether white collar or blue collar, crime is a main deterrent to economic development and investment - not only investment through foreign direct investment (FDI), but also investment by our local entrepreneurs. The cost of crime to businesses continues to grow and in some cases productivity may decline for those businesses that are located in high-risk areas."

With respect to crime, he said, the chamber believes "the war on crime must be fought on all fronts, utilising legislation, enforcement, the prompt administration of justice, good example and the social net. Just as the effects of crime are widespread, so too are the causes, which range from problems within the family to the increased use of drugs, to the rise of gangs and gang warfare and to the loss of shareholders’, depositors’ and investors’ value. Therefore the only way to effectively battle serious crime is to tackle it at all levels and from all fronts."

He said the chamber has a long-standing Crime and Justice Committee, which has as its mandate is "to make a concerted effort, in whatever way possible, to partner with the government and other private sector organisations to deal with issues and find solutions related to crime and the criminal justice system in T&T."

"Our Committee fulfills its mandate to help find these solutions to crime though several initiatives. One of these is its work with our young people through the Police Youth Clubs. This is a very important role that the chamber plays in reaching out to our 'at-risk' youth and making a difference in their lives. Through our committee, the chamber is able to lobby our Membership to provide donations in either cash or kind and work together with various stakeholders to deliver personal development education programmes for these youth," he said.

He said the chamber, through the committee, provides education seminars and breakfast meetings for its members on various topics related to crime, and seeks to educate its members on new laws and potential legislation which may impact their businesses.

"White-collar crimes also directly affect government's revenues and the long-term survival of our organisations, which could also affect economic performance. In some cases, there is also the impact on individuals who may lose hard-earned savings and investments because of fraud or lack of good governance," he said. "Crime cannot continue to go on unabated." He reiterated Sabga's statement that "we must all work together to provide long-term solutions to tackling crime" and pledged to "continue the work that the chamber has been doing to attack crime with an integrated approach, and (to) work with various stakeholders to ensure that the fight against this scourge remains number one on the agenda for our national, as well as our business leaders."

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