|Talks put forth ideas for economy||| Print ||
|Thursday, 09 December 2010 09:52|
An impressive list of thought-provoking suggestions on how the economy could be improved was debated during a panel discussion Tuesday, Dec. 7, as part of the non-partisan “National Conversation.”
“This is not about complaining, tonight is about solutions,” said moderator Drexwell Seymour as he kicked off the discussion.
The evening began with four panelists who gave explanations and delved into possible solutions to the current economic crisis being felt by the country.
The presentations were followed by questions and discussion from a cross section of the community on how the economy could be not only kick-started, but sustainable.
Many saw the role of TCInvest as key to uplifting the economy by encouraging both foreign and local investment. Royal Robinson, panelist speaking to the role of TCInvest, said the agency had to-date not lived up to the expectations set out for it, due to both financial constraints and inefficiencies, impediments in communication between government departments as well as within the organization itself.
Robinson proposed movement to a new system, similar to that used by the Planning Department, where all due diligence could be completed simultaneously. This would cut out a lot of the time spent vetting a project that in the end would not have government’s approval to proceed, he explained.
“Let’s not forget, the political directive has to keep an eye on more than just the tick box scores,” he said.
He also suggested more importance be placed on improving the communication flow between government agencies.
“In this information age, it should not be hard to collect the required data in a timely manner and provide it to the agency,” he said.
Floyd Seymour, who spoke on public finances, explained the current government revenue model is based on consumption, and anyone who spends money in the country is contributing to that. Seymour said he believed creating greater local consumption could stimulate those revenues.
“We have got to find ways of generating opportunities for local investment and local ownership of businesses,” he said. “This would create more income for the local population who would reinvest it into the economy and make it more sustainable.”
Creating certainty, whilst making business simple and attractive, was a welcome suggestion from Misick & Stanbrook partner Gordon Kerr, who spoke on the topic of financial services.
Kerr suggested offering incentives to attract companies to relocate their regional head offices to the TCI, but cautioned this is only possible once laws are simplified, specifically relating to the creation of companies.
“You cannot do that when you have a complex and unwieldy set of rules and regulations that nobody can follow,” he said.
Harmonizing laws that relate to revenue collection was another idea advanced by Kerr. He said reducing administration and red tape could help to make doing business easier, attracting more investors to the country.
However, “certainty” was the message he said was most important to turn things around.
“There are so many unknown factors to doing business in the TCI,” Kerr said, a fact that scares off a great deal of potential investors. “We need to make a clear decision to get rid of uncertainties, you won’t do it any other way.”
“We cannot continue business as usual,” said architect Simon Wood. Speculation which drove the real estate and construction boom has caused the dip in the economy, he explained. “What we are now left with are the consequences.”
A shift in thinking is required, as well as a shift in economic goals, Wood believes.
“The TCI government needs to change from a development-based economy to a predominantly service- and maintenance-based economy. Jobs for the future would include management, maintenance, tourism, environmental monitoring, service sector and financial industries.”
Wood noted at the same time, a shot in the arm is needed immediately to stimulate some development to get people back to work. However, future development needs to be made by “the right kind of investors.”
“They are the people who are not only financially but physically and morally invested in the country and its people,” he said. A long-term sustainable plan is required to attract these “right investors.”
Protection of the country’s most precious resources — land and the environment — is also paramount to any future planning, Wood said. This sentiment was shared by many, who agreed a greener TCI should be apart of the future of the country.
The panel discussion will be followed up with more National Conversation debates, as well as a week of town hall meetings on each island where these ideas can be refined and put into a final document which will be submitted to the relevant U.K. officials.
The National Conversation is being lead by Consultative Forum Member Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, who has directed a number of engaging discussions on topical issues of national importance aimed at identifying solutions that can be embraced by the population.
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