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ociology defines culture as the way of life a particular society. This is inclusive of values, norms and beliefs which are expressed through words, actions and symbols. Another definition states that culture is a society’s collective body of arts and intellectual work. Ultimately our culture is who we are. It is our unique expression of self. It represents our unique way of being. It is those things that essentially make us Trinbagonian. Trinidad and Tobago offers an interesting array of broad cultural experiences given our

multi-ethnic existence and complicated historical status. A visit to an official government page identifies separate aspects of culture for Trinidad and Tobago. Folklore, dance, music and traditions such as the Ole Time Wedding procession are represented as specific aspects of Tobago’s culture. Trinidad’s culture is captured as dance, fashion, music and cuisine but significantly more festivals, colored by religion and ethnicity are also identified. While Carnival is given special mention because of the scale upon which it is celebrated, other festivals including

Hosay, Eid-ul-Fitr, Divali, Easter, Emancipation Day, Shouter Baptist Liberation Day and Arrival Day are also highlighted. It is important to note that our culture may also include more global mainstream products as long as they are produced by nationals. Some examples include opera, ballet or even jazz, rock and alternative music. According to a music producer and publisher Mr. Brian Mitchell, “... the majority of people determine calypso, soca and chutney as culture but what about the person who will sing a love ballad, an R&B song… that is that part of our

Some of our cultural activities need to be mined from their raw form into repeatable and relatable ones. The Tobago Heritage Festival represents an excellent opportunity for creating something more financially tangible out of a cultural expression

culture, because it was made here.” So having established that culture is indeed a broad phenomenon, even broader than Carnival, we are left to ask the question - How can this country convert culture into coins? One of the first issues has to do with the cultural packaging. How do we create products, which others would want to engage with over and over? Some of our cultural activities need to be mined from their raw form into repeatable and relatable ones. The Tobago Heritage Festival represents an excellent opportunity for creating something more financially tangible out of a cultural expression. If it is produced well and marketed adequately, the local economy can reap direct benefits. According to Mark Lyndersay, photographer and writer at Lyndersay Digital, “Any cultural artifact gains commercial prospects when it can be packaged, at least partially, into a product. That creates it's own tensions, which have to be managed sensibly. T&T has painfully few cultural products to offer to a paying audience.” He goes further to state that “Carnival Tuesday is not a product, it is a parade. Thousands of people participate, but millions might want to engage each year with a massive stage production with a constantly changing cast and costuming.” A related issue is training. We have to start developing our stock like any good business. It has been noted that in Jamaica cultural teaching from as early as primary school helped to increase the number and quality of cultural products on the island. A similar approach in our own country with the teaching of music, dance and pan as compulsory can reap great benefits. Whether it is the production of • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS



local business

film, music or cuisine, our outputs can benefit from formal training and this is an area that can be developed through strategic funding and programme development. Another speaking point revolves around the establishment of local content quotas. This goes for both music and film in particular. When we have more local content on our television sets and our radio stations we create more income earning opportunities for our artisans. Just as critical is the fact that most of the money invested in entertainment will remain within our borders. In other words we need to develop an entertainment industry which must be nurtured and protected. According to Brian Mitchell, “… we should ask COTT how much money every year they pay to foreign compa-

nies for royalties and compare it with what is paid to the local artistes… you would understand what I am saying. We are fed foreign stuff not by teaspoons but by potfuls and we are fed local stuff by teaspoons…” A similar problem exists within the local film and movie industry as there exists a bias toward foreign content. Instead of focusing on developing our own content local stations spend thousands to own the rights to foreign shows. This does not benefit our economy. The media as well as the government therefore plays an important role in the monetization of our local culture. According to Mr. Mitchell, If we produce more local content and this is supported by the right creative and legislative framework then it means that the actors will get money, “it means the produc-

tion crews will get money and they will spend it here in our economy and it will create jobs in other sectors.” The establishment of content quotas via the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications has led to impressive growth in that country’s economy and this model can be studied as a best practice for our country. The entire debate about the monetization of culture is an in-depth and lengthy one. This article has only touched on a few of the important issues. Cultural activist Rubadiri Victor states that, “to make culture make money all this country needs to do is implement the basic common sense enablers that the rest of the world has put in place since World War 2 and which ACTT (Artist Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago) and others have battled for 50

When we have more local content on our television sets and our radio stations we create more income earning opportunities for our artisans 2


years for… without local content quotas, an arts council, a proper museum system, a proper academy, without guilds etc. there is no money going to be made here ever and this needs to be said again and again until business people and politicians get it!” We can look to Brazil, Canada, Harlem, Colombia, Los Angeles and other countries for guidance but we must also have those nationalist sentiments … that intense pride in our own culture before it can be successfully organized in ways that can help to improve our economy. We must be able to attract governmental, entrepreneurial and international investment and we must also understand that we are a part of a global system with particular requirements. Given the constant calls for the diversification of the Trinidad and Tobago economy, the ability to turn culture into coins represents a critically important skill that should warrant the focused attention of all major stakeholders.


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Hi-Lo Continues Expansion


I-LO is a name that is now synonymous with quality products, excellent service and a wide variety of items you didn’t even know existed. Every time I visit Hilo I realize how many new conveniences exist and how easy it has now become to put together a meal with both fresh produce and a wide array of pre-made items. Over the years Hi-lo Food Stores Limited has increased their market and product offerings to include additional items as well as services. Hilo offers a service that caters to both the home and the individual. At every one of their 17 locations you can get, food and drink items, cleaning agents and toiletries. However, this is not just a mere grocery with the basic essentials. Their meat deli has some of the finest meats in Trinidad and Tobago and partners with the leading names in T&T’s meat industry – Hadco; Mac Foods; Erin Farms and Malabar Farms. The in-house bakery is really a dessert lover’s haven as it offers fresh bread, cakes and pastries daily. You can even get a meal on their daily menu that offers some really flavorful stuff. I was quite surprised to discover that Hilo has also considered health. Knights

Pharmacy, located at Gulf View, Marabella, St. Anns, St. Augustine and Westmoorings, branches, provides a range of first-class healthcare services ranging from on-site testing to over-the-counter drugs and filling of prescriptions. They offer Private Pharmaceutical Counselling: OTC (Over The Counter) Drugs Filling CDAP Prescriptions, Free Blood Pressure Testing, Blood Glucose and Cholesterol Testing. Hi-lo also offers services to aid the level of convenience customers can access within their locations. They have partnered with MoneyGram to provide a quick and easy way to transfer money across the globe. You can even pay your bill through, SurePay, which is a bill payment service that gives you quick and convenient payment of TSTT; WASA; and Flow bills. This powerhouse enterprise has been in existence for over 60 years and has made it its mandate to constantly evolve with its market as needs and wants change. As such, they have now made the transition to offer electronic items. Their latest offering to the public is the SuperCentre located at Gulf View La Romain. It is the largest Hi-Lo supermarket in the country

This powerhouse enterprise has been in existence for over 60 years and has made it its mandate to constantly evolve with its market as needs and wants change 4

and is outfitted with a welltrained staff of 300. A similar store was opened in Barbados last year. Derek Winford, HiLo Food Stores Chief Executive Officer commented that the latest store marks a new era in the history of Hi-Lo. He equates the store with any in the world. He said the Supercentre includes a lunch menu, coffee and salad bar. The main grocery area provides customers with the largest aisles and themed lanes to enhance their shopping experience. There is even a butcher on hand to assist customers through the vast frozen food department. Neal and Massy executive for the retail line of business, Thomas Pantin, stated that the retail showroom is 34,000 square feet and includes produce, bakery, grocery, frozen food and meat, electronics,


household appliances and soft furnishings. Hi-lo now offers small appliances, kitchenware, soft furnishings for bathroom and bedroom, stereos, flatscreen TV and many other electronic items. According to Anthony Choo Quan, Marketing Manager, this is the market trend as it relates to the retail industry so it was only natural that they have now made this in addition to their many offerings. He noted that it is imperative that they try their best to be receptive to the market trends and their customers so that they are better able to offer the services required. It’s the first of its kind, but he maintained that despite the new additions, Hi-lo remains adamant in their efforts to offer better customer service and high quality goods at an economical price.



business prospects in el salvador


uccessful negotiations on trade, investment and tourism between Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador constitute the deepening of economic and cultural ties and increased cooperation between both countries and by extension the South / South region. This was the mutual sentiment of the negotiating teams at the close of the second round of negotiations on a partial scope trade agreement (PSTA), bilateral investment treaty (BIT) and a tourism cooperation agreement (TCA) which resumed in earnest in January 2014. The four-day meeting took place in Port of Spain from January 20th to 23rd. Mr. Mervyn Assam - Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary for Trade and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs - the lead of T&T’s negotiating team, said the deliberations produced very “good results for both countries”. Lead negotiator and Vice Minister of the Economy of El Salvador – Mario Roger Hernandez said he is pleased at the progress of negotiations. Outlining some “benefits” of the three agreements for both coun6

tries, he said “Our economies / countries are very complimentary. We can help each other in terms of export, in terms of import, but also in terms of investment…in terms of tourism. We are obligated to do our best effort to bring this instrument to our countries”. Secondly, “this agreement opens a new opportunity for the business community, for the people of our countries, to meet each other, to get benefits”. He said “lots of possibility” exists for both countries and the agreements will be very helpful in bringing opportunities to reality. First to be completed and initialed is the TCA. “We have successfully concluded a tourism corporation agreement, so that has been finalized. And we are very happy that this has happened, because this will redound to the benefit of both countries; but in particular I am very happy that it will benefit

Tobago” – stated Ambassador Assam. Permanent secretary for the Ministry of Tourism – Juliana Johan-Boodram said such an initiative to make inroads into Central American is long overdue and keenly welcomed. She said, “Now it’s just for us to reap some of the benefits that will redound to both of our countries”. Still underway are negotiations on a BIT and a PSTA. He said “substantial progress” has been made in both areas. With respect to the BIT “There are only a few square brackets, and with one or two videoconferences in the coming weeks we should be able to finalize that agreement for signature in the very near future”. It was the PSTA which initialized negotiations between both countries, at the first round of negotiations held in El Salvador in October 2013. Ambassador Assam indicated

Our economies / countries are very complimentary. We can help each other in terms of export, in terms of import, but also in terms of investment…in terms of tourism


that despite a minor setback due to the absence of the Harmonized System (HS) 2012 list, significant progress was made in other areas; adding that videoconferencing will “advance” the negotiating process in time for their return to El Salvador on April 7th, 2014 for the third and final round of negotiations. Members of the El Salvadorian private sector were also part of these negotiations. Representatives of eight companies met and networked with members of T&T’s private sector, who hosted them at various meetings and sites across the country including a day tour on the sister isle, facilitated by the THA. Minister Hernandez described the trade mission as successful, saying the private sector “has seen a lot of opportunities” and T&T are very “happy that they have come”. On T&T’s return visit to El Salvador for the final round of negotiations, members of the private sector will also be a part of the delegation. T&T’s negotiating team consisted of persons from the relevant ministries and state agencies, and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).




Corporate Social Responsibility In The Oil Sector

ince December 17, 2013, many have cried over spilled oil on T&T’s south-western peninsula. Petrotrin, T&T’s largest integrated oil and gas company, leading in exploration and production with a revenue of TT $40 Billion for the last fiscal year, caused one of the worst oil spills in the nation’s history when oil and bunker fuel spilled in the Gulf of Paria. This catastrophe highlights that Corporate Social Responsibility is more than just Sponsorship, as many local and multinational firms operating in Trinidad and Tobago believe. With a host of national issues including crime, failing public education and health care, wealth inequality and loss of biodiversity, citizens are calling for greater social responsibility from organizations. The term "corporate social responsibility" came into common use in the 1960s/1970s after many multinational corporations formed the term stakeholder, meaning those on whom an organization's activities have an impact. It refers to corporate initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effect on the environment and impact on social welfare. The term generally applies to company efforts that

go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups. Corporate social responsibility may also be referred to as "corporate citizenship" and can involve incurring short-term costs that do not provide an immediate financial benefit to the company, but instead promote positive social and environmental change. Petrotrin’s stance on corporate social responsibility encompasses many areas including Education and Training, Culture, Sport, Environment and Community Empowerment. With respect to the environment, its policy clearly states that “…as an energy company, it is inevitable that our operations in oil and gas impact upon the environment. It is our goal however to ensure that we manage the relationship between the environment and industry and minimize the impact of our operations as far as possible. We continue to put every measure in place to maintain that balance between nature and industry.” So has Petrotrin taken steps in line with its CSR policies? Many would argue a resounding no with the media showing heart breaking pictures of adversely affected fishing villages, families and sea life. To

Stakeholders are concerned that Petrotrin should spend money to fix what caused the spills and show the public that a lesson has been learnt, rather than wasting money on print and electronic advertisements 8

date, Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine has stated that about $20 million has been spent in the cleaning up of the oil spill, and about $2.6 million was paid in compensation. Petrotrin also launched a public relations campaign to boost its image in the short term. More controversial is Petrotrin’s dismissal of 6 out of 12 workers who were under investigation for the spills, after an internal enquiry. There have been calls for an independent investigation outside of the Minister, the Ministry of Energy, Petrotrin and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), who fined Petrotrin $20 million after it found that the company was responsible. Hence, the National Environmental Task Force was developed. Stakeholders are concerned that Petrotrin should spend money to fix what caused the spills and show the public that a lesson has been learnt, rather than wasting money on print and electronic advertisements. OWTU President Ancel Roget said, “We in the OWTU, we are very concerned about the consequence of those oil spills and we are concerned that the management, in their


desperate attempt to cover up the real cause, the root cause of those oil spills, we are very concerned that the real issues will not come out, and if those issues are not brought to the fore then the national oil company is in great danger of having reoccurrences and so on in the future. So therefore it is another proactive move that we are making on behalf of the stakeholders, all the people of Trinidad and Tobago.” The Petrotrin disaster proves that citizens can quickly view companies as either part of the problem or part of the solution. It is without doubt that in the long run public confidence in Petrotrin has been hurt, and it will take time and significant effort to once again position it on the right side of social needs so that stakeholders want to see the company succeed. According to the Stanford Social Innovation, “It's not enough to publish a glossy annual CSR report. Cultivating a genuine relationship with consumers and demonstrating that your business is truly committed to social impact is critical to staying agile and competitive in an increasingly disruptive environment.”



The Disabled Being Left Out of Business


aving a disability places you in the world’s largest minority group. According to the 2011 WHO World Report on Disability, an estimated 15% of the T&T population-180,000 people- have a disability, which includes those who are deaf, blind, paraplegic, autistic, dyslexic and people who have acquired disabilities due to aging or various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, bipolar disorder, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The global problem exists where persons with disabilities are treated as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection, rather than as full and equal members of society with human rights. In T&T, it is no different. According to Sharda Ramlakhan, president of the Consortium of Disability Organizations (CODO), the T&T government has dealt with disability from a charity-based rather than developmental point of view, giving a person “a hamper and a wheelchair, for instance.” CODO is a non-governmental organization set up in 2001 to be the umbrella body for all disability organizations in T&T, aiming to make T&T the standard in the Caribbean for a disability-friendly society by 2016. There is poor physical infrastructure for persons with disabilities, especially in Port of Spain and rural areas. Except for some recently constructed sporting complexes, it is difficult to access many government offices, schools,

stores, jobs, entertainment venues, basic public transport and washrooms. Within recent times, the T&T government has been trying to improve the welfare of disabled persons. The Equal Opportunities Act was amended in 2011, to provide protection against discrimination for persons with disabilities. In 2012, in support of the National Building Code, the T&T Bureau of Standards embarked on a project to formulate accessibility requirements, establishing criteria for making sites, facilities, buildings and building elements accessible. This is intended to apply to all new construction and to alterations to commercial buildings. The Elderly and Differently Abled Mobile (Eldamo) service was also launched with a new fleet of 24 specially-equipped buses. In 2013, the Disability Assistance grant provided to persons with a physical or mental disability was increased to $1500 per month. While government has an obligation to allocate resources to promote social inclusion for the disabled, it may make sense for businesses to invest in disability friendly facilities as well. Brian Wisdom, CEO of People 1st states that over 10 million people are classified as having a disability in the UK which is equivalent to 20% of businesses' customer base. Over a year this market is worth £80 billion. He also notes that “Good customer service for the disabled is essential; 66% choose businesses renowned for good customer service and

While government has an obligation to allocate resources to promote social inclusion for the disabled, it may make sense for businesses to invest in disability friendly facilities as well 83% have taken their business to a more accessible competitor.” While no such statistics are available in T&T, the logic is clear. Businesses that have disability access are likely to benefit. Disabled customers are more likely to be repeat customers over time if their experience is a comfortable one. The availability of facilities can also attract new disabled customers, with their friends and family accompanying them. Facilities can also appeal to older customers who may not consider themselves disabled but who do appreciate easier access. Furthermore, according to

the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2012 / 2013 the disabled segment of the population is fast becoming a significant economic factor for the tourism industry, tending to be loyal to a destination, staying longer and spending about 13.6 billion dollars each year on travel. As T&T moves towards developed country status, businesses should look into catering to the needs of the disabled segment, whether it be the provision of handicapped parking, easy ramp entry ways, wheelchair-friendly bathrooms, lower counters, larger font menus, motorized wheelchairs, better lighting, handrails or staff assistance. • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS




TTEITI Exposes Local Transparency Issues


ransparency and good governance are what citizens desire from a government; more so for countries rich in natural resources such as minerals and hydrocarbons, where oftentimes it seems that the wealth does not redound to all segments of society. Full disclosure on contracts is a way that Governments can not only show themselves accountable and transparent in the management of their country’s hydrocarbon and mineral resources, but it builds citizens’ vigilance and confidence, which subsequently contributes to how contracts are negotiated and what is agreed upon. “Countries and companies that embrace transparency, over time will come out ahead” says independent Oil and Gas consultant, legal advisor to sovereign governments, and independent oil, gas and mining contract specialist - Dr. Susan Maples. Speaking at a workshop hosted by the Secretariat of the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) at the Energy Conference held in Port of Spain – January 2014, Dr. Maples says research has shown, such a practice usually leads to a higher take for Governments when negotiating contracts. Dr. Maples is also a co-

author of a report - Contracts Confidential: Ending Secret Deals in the Extractive Industries in which it states “contract transparency will help governments get a better deal for their resources, provide an incentive for governments and companies to make more durable deals, and deter corruption. Extractives are imperfect markets where governments are often at a disadvantage when negotiating with companies. The asymmetry of information can lead to sub-optimal deals, even if the government is negotiating in the interest of its citizens. Contract transparency is one important factor in creating a level playing field between companies and governments.” Moreover, an overall downward trend in Trinidad and Tobago’s proven gas reserves in the last few years substantiates the importance of proper management and accountability of the country’s resources. This is where the role of TTEITI is important. It acts as a facilitator of transparency and accountability of the sector. Its main function is to reconcile receipts declared by the government with payments made by companies to the government. A report is compiled and made publicly accessible. Consequently, discrepancies between receipts and payments can be

Moreover, an overall downward trend in Trinidad and Tobago’s proven gas reserves in the last few years substantiates the importance of proper management and accountability of the country’s resources

flagged and addressed, citizens become more informed of the sector and its fiscal endeavours, investor confidence is boosted and inadvertently the country’s negotiating advantage is strengthened. The EITI relies on voluntary disclosure by governments and private companies in order for it to work. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has committed to disclosure of all receipts from oil and gas companies since TTEITI’s inception in December 2010. Their first report – Making sense of T&T’s Energy Dollars was published September 2013. Infor-


mation on the mining sector however is not included in this issue. Chairman of the TTEITI, Mark Regis says proper scoping of the sector has yet to be done, but added they hope to capture this sector in upcoming reports. According to Dr. Maples the mining sector in this country is poorly managed and monitored. She believes a significant amount of revenue is unaccounted for and in some cases misrepresented. To access TTEIT’s report persons can log on to their website @ or via their app which is downloadable from the Google Play Store.




The Dollar$ and Cents of Carnival Reveling

ndulging in the ‘greatest show on earth’ comes with a price-tag. With the myriad of activities to attend during the carnival season, feting can be an expensive indulgence. Apart from costume costs, one has to expend funds for fetes – another carnival staple. One has also to consider the cost of outfits and accessories, particularly for the all-inclusive fetes which have become something like a social avowal as much as it is for enjoyment. So how much can carnival reveling cost, noting the yearly increase of products and services for carnival? To get an idea of a probable price tag associated with playing mas, attending fetes and ‘fete-apparel’, an enquiry was done with a few individuals who indulge the carnival experience. For them playing mas is routine. Opting to play in the more popular bands, backline costumes carried a price tag of $4000. 00 - upwards, while frontline costumes start at $6500. 00. Persons attended a minimum of two to no more than six fetes, at an average cost of $400. 00 for regular fetes. The purchase of food and drink usually cost an additional $200. 00 per fete. All-inclusive fetes on the other hand were

averaged around $700. 00 upwards - set at a higher cost for obvious reasons. Respondents indicated, at a minimum one and at a maximum two all-inclusive fetes were attended for the season. Similar to the ‘pretty-mas’ trend of costume design, the dress code for many carnival fetes have become a fashion affair. Respondents had varying opinions on the purchase of clothing and accessories. One person said new accessories and one or two new items of clothing are what they purchased for fetes adding that Monday-wear and accessories and a pair of boots for Carnival Tuesday are also purchased. Another said there is no real need for new clothing or accessories “since most of such fetes are cooler parties or J’ouvert fetes”. Another said there is no real need for new clothing or accessories “since most of such fetes are cooler parties or J’ouvert fetes”. The aforementioned costs can be used as a construct to get a sense of / put a price-tag to some of the more popular carnival activities. It should be noted, other related costs such as transport – (gas or taxi), hair dos / cuts, make-up, manicures and pedicures while not priced must also be taken into consid-

Similar to the ‘pretty-mas’ trend of costume design, the dress code for many carnival fetes have become a fashion affair. Respondents had varying opinions on the purchase of clothing and accessories

eration. These are just other variables that will affect total expense. Additionally, these costs have also to content with an individual’s basic expenses such as food, transport, utility bills, rent / mortgage. Such a list varies and depends on the individual’s circumstance. Peoples’ ‘circumstance’ can be further compounded by yuletide celebrations recognized in December. January is usually the month where many people are caught under financial strain; and barely out of Christmas, the carnival season is rife with activity. Carnival as we know it, band-launches etc. actually begins somewhere between October and November of the previous year. Given this situation, there are at least two options at peoples’ avail if they want to enjoy the best of both worlds. A prudent approach to this dilemma would be to plan ahead and


save. Or, for those not so dutiful borrowing is an alternative. Unfortunately none of the three local banks consulted offer ‘carnival loans’. One did admit to providing such a facility in the past, but had to discontinue the product as a result of negligent debtors, who after feting abandoned their commitment to pay. Recent policy at another bank does not facilitate lending under $ 12 000.00. However, persons desirous of accessing normal loans are welcome by all banks, once they meet the banks’ lending criteria. Asked whether or not the expense is worth the indulgence, there was general sentiment of satisfaction. One person stated, “the cost is reasonable due to the experience”. Another shared, it “was worth it in past years, this year as priorities change it seems like too much”.



Construction Magnate Francis Lau Speaks


ounded in 1963, Francis-Lau Construction Co. Ltd is a family owned and operated specialist construction firm that designs, fabricates and erects structural and secondary steelwork for the full spectrum of industry sectors, at home in Trinidad/Tobago and throughout the Caribbean.   They are strategically positioned among the most prominent in the industry and the Abstract Business Guide relished the opportunity to interview integral member of the Company Andre FrancisLau. Learn why he is our latest Trump Card. ABG: We’ve read about Francis Lau construction on the website, but in your own words tells us a little about FLCCL… LAU: The website offers a comprehensive summary of who we are. What you would not have learned from the site is that the Board, in recognition of our 50th Anniversary, has renewed its commitment to safety, quality and efficiency within the organisation. In doing so, we have committed to becoming a fully integrated, zero accident and sustainable facility by 2018. This year we managed to hit 90% of our targets. Over the past six months we’ve completely overhauled our Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) Management System and have recently applied to the Energy Chamber for Safe to Work (StoW) certi-

fication; one of seven key milestones, which emerged from our Strategic Plan, developed to guide our journey to 2018. ABG: When you first started working at FLC, were you always the export manager/ project manager? LAU: Over the past six months, in working to realise our Vision, we have restructured. During the process, I was appointed Director of Operations, while my brother Christopher was named Director of Business Development. He is now responsible for client management, which includes regional (“export”) markets. So to answer your question, no, I did not start in my current position. I began at the bottom of the food chain, and climbed the ladder as the company evolved. ABG: Was it just assumed that you would occupy this position or did you have a desire to be part of the construction business? LAU: Seeing my father’s work always inspired me. I suppose like most young boys, I wanted to be like him and over the years I found myself drawn to the idea of being a part of the industry, yes. However, I began at FLCCL as a welder’s aide. My father believed we, my brothers and I, should be afforded no privileges because we were his sons. Chinese humility. He was right; I think we learnt a great deal starting out on the “lower rungs” and working our way up. We understand

commitment, dedication and hard work. Much more so, I believe, than our contemporaries who were thrown from university into management positions. The climb allowed us to learn the business thoroughly, from every angle and at every level. More importantly, I think it taught us to remain human, down-to-earth and in-touch with reality, with our employees, our clients and our community. ABG: There’s a lot of talk about the government out sourcing laborers from other countries, what is your take on this? LAU: This is a sore topic. I believe the saying is “the world is a global village.” Outsourcing has pushed the first world – the United States, Europe and Japan – to innovate, to improve their service, quality and pricing structure. I’m not a social scientist, but it is my view that it would do the same for Trinidad. We’ve become complacent, begun to accept substandard work and pay contract-price for half-completed or shoddily completed work. Provided foreign contractors are judged upon the same criteria and by the same standards of quality and safety as local firms and are afforded no special privileges, competition, whether from Ca-


nadian and French engineers or Chinese and Taiwanese labour is welcome. It will compel us to demand better in safety, quality and service from our own and push us to demand value for money. ABG: What are some of the trials Francis Lau Construction is currently facing? / What are some of the issues the construction industry is being faced with in Trinidad and Tobago? LAU: I doubt very much that our challenges are unique or uncommon. As with most companies and industries the global economic downturn of 2008-2010, has had an impact on consumer confidence, even at the corporate level. Therefore, companies are holding on to money for as long as possible, which means it takes an interminable length of time between project completion and payment, in turn, negatively affecting our liquidity. Additionally, we are faced with competition from cheaper alternatives, which are attractive only in price, but fail to deliver on quality; and a market accepting of such alternatives. Another common challenge in the industry, though no longer a hindrance to FLCCL, is the lack of qualified and competent labour, open to learning and


TRUMP CARD willing to commit to the job. ABG: According to your answer in question # 5, how do you plan on overcoming these obstacles? LAU: For one thing, these challenges have forced us to be more innovative…more efficient., to think outside the box. In terms of the economy, we can do nothing more than leverage the benefits of steel and ensure well-informed decisions when contracting. We welcome alternatives; choice is a stalwart of advanced economies. Education is the other. In collaboration with one of our consultant engineers, we’ve developed a seminar series aimed at educating executives and professionals, throughout the Caribbean, on quality steel construction. We’ve managed to solve our labour issues by developing relationships with technical and vocational institutions and encouraging those wishing to be a part of our industry to apprentice with us. They gain hands-on experience and put their knowledge to use, while we gain a sense of who they are and make informed decisions when filling technical gaps. ABG: What are some of your goals for the next five years both professionally and personally? LAU: Professionally, it is clearcut: to see the company through expansion, or rather, diversification into the energy sector. We’ve made some headway this year, and intend to continue, while also solidifying our presence in the corporate, retail, hospitality and industrial sectors, in which we’ve made a name for ourselves. Personally, it’s all about the next generation; ensuring that my children are equipped with the tools to create their own legacies. ABG: Being a project manager for FLC means you

In collaboration with one of our consultant engineers, we’ve developed a seminar series aimed at educating executives and professionals, throughout the Caribbean, on quality steel must possess the following traits… LAU: Project management is all about “budget, schedule and quality (scope).” To achieve these, however, I think one must be, above all, communicative. They must know, understand and listen. Communication is the common denominator in successful projects. Technical ability and planning certainly are important, but, without communication one would never know where one stands, nor where one is headed. ABG: Being in this type of industry, time is of the essence. Therefore how do you deal with someone constantly missing deadlines? LAU: Again it is about communication. Someone may miss a deadline because a safety issue needs to be addressed, or, because to meet the deadline would require an unsafe method. On the other hand, delays may be due to insufficient planning, incompetence or “slacking off”. Though we plan for all eventualities and spend a great deal of resources on risk assessment and management, there is always unforeseen risk. In such circumstances, health and safety is our main priority. We’ve managed to surround ourselves with a competent team, whose members, for the most part, complete jobs within the triple constraints (changes in scope notwithstanding). ABG: Do you think there is room for new construction companies to thrive in the local market? LAU: I think new construction

companies, in fact, new companies in any industry, should be thinking niche in order to thrive. Companies, especially new companies, can no longer thrive in the local market “trying to be everything to everyone.” Clifford Francis-Lau, our founder and my father, loved building things with his hands, out of whatever material he could find. But he had an affinity for steel, probably linking back to his grandfather’s days as a blacksmith in turn-of-thecentury Glasgow. Recognising that steel was the least used material in construction at the time, he made the decision to specialise in the material learning everything there was to know about it. He started FLC in 1963 as Francis-Lau Metalworks. With patience, constant education and a little bit of luck, the company evolved into what it is today, fifty years later. So my answer: yes, there is room for new construction companies, provided the entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do, and observe due diligence. ABG: What sets you apart from others in your field? LAU: We’ve remained human. We can claim unbridled integrity, exceptional quality and fair pricing; but what truly sets us apart from others in our field is our commitment to safety, to our partners and to our clients. ABG: What are some major misconceptions about the construction industry? LAU: In my opinion there are two main misconceptions about the construction industry, and they speak to quality

and safety. The first: Formal education is unnecessary for careers in construction. I think this misconception pervades general construction, more than it does steel construction, but, on occasion, employment seekers do enquire about vacancies with us. When asked about qualifications, they often hesitate, falter or bluntly state, “I have no paper but I know how to weld.” While we understand that experience is important, our commitment to safety, quality and efficiency means we require that employees possess some type of formal training in construction. In any case, they should be receptive to learning – especially where it entails formal and safe work practices, with which they may not be familiar. The second: Construction and safety are polar opposites. Though it is impossible to eliminate risk, we can control and manage risk in such a manner that it becomes acceptable. Certainly the aim of zero accidents is quite possible. But to achieve this one must acknowledge that safety is not an ancillary activity. Rather it is the outcome, the result, of executing construction activities in a proper and correct manner. ABG: If you could change anything about how business is done in Trinidad and Tobago, what would it be? LAU: Payment culture. Conglomerate and large contractors must understand that whereas their size and influence allow them to absorb lengthy delays in project payment, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are not as fortunate. If I could change anything about how business is done in Trinidad, I would establish legislation to ensure timely payments for all services rendered, with a fair interest rate applied in cases of noncompliance. • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS 15



Viable prospects are ahead for Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector


he Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs ably attracted eleven (11) bids for its Ortoire, Rio Claro and St Mary’s blocks - some 63,715 hectares of acreage in the country’s southern basin. It’s the first land-based Bid Round in 15 years. Speaking at the close of the 2013 Onshore Bid Round, on October 31st, Energy Minister – Kevin Ramnarine said the “Bid Round is linked to the Government’s policy to increase oil production and realize growth in the country’s hydrocarbon reserves”. The five companies submitting bids include A & V Oil and Gas Ltd., Glint Energy LLC, Lease Operators Ltd., Range Resources Ltd. and Trinity Exploration and Production plc. Describing the event as successful, Minister Ramnarine said that “the Bid Round can only result in an increase in exploration and a commensurate increase in oil production beyond the 100,000 bopd level which we last experienced some 3 years ago”. He added that activity related to land-

based oil production is high and signs of a turnaround are evident. “I was advised that there were 20 work-over rigs in Trinidad and Tobago all of which are currently engaged and that there was a waiting list for companies wanting to use those work-over rigs. This is a proxy for activity taking place on land”. The 2013 Onshore Bid Round was opened on May 16, and closed on October 31. An optimistic Ramnarine revealed that very interesting prospects exist for another Land-Based Bid Round in the Biche / Charuma area, sometime in the future, although most of the land acreage was absorbed in the 2013 Onshore Bid Round. On the heels of the close of

the 2013 Onshore Bid Round, the Energy Minister signed a production sharing contract (PSC) with a consortium between BHP Billiton and Repsol for Block 23b. Located off the Northeast Coast of Trinidad and Tobago, Minister Ramnarine said 23 (b) has “prospects for both oil and gas”, with an estimated capacity of 304 to 907 million barrels of crude and 1.6 to three trillion cubic feet of gas. It comprises approximately 2,600 square kilometres and lies in water depths of between 700 and 2,000 metres. He was at the time speaking at the signing ceremony for the Block 23 (b), held at the Ministry’s head office on November 5th, 2013 where he revealed that the Block was part of the 2011 Bid

An optimistic Ramnarine revealed that very interesting prospects exist for another Land-Based Bid Round in the Biche / Charuma area, sometime in the future, although most of the land acreage was absorbed in the 2013 Onshore Bid Round

Round, but the initial proposal fell short of the Ministry’s benchmarks. A subsequent revised proposal with improvements to the offer and the compliance with the Ministry’s benchmarks was accepted. The vested interest of the BHP / Repsol consortium is 60% and 40% respectively. According to a Ministry statement “the consortium is committed to a three-phased Minimum Exploration Work Programme valued at US$120.5 million. During the obligatory, first phase which runs for three years, the consortium proposes to acquire over 1,100 square km of 3D seismic and undertake additional geological studies. For its second and third phases, the consortium proposes to drill two wells, each to a depth of 3,300 metres”. Meantime the 2013 Deep Water Bid Round closed in January 2014. Six offshore blocks TTDAA 1, 2, 3, 7, 30 & 31 located in the East Coast Marine Area and Trinidad and Tobago’s Deep Atlantic Area were offered for bids. • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS 17



Big Changes To Come For Local Banks


rmed security officers at the door, long lines and tapping of keyboards, we are all too familiar with this setting upon entering most banks. What we may not be familiar with is the fact that it has been around for over 700 years. The first institution resembling a bank was established in Venice, known at that time as Chamber of Loans. Banks have certainly come a long way. In recent times you may have noticed that they are even adjusting their business models. Take for instance our own banking system right here in T&T, you may notice that they are trying to take a more ‘customer convenient’ approach. What exactly do I mean by this? Well there’s online banking, Fas deposit, a multitude of ATM machines at various locations (according to Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago there’s 254 ATMs nationwide) and now there’s even mobile banking. As you may notice, there’s a commonality in all the services mentioned above. Each of them represents instant transactions due to the technological backing. As there are not enough hours in the day for most of us, having these services introduced not only saves time but can also strengthen the bank’s relationship with its customers. These major changes in the banking industry can be seen as imperative in today’s media centric world. After all the banking sector of the Trinidad and Tobago Composite Index (TTCI) continues to hold the title of the largest sector by market capitalization, currently

valued at TT$54.6B (February 14, 2014). It accounts for 48 per cent of the total market capitalization and comprises five companies: • First Caribbean International Bank Limited (FCIB) • First Citizens Bank Limited (FIRST) • National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCBJ) • Republic Bank Limited (RBL) • Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago Limited (SBTT). Brett King, author of "Bank 3.0" and "Branch Today, Gone Tomorrow" said "the number of transactions in branches is plummeting, because people do so much more of their dayto-day banking without them." King isn’t the only one sharing these views. Maria Coyne, executive vice president of consumer and small-business banking for Cleveland-based Key Bank said, “neighborhood branches most likely won't completely disappear, but they'll be smaller and have smaller staffs. Self-service and technology are quickly becoming the name of the game.” Is there a possibility that these digitalized approaches mentioned above are occurring right here in T&T? There’s no confirmation to that just yet but some of you may recall, RBC’s dismissal of staff earlier this month. Responding to the recent dismissal, Employee and Corporate Communications Nicole Duke-Westfield said; “as part of our efforts to improve and strengthen our business per-

formance and competitiveness, we have had to make some difficult decisions with regard to our employee base. This may not be a shock to some as RBC’s chief executive Suresh Sookoo said in an interview last year that there would be job cuts, but there was no plan for any dramatic reduction of the workforce. According to Sookoo “employee costs were singled out as one of the largest cost elements for the bank.” He admitted that analysis of employee costs was a critical factor as job roles have been changing. There were also regional dismissals by the banking group as 15 staff members from Barbados were released and a further 7 from the Bahamas. As the world continues to gravitate towards technology, here are some speculations about what may occur in the near future within the banking sector: • Do it yourself banking – Banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Company, PNC


Bank, Bank of America and KeyBank, are testing selfservice kiosks, self-service drive-thru lanes and 24hour video-teller machines. These services will include ATMs with a two-way video feed to a live person. • Talk to experts by Teleconference - Banks, including KeyBank and Citizen Financial Group, are testing video teleconferencing in several markets. • Paperless transactions Chase is testing paperless teller touch screens that can initiate routine banking transactions, such as deposits to bank accounts and check cashing, without the need to fill out a paper slip. • More options via mobile banking - Coyne says this strategy "is all about meeting clients where they are." Whatever the case is, rest assured as there will always be an institution ready and waiting to safeguard your money.


Small Business

Are Timeshares Still Good Business?


re you over the age of 30? Do you and your spouse make more than US$50,000 a year? Then we have a once in a lifetime package deal for you… only US$999 for a 5-day all inclusive package at our resort in exchange for 90 minutes of your time. The truth is that during that 90 minute presentation, you may be coerced into buying a timeshare. Globally, timeshares are one of the top sellers in the travel and hospitality industry, with close to 7 million owners in more than 5,000 resorts in almost 100 countries. The average sales price for a one-week timeshare is approximately US$19,000, with an average annual maintenance fee of US$660, according to the American Resort Development Agency. How do timeshares work? With traditional timeshares, buyers pay a lump sum upfront, which allows them use of a specific unit at the same time every year, governed by fixed/floating time, fractional ownership, biennial ownership, or lockoff/lockout. Timeshare owners are also required to pay annual fees that cover maintenance costs. In recent times, timeshares operate on a points system, which gives users more flexibility with where and when they travel. For example, the Hilton Grand Vacation Club program gives points that can be used any time during the calendar year at various subsidiaries. The benefits presented to you will be astounding...a guaranteed quality future resort vacation for you and your family, building your own equity at the finest vacation accommodations available, beating vacation “inflation” and the chance to rent your timeshare so it re-

mains profitable. Seems too good to be true… and most likely it is. Many believe that timeshares are far from a good idea. MarketWatch. com states that timeshares are generally marketed and sold to people who really can't afford them. Most become convinced that timeshares are investments much like houses. The Federal Trade Commission Web site states, "You should know that the value of timeshares is in their use as vacation destinations, not as investments." Florida has even considered passing a law that would make it illegal to mention the phrase "invest-

ment opportunity" in a timeshare sales pitch, as many resorts tout timeshares as sound financial investments. They often encourage potential share owners to talk about the "hot" timeshare market in the area and give a few anecdotal examples of people who sold their timeshares for more than they initially paid for them. Unfortunately, timeshare owners rarely make money when they resell their share. Timeshares lose their value because the supply greatly exceeds demand, as the market is flooded with thousands of resorts and millions of shares. Taking into account total costs,

Unfortunately, timeshare owners rarely make money when they resell their share. Timeshares lose their value because the supply greatly exceeds demand, as the market is flooded with thousands of resorts and millions of shares

including annual fees and the fees that timeshare brokers charge to facilitate the resale, it becomes very difficult to recoup the initial purchase price. President of Sellmytimeshare. com, Jason Tremblay states that “Most timeshares quickly depreciate from the sale price, similar to the way a car drops in value once driven off the lot, because of commissions, marketing and giveaways.” He notes that timeshares often sell 30% - 40% below the original sale price. But if the timeshare market appeals to you, make sure to consider the following. Do your homework in terms of evaluating the location and quality of the resort by visiting the facilities and speaking with current timeshare owners about their experiences. Also research the track record of the seller, developer, and company before you buy. To see if it makes economic sense, calculate the total cost of a timeshare including mortgage payments, travel costs, annual maintenance fees and taxes, closing costs, broker commissions and finance charges, and ensure that the plan has a fee cap because maintenance fees can rise at rates that equal or exceed inflation. Compare these costs with the cost of renting similar accommodations with similar amenities in the same location for the same time period. Most importantly, don’t act on impulse or under pressure. Purchase incentives may be offered while you are touring or staying at a resort. While these bonuses may present a good value, the timing of a purchase is your decision. As one timeshare owner put it, “you're just pre-paying your hotel bill for the next 20 years whether or not you use it.” • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS 19





obby Darnell, founder of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. says that “Active participation on LinkedIn is the best way to say, 'Look at me!' without saying 'Look at me!” LinkedIn joined the social networking arena in 2002, and has become a popular tool for professional networking. The Verge Startups blog listed it as one of the “most successful startup companies by market capitalization, revenue, growth, and cultural impact.” The site is available in 20 languages, and in 2013 had more than 259 million acquired users in more than 200 nations. The main purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom they have some level of relationship, called Connections. A user’s contact network consists of their direct connections and the connections of each of their connections, which can be used to gain an introduction to someone a person wishes to know through a mutual contact. For job seekers, a LinkedIn profile acts as an online resume, as users can post their current

and past employment history, education, links, images, documents and blogs to show what they have been professionally involved in. Contacts can recommend or endorse a person, which appears on the profile and proves that other experts are backing up claims to their skill set, which is very powerful in getting contacted. The site can be used to find employment, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one's contact network. They can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them. Users can follow different companies and receive notifications about the new offers available, and can bookmark jobs they would like to apply for. In February 2014, LinkedIn launched two new features to enhance management and visibility of professional identities. The "Who's Viewed Your Profile" feature provides access to more data-driven insights, making available information on viewers such as the region, industry and profession they work in and the keyword searches that led people to the member's pro-

A LinkedIn profile can also serve as a flagship for a company’s brand and boost business to consumer (B2C) networking. A company can interact with new and potential consumers by optimizing its company page and account profile

file. Secondly, LinkedIn added real-time personalized tips to ultimately “take the guesswork out of how you can continue to build your own professional brand and manage your professional identity to make yourself even more productive on and off of LinkedIn," according to Milo, LinkedIn project manager. It includes suggestions on how members can successfully complete their profiles and share industry-relevant articles to professional groups they join to get more member views. For employers, LinkedIn allows businesses to list jobs and search for potential candidates. Since LinkedIn is the social network of choice for career advancement, a dynamic and relevant LinkedIn company profile is essential. An active list of open job positions can attract enquiries and applications from top tier talent, who are using the network to find great job opportunities. LinkedIn can also facilitate business to business (B2B) networking, by enabling closer links between suppliers and manufacturers. By connecting people and companies with similar interests, the chances of finding a trustworthy vendor can be greatly increased. The paid InMail feature allows faster comparison shopping to source a vendor. In addition, seeing the vendor’s


online presence gives a more complete picture of a company, supplemented by other businesses’ reviews of their experiences of working with the vendor. A LinkedIn profile can also serve as a flagship for a company’s brand and boost business to consumer (B2C) networking. A company can interact with new and potential consumers by optimizing its company page and account profile. By posting timely, relevant and interesting posts, brand image can be shaped as the company builds trust and likeability from its customer base. LinkedIn can also be used as an alternative to traditional advertising campaigns, to promote new products and services. Finally, LinkedIn can aid in boosting customer satisfaction by providing an avenue for customers to participate in surveys, give comments and air issues via public and private messaging options. LinkedIn’s growing popularity is not without merit. It is not just a networking site that benefits only job hunters and recruiters, as commonly perceived by many business professionals. If properly utilized, it can be a vital part of any business’ web strategy and social media presence. LinkedIn is a great place to begin making connections that can and will be beneficial.



Health Technology Changing In the Third World


echnology has been growing fast over the years and some of us may find it hard to believe that there are still places in the world that have been left untouched or unaffected by technology. Most of these places form part of the ‘Third World’ countries, a term used to describe non-developing countries since the Cold War. Though the term, ‘Third World’ countries, is detested by many in Trinidad, technology in these countries is not as appealing as to the rest of the world where it plays a big part in people’s lives from morning to evening. Even though, people living in under developed countries don’t really know what modern technology or gadgets mean, they do know however that medicine forms a big part of their technology. People living in the ‘Third World’ countries desperately need technology not for social networking but to be and stay healthy. ‘Third World’, undeveloped and developing countries struggle to provide the best healthcare to their people. While Africa and Afghanistan would come to mind when speaking of undeveloped and poor countries, there are several developing countries such as India, China and Malaysia that are still struggling to provide the best medical facilities to their people. Check-Ups In countries such as Malaysia and India where there is an abundance of doctors and medical specialists, medical checkups don’t come cheap. Moreover, there are still many places

back to Malaysian hospitals for treatment and Singapore itself serves as an advanced technology lab for several Malaysian hospitals.

in these particular countries that are deprived of medical services. Nevertheless, there are organizations that are ready to take this step and ensure that everyone receives the medical services that they need. In India, technology has deeply helped both doctors and the patients. Renowned news channel, CNN, recently showcased a documentary on India’s medical facilities to show how technology has immensely helped reach the underprivileged patients there. On top of the list; a doctor is able to consult his patient via satellite, a facility not widely practised over the world. Telemedicine, as it is called, is practical, safe and not expensive. With telemedicine, the patients and their doctors don’t have to be in the same room for the treatment, monitoring and examination to happen. This is basically to facilitate the patient who at times, cannot be treated by his local doctor and instead of being sent to a city doctor, telemedicine makes the patient’s life easier. The less fortunate countries such as Afghanistan & Africa

will have difficulties implementing the telemedicine in their system as technology is very slowly evolving in these countries. Medical Treatments While Americans are struggling to come to terms with the new healthcare policy set by President Obama, the majority of people in the ‘Third World’ countries would give their right hands for a good medical treatment. The plight of the underprivileged has been constantly brought to light by celebrities but these under-developed nations are still in the lurch due to insufficient medical expertise. Meanwhile in developing countries, technology has been used in good ways to make medical facilities available to many. In South-East Asia, several nations work together to provide the best medical care for their people. Malaysia & Singapore work together to provide the best healthcare for their people. In Malaysia, there are several hospitals with advance equipment that caters to critical-state patients. Patients from Singapore are at times referred

Affordable Treatments The high-class treatment and advanced technology in Asian hospitals has made several Asian countries the perfect choice for tourists when it comes to medical facilities. Patients from the ‘First & Second World’ nations opt to undergo their medical treatment in developed countries such as India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines due to the cheaper medical costs in these countries. In ‘First & Second World’ countries, there should be no lack of advanced technology equipment in their hospitals but the costs of treatment there are, without a doubt, higher than in developing countries. Technology in Third World Countries Technology in medicine is slowly evolving in these countries. In the future, advanced equipment will be available in a lot more hospitals in developing countries to enable more and more people to be treated easily and at a cheaper cost. For underdeveloped nations, doctors and several organizations are working hard to make medical facilities and treatments easily reachable to the underprivileged people. The wait for advanced medical equipment to reach the underdeveloped countries is even longer due to the fact that some of these nations are badly damaged with no government to lead these nations and their people. • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS 21

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Developing the Entrepreneur

Identifying Disgruntled Employees


he workplace is not a warzone. Therefore, it should not be filled with tension. A work atmosphere should be one which thoroughly motivates employees. However, some employees need extra motivation due to circumstances that may have made them unhappy at some point. The problem is that few employees tend to come out and say when they are disgruntled. It is up to the employer to identify the symptoms. Below are some signs that you may have unhappy employees in your midst.

employees are more verbal than others, but this can often be a sign that an employee has mentally checked out.

Going With the Flow Of course you or other managers will take the lead when it comes to projects and meetings, but brainstorming and discussing are a productive part of the process. When your employee stops contributing, goes with the flow and doesn’t ever challenge a process or idea, it’s possible that they are unhappy and disengaged. Of course, you should use a baseline for comparison as some

Low Productivity While a drop in work output may be difficult to measure, it’s not usually difficult to notice. Employees generally know they’re unhappy and quite often they fear that others will see it. So, rather than leaving early or coming in late, they tend to stay at work, but don’t really work. When the quality or quantity of an employee’s work starts to drop off, it’s important to determine the cause

Steering Clear of Chit Chat While an unhappy employee may look for other things besides work to occupy their workday, small talk probably won’t be one of them. Unhappy employees tend to not only be disengaged from their work, but also co-workers and supervisors. It’s likely not personal, but it’s that they associate other employees with the work they’re unhappy about.

as soon as possible and devise a workable solution to mitigate the damage to the employee themselves and to the morale of the entire office. Complaints By Other Employees If an employee’s behavior doesn’t signal to you that there’s a problem (or if you just miss the signs), your other employees often will. Changes in working behavior, especially negative ones, are usually not overlooked by co-workers. In these situations, it’s important not to jump to conclusions: When two employees complain about each other, it’s not always obvious who’s at fault. Instead, reserve judgment and talk to other employees. Constantly Complaining About Small Issues If the employee tends to voice their complaints repeatedly about things that have nothing to do with them performing their job, then this is another sign of an unhappy employee. Employees who complain non-

stop about small issues such as the copier being out of paper, or that there’s no air refresher in the staff restrooms probably have a bigger issue than paper and air refresher. This employee will seize any opportunity to complain and bring morale down. A happy employee on the other hand will refill the paper in the copier and not think any more of it. Employee Attendance What you will easily notice amongst unhappy employees are increased absenteeism, long coffee or lunch breaks, and repeated tardiness. All of these unavoidably result in low productivity in the company. When employees are asked to fill in for workers who are absent, resentment can easily build, and so can low morale. If you notice one or some of your workers having problems with their attendance, you can guess they are having some personal or even work-related problems. In these cases, communicating with them is the best thing you could do. • MARCH, 2014 • ABSTRACT BUSINESS 23



Become Better Organized At Work


good worker is not just a “hard worker.” The key to optimal performance is the understanding of organization and strategy in order to achieve goals. However, becoming better organized does not happen just like that. You have to put things in place for the results to happen. Use files to stay organized Some sort of filing system is important (whether it be paper or electronic) because it'll save you later on from rummaging through piles of paper or disorganized files on your computer. By keeping everything in a file and knowing where it is, you can save large amounts of time and feel less stressed.

If your company uses a specific type of software, adapt to its various uses and organizational properties. For example, construction workers who don’t use the normal office organization techniques should check out software that’s specific to their industry. Don't procrastinate Procrastination will do nothing other than increase your stress levels and workload later. Do bothersome things first to get them out of the way. Always try to get work done as quickly as possible because there is a lot of satisfaction to be had in checking items off a to-do list. With that said, it is vital to have a to-do list whether it is for daily tasks or other objectives.

Create a routine On your first day of work, start an organizational system. Before you receive a significant workload, you’ll have an established routine to keep you on track. Use an app like Evernote, which you can access on your computer and mobile device, to track information, lists, tasks and more. Ask employees who do similar work what their organizational method is and for any advice they can give.

Don’t multitask Instead of trying to do multiple projects at once, focus on a single task and manage time instead. There are numerous people who talk on the phone while responding to emails and putting a presentation together. They often end up driving themselves crazy and not putting their best foot forward. Don’t be like those people. Make a list of the tasks you need completed and take care

There are numerous people who talk on the phone while responding to emails and putting a presentation together. They often end up driving themselves crazy and not putting their best foot forward. Don’t be like those people

of the most important ones, with the nearest deadline, first. Put one hundred percent of your energy into each task and avoid everything else so when you take on the next task, you already have a sense of accomplishment. Delegate where possible If you have a junior colleague, you should be delegating some of your responsibilities to them. Good delegation saves you time and will motivate and develop other team members. Even if you’re not a manager, there are always opportunities to share work among colleagues who are less busy or who have specific, relevant skills. Make sure your wider team is aware of what you’ve got on your plate. Then, when you delegate, explain why you’ve chosen that person to help you and how you think it will ben-


efit them too. The key to good delegation is making sure your team feels valued and respected. That way they should be happy to provide the support you need. Utilize your email calendar A great way to stay on top of meetings, deadlines and tasks is to use the existing calendar on your email account. Whether you choose your work email calendar or a Gmail account, it’s helpful to mark all events on the calendar. Since you’ll constantly be using your email, you’ll have easy and consistent access to this calendar. You can also use the calendar to add alerts, particularly for recurring events. If you have a weekly meeting, set up your calendar to remind you automatically. Similarly, you can use your work calendar to invite and set up meetings with coworkers.



G20 Vows To Crackdown On Global Tax Loopholes


he likes of Google, Apple and Amazon were today facing a new tax crackdown as finance ministers from among the world’s biggest nations, who are gathering in Sydney, stepped up plans to close loopholes. US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew threw his weight behind a push to make global taxation reform a goal for the G20 nations and tighten the loopholes used by major multinationals to avoid tax. The major meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors was also set to endorse a separate scheme for the automatic exchange of information between international tax authorities in a bid to crack down on offshore tax evasion. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, said gaining revenue from new global digitized businesses such as Google and Apple is a “big ongoing problem” and called for a radical rethink of international tax arrangements.

Largarde stressed that governments needed to be more fleet-footed to keep up. “They have to invent new concepts just as quickly and as well as those companies are inventing their optimization schemes,” she said. Host Australia — heavily reliant on corporate tax receipts — is pushing hard for reform, as many Western economies labour under deficits and multinationals use “contrived” structures to avoid taxes. Google was recently labeled “evil” by House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Chairman Margaret Hodge for paying so little corporation tax in Britain, its biggest market after America. The internet behemoth paid $771 million (£463 million) in non-US corporation tax on foreign profits of $8.67 billion last year — double the amount it paid in 2012, but still much lower than typical UK companies. In 2012 Amazon paid no UK corporation tax on estimated sales of £3.2 billion in Britain, as it has a base in Luxembourg

In 2012 Amazon paid no UK corporation tax on estimated sales of £3.2 billion in Britain, as it has a base in Luxembourg to process sales, while Apple reportedly processes much of its £6 billion-plus annual UK revenue via low-tax Ireland

to process sales, while Apple reportedly processes much of its £6 billion-plus annual UK revenue via low-tax Ireland. Lew backed the need for tax harmonization, saying on Friday that all nations should adopt the automatic exchange of information as a global standard. “The G20’s work on tax co-operation is among our most important new initiatives,” he said. The G20 has also backed a plan drafted by the Organi-


zation for Economic Co-operation and Development allowing countries to ignore inter-company contracts aimed at channeling profits into tax havens. “This is not against multinationals,” OECD directorgeneral Angel Gurria said. “Multinationals have to have legal assurance that they’re not going to be double-taxed, but they have to contribute; their fair share has to be put on the table.”



February Stock Summary Courtesy The Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange

Written Report for Friday, 28th February, 2014


verall Market activity resulted from trading in 9 securities of which 0 advanced, 3 declined and 6 traded firm. Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 18,307 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $308,781.03. NATIONAL COMMERCIAL BANK JAMAICA LIMITED was the volume leader with 10,041 shares changing hands for a value of $11,814.32, followed by NATIONAL ENTERPRISES LIMITED with a

volume of 2,500 shares being traded for $45,625.00. FIRST CITIZENS BANK LIMITED contributed 1,775 shares with a value of $66,924.50, while THE WEST INDIAN TOBACCO COMPANY LIMITED added 1,381 shares valued at $162,958.00. FIRST CITIZENS BANK LIMITED suffered the day's greatest loss, falling $0.30 to close at $37.70. CLICO INVESTMENT FUND was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 39,572 shares valued at

$852,332.88. CLICO INVESTMENT FUND declined by $0.01 to end at $21.54. PRAETORIAN PROPERTY MUTUAL FUND remained at $3.41. The Second Tier Market

did not witness any activity. FNCU VENTURE CAPITAL COMPANY LIMITED (SUSPENDED) remained at $1.00. MORA VEN HOLDINGS LIMITED remained at $14.97.

Stocks Declining: Security


Closing Quote ($)

Change ($)











Closing Quote ($)




















In Friday's trading session the following reflect the movement of the TTSE Indices: * The Composite Index declined by 0.83 points (0.07%) to close at 1,190.70. * The All T&T Index declined by 1.58 points (0.08%) to close at 1,999.49. * The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.01 points (0.02%) to close at 50.15. * The Composite Index comprises all Ordinary companies. * The All TTSE Index comprises Trinidadian companies only. * The Cross Listed Index comprises companies originating outside of Trinidad & Tobago.

Abstract B.G Is Published By Abstract Media Group, Premium Commercial Complex, San Juan, Trinidad, W.I. • Tel: (868) 638 1156/9 • Fax: (868) 638 1160. Printed By The Office Authority - Printing Division And Distributed By AMG

Abstract Business Guide Vol.2 Issue 1 2014  

In this issue: Turning Culture into Coins Francis Lau Construction Magnate Details His Rise T&T and El Salvador Tie Up Trade Agreement

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