T&T Minister: Airport delays could deter investors

(Trinidad Express) MINISTER of Trade Vasant Bharath has admitted that the conduct of immigration officers and delays at Piarco International Airport could become a deterrent to foreign investors.
Bharath said investors were becoming very judicious and selective about where they spent their money.
He was speaking at the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce annual Christmas dinner and awards ceremony at Camden Road, Couva on Thursday.
“We do have hiccups. There are many things that we don’t have control over, that affects the way to we do trade. For example, a business person lands at Piarco Airport and is greeted by an Immigration officer (who says) ‘What you want? Where you come from? How long you staying? As opposed to ‘Hello Sir, welcome to Trinidad.’”
Bharath said a potential investor who recently travelled to Trinidad in a private jet, complained that he was detained for two and a half hours by Immigration.
“They came in on a flight on a private jet, interested at looking at the financial service sector. Their plan was to fly in overnight, have a meeting at 9 a.m. and leave at 12. It took them almost two and a half hours to clear out of Piarco. With all the work the Ministry of Trade has been doing, that one bad experience at the airport would turn that investor away,” he said.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said on Wednesday that Immigration officers may soon undergo a re-training exercise, following the deportation of 13 Jamaican nationals from Piarco International Airport last week.
Bharath said the ministry has also reduced the length of time it takes to register a business locally.
“We started looking at that and brought that down from 43 days to three days. So any of you wanting to set up a business in Trinidad and Tobago, you register your name and from date of registration right through to being granted approval by Board of Inland Revenue or National Insurance Board for your certificate to start trading is a maximum of three days,” he said.
Bharath said systems at local ports would also be improved to assist business owners.
“As you would have experienced, it takes 14 to 19 days to clear a container. Why? In other countries it does not even take half that time. We have ordered scanners, which are due to arrive in mid-December. This will allow us now to ensure that Customs no longer have to open and search the containers. They will be scanned as they come through the port,” he said.
Bharath said the new system would ensure that containers are cleared within three days.
He said Government had big plans for Couva, including the Children’s Hospital, re-opening of the Camden airstrip and widening of the Rivulet Road.

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