[Aranguez, 31 May 2023] – The Employers’ Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago, the largest Association of employers in Trinidad and Tobago, is pleased to announce the release of its research report, Perspectives on Business Resilience in Trinidad and Tobago.

The report, the first of its kind for T&T, provides valuable insights into business resilience trends and challenges faced by businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, with several related recommendations for policies and interventions at the national and organizational levels.

The research report and policy proposals were launched via a virtual event held on Wednesday, 24th May, which brought together officials from various sectors of society, including various Government Ministries, state agencies such as the Central Bank, ODPM, and business leaders. The research exercise, which was a collaborative effort between the ECA and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, was developed between March and October 2022 with the conduct of a membership survey together with in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and institutions.

In his welcome remarks, CEO of the ECA, Ronald Ramlogan explained that “Given the issues and impacts we have all faced since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECA felt that this research exercise was an important one as we continue to work towards building back better while preparing for any future eventualities as businesses, and as a nation.”

Ramlogan further emphasised that “…resilient businesses are not just about securing the interests of the organisation or its employees, but as part of a national community, there are also benefits to Trinidad and Tobago. When we have disasters and disruptors in the business space there are also shocks and consequences at the national level. We live here, we have progeny, so I am certain we would want to ensure that we are able to secure our businesses, but also our individual and collective futures.”

He further encouraged participants to consider the results and recommendations and to take a collaborative approach in developing or implementing any policies, initiatives or interventions.

Speaking on behalf of the ILO’s Caribbean Office, Senior Specialist for Employers’ Activities, Maria Victoria Giulietti, noted, “resilience is not only the domain of enterprises, but also a shared responsibility between governments, communities, businesses and individuals. Companies play a fundamental role in supporting the resilience of a nation. They provide services, expertise, resources and many essential services on which communities depend”. She urged participants to consider that, “multiple studies show that risk informed investment and precautions are more cost effective than response and recovery. Other research stress the importance of going beyond business continuity management highlighting the role of networks in preparing for and responding to disasters ultimately leading to greater small and medium enterprise resilience.”

Key Findings and Takeaways

Over nineteen (19) sectors were surveyed for this study, with the most representation from Manufacturing and Distribution (15.3%), Energy, Oil & Gas, and Petrochemicals (13.6%), Financial and Insurance activities (11.9%) and Professional Services (10.2%), Health Services (6.8%), Accommodation and Food Services (5.1%), and Real Estate/Property Management (5.1%).

The report revealed that while there are a multitude of risks and hazards affecting local MSMEs, most of the challenges focused on three (3) main areas:

1. Operational resilience – Factors such as finance, human resources and supply chain issues

2. Organizational resilience – Linked to the changing operating environment and the adjustments required by businesses, and,

3. Technology resilience – As technology adoption increases in many businesses, many are seeking ways to deal with these advances and the related risks, such as cyber-attacks.

Specific challenges identified by respondents related to the residual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, utility breakdowns/outages, workplace accidents, flooding and other extreme precipitation events, and a growing concern surrounding ransomware and other cyber-attacks. Corruption and crime also featured as hazards for businesses. However, just over 59% of respondents felt that the business community was not well prepared to face these hazards in terms of the development and implementation of business resilience and business continuity plans and strategies The main challenges identified clustered around:

  • Lack of skills and know-how regarding risk management and business continuity;
  • Scarce financial resources to allocate to development, implementation and sustainability of their business continuity plan, as well as limited access to contingency funds to finance recovery activities;
  • Lack of awareness of risks and particularly, their potential impact on the business; and
  • Inadequate incentives specifically geared toward addressing business resilience.

The main takeaways from this study highlighted that oftentimes, though not always, public sector entities operated in silos. Existing MSME government frameworks does not include a focus on business resilience, with no or limited coordination among various government agencies geared towards mainstreaming business resilience in their policies and programmes.

The report also found that there was definite scope for financial institutions to place more emphasis on engaging businesses, particularly MSMEs, to build financial resilience, as well as a need to create more institutional linkages with technical education vis-à-vis training in business resilience, ultimately improving the dearth of recovery planning professionals to satisfy manpower requirements in the country in the near-term.

Policy Recommendations

In response to these findings, seven (7) critical recommendations were proffered, which clustered around:

1. Developing a unified MSME policy framework at the national level which includes a focus on business resilience.

2. Enhancing the role and function of Government entities to take the lead in strengthening the nation’s business resilience among MSMEs.

3. Scaling the provision of business resilience advisory services to MSMEs.

4. Enhancing the role and function of NEDCO and other financial institutions in promoting business resilience among MSMEs.

5. Increasing the quantum of business resilience professionals nationally and within organisations?

6. Enhancing the community outreach of existing business resilience training courses offered by the ECA.

7. Scaling up awareness and sensitisation efforts on the benefits of investing in business resilience.

Overview of the Research Goals

This study was guided by the overarching goal of gathering evidence and perspectives from stakeholders for the purpose of identifying business resilience trends and policy priorities for businesses, but particularly MSMEs. As such, various objectives for this study included finding information related to not only business resilience trends and policy priorities but also increasing institutional capacity through business resilience training. Two key documents were developed as an outcome of this study, which include a research report examining findings related to business resilience practices and strategies in Trinidad and Tobago as well as a complimentary policy proposal report.

Role of the ECA in Fostering a Business Resilience Ecosystem

Guided by these findings and policy recommendations, the ECA notes there is a dire need for institutional linkages to promote business resilience among businesses, and particularly MSMEs. We recognize there is also a need to deepen engagement with the business community and other relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, we also note with great concern the existing disconnect between formal systems of learning in preparing future professionals with the skills necessary for managing crises and disruptors.

Through its Sustainable and Resilient Enterprise (SURE) training programme, which was developed by the ILO and offered exclusively by the ECA, the ECA is one of the only institutions in Trinidad and Tobago to offer such a comprehensive business resilience training intervention with a focus on various core business systems and processes.

As such the ECA is well poised to be that institutional bridge between businesses, educational institutions, and other business associations in providing the training capacity that is needed to produce competent business resilience professionals. The report also recognized that several government and state agencies are strategically exploring business resilience frameworks. In this regard, the ECA remains committed to supporting institutional development especially through partnership with private, public and academic entities to provide business resilience training, policies and tools that are fit for purpose and relevant to the current and future needs of businesses.

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