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‘Ready to be part of healthy disruptions’
Patricia Ghany, who has just been installed as the 15th President of the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AmCham TT), says she is humbled by the faith the board has placed in her to lead an dynamic organisation she says has a proud past and an exciting future.
As the second woman to head AmchamTT, she is determined to follow in the footsteps of the past presidents—Clyde Alleyne, Catherine Kumar, David Chaney, Nicholas Galt, Raymond Gatcliffe, Eugene Tiah, Simon Aqui, Hugh Howard, Ravi Suryadevara, and Mitchell De Silva—all of whom have provided strong leadership and gave generously of their time, expertise and wisdom.
Ghany, who is 53 but looks years younger, said: “Through their passion, dedication and commitment they skilfully charted AmCham’s course through multiple challenges, changing times and economic landscapes.”
Her journey with the organisation began 23 years ago, when her company, Esau Oilfield Supplies, was encouraged to become a member.
“When AmChamTT was formed in 1992, T&T had just come out of a bruising IMF structural adjustment programme. The economy had been significantly liberalised. Fiscal consolidation and structural reforms were being undertaken against a backdrop of social dislocation, global change and limited fiscal space for the government,” Ghany recalled.
“By the time I joined the organisation in 1995, the TT dollar had been floated, public finances had been stabilised, the decision to go into LNG had been cemented. In fact, Atlantic was incorporated in that year.
“But the economic recovery was neither complete nor secure. It was a confusing time, it was an exciting time and we knew our company had to build solid relationships not just to survive but thrive in the years to come. As part of that effort, we made a conscious business decision to join AmCham and have never looked back since.”
As the first port of call for any US or international company seeking to do business in this country, Ghany said AmChamTT provides the perfect environment in which to meet and collaborate with contemporaries, not just in the oil and gas, but along the value chain in almost every industry.
“We need only to look at our current board and the areas of expertise—ICT, banking and finance, local and international conglomerates, transportation and services,” she said.
An issue close to Ghany’s heart is gender parity, particularly diversity and gender balance, which are integral engines of innovation.
“If we are to champion broader and more inclusive representation at all levels of the private and public sectors, then we must lead by example,” she said.
AmChamTT, she pointed out, has a legacy of female leadership. In 1991 Sally Cowell, then US Ambassador to T&T, and Nisha Lau, then GM of FedEx, were the original architects who drew up plans for the organisation and together brought AmChamTT to life.
In 2000, Catherine Kumar, then chief operating officer of Algico, was elected the first female president.
In 2003, Ghany had the privilege of serving on the board while Kumar was president.
“Indeed, women have led the pack, with successive female executive directors, each of them infusing the organisation with various strengths and dynamism from 1993 to 2014,” she said.
“It’s interesting to note that it was only in 2014, we had our very first male CEO, Nirad Tewarie. It’s also worth mentioning that our highest level of female board participation peaked at 45 per cent during the period 2015 to 2016.”
Another area of focus for Ghany will be digital transformation.
“We have all become familiar with the now clichéd examples of Uber and Airbnb as disruptors of two long standing industries. We all need to embrace the digital transformation that’s going on if we are to survive, compete and grow. More than that, we need to be part of the healthy disruptions that are happening in the market.
“It can be quite a scary thought to think about the potential of technology to change our businesses and business models forever but we need to embrace reality.”
Ghany assured that AmChamTT’s member companies are well positioned to take advantage of rapid technological shifts that allow market share, clients, strategic alliances and partnerships to grow seamlessly, no matter the geographic position.
“To achieve these objectives, the board will be working closely with our digital transformation committee to develop strategies and provide insights for both the public and private sectors that can assist with digital transformation,” she said.
As the pathway to the Americas, she said, AmChamTT will continue to forge links with businesses across the Americas so other lucrative markets can be opened to member companies.
“No other chamber can provide the access, linkages and information that AmChamTT can as a result of membership and leadership in the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean, the network of the 24 AmChams in this hemisphere allied with the US Chamber of Commerce. We will continue to develop these links to provide value to our members,” Ghany said.
Another critical issue is competitiveness. The competition for investment dollars is intense at regional and international levels. Global markets are changing.
Tax reforms and shale oil and gas industries in the US are already having a disruptive effect on the structure of businesses in the hemisphere.
“And other countries are adapting and starting to thrive. Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada in this region are actively changing the structure of their economies and acting with a sense of purpose,” she said.
“The Dominican Republic has been one of the fastest growing economies in this hemisphere for near a decade. T&To, however, has lagged behind our counterparts.
“For us to be an attractive investment destination, we cannot continue to make internal plans and goals in isolation. We cannot continue to talk and not do. Rather, we must understand what the other countries in the region and in the world are doing in terms of tax incentives, fiscal and monetary policies, developing human capacity and improving regulatory environments,” she said.
Ghany, who takes over from outgoing president Mitchell De Silva, will serve a two-year term.
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