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Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon.

T&T will be re-assessed soon by the Doing Business arm of the World Bank to determine if the country has seen improvement in the Ease of Doing Business indicators.

This was revealed by the Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon at a media press briefing yesterday.

Gopee-Scoon said, “Through the Single Electronic Window, we have been focusing on e-business (to call it that), and dealing with the 10 indicators on the doing business report, which we are measured by; and we are going to be measured pretty soon.”

As Gopee-Scoon addressed the country’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index, she noted, “We’re not in a good place, and we’ve said that before.” The minister emphasised she has told the public before that T&T being ranked 105 out of 190 countries is not good enough.

However, the minister remarked that progress has been made with regard to DevelopTT, the country’s online portal that can be used to acquire development permits.

Gopee-Scoon explained that the ministry is pleased about the gains made on the platform. She noted that the country has transitioned from taking 270 days to 38 days to get a permit.

Although, the minister observed that this pertains to an uncomplicated request, she described the achievement of drastically minimising the days it takes to receive a construction permit as within the global standards.

The Ease of Doing Business Report measures and tracks changes in regulations affecting 12 areas in the life cycle of a business, ten of which are included in the ranking. These include: trading across borders; starting a business; dealing with construction permits; registering property; getting credit; resolving insolvency; paying taxes; protecting minority investors; enforcing contracts; and getting electricity.

Based on a government document called, Update On Improving the Ease of Doing Business in T&T—May 2020, of which Guardian Media (GML) has a copy, the country has not only improved with respect to dealing with construction permits, but it has also shown improvement in trading across borders.

Trading across borders has been improved through the implementation of container scanners.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Investment: “In November 2019, the GORTT commissioned x-ray cargo scanners at the Port of Port-of- Spain and the Port of Point Lisas.”

It continued: “The installation of these scanners has enabled faster Customs clearance and inspections since containers can be scanned at a much faster rate instead of being subject to traditional physical unstuffing and inspection.”

Other implementations made by the Government that would improve the Ease of Doing Business in the country are the online payment for WASA bills, online applications for birth, death and marriage certificates and the digitisation of land registry records.

Nonetheless, the Trade Minister articulated that T&T has to move further than the aforementioned accomplishment.

Gopee-Scoon highlighted that the country should move from e-business to e-government because, “that’s what the population wants.”

She added that the ministry is looking into several reforms for business.

“We’re looking, for instance, at e-payments for business but, across Government as well.”

She revealed that the ministry is probing the ability to have connectivity between all of the ports, the Single Electronic Window and Customs so that the country can have interoperability among all the connected Government agencies. (The Single Electronic Window system enables a single electronic submission of trade-related documents to multiple Government entities.)

According to the Trade Minister, T&T has to create a digital economy. She also remarked that the Road Map to Recovery Committee is also having discussions on the creation of a digital economy.

Gopee-Scoon acknowledged that COVID-19 had a deleterious effect on the nation’s economy and diversification is important.

The Minister said before there were talks about diversification, T&T was always an energy province and it “will remain an energy province”.

She noted that while there are sectors that can contribute to the diversification effort—the energy sector would always remain important.