What Trinidad and Tobago's most disruptive Olympics says about FDI

Posted by Investt

Trinidad and Tobago’s medal haul at the London Olympics—one gold, three bronze—reminded me of the sheer potential for domestic investment, notwithstanding we’re a tiny country of 1.3 million.

Mr. Mahabir, President of invesTT, speaks on partnering opportunities
Mr. Mahabir, President of invesTT

Hailing from the remote village of Toco in northeast Trinidad, with its rural, virgin coastline, Keshorn Walcott, 19, stunned the world’s best, including Norway's two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen, to take the gold medal in the men’s javelin with a throw of 84.58m. It was our country's second gold medal ever and the first in a field event.

Nearly everyone I talk to refers to London as our best-ever Olympics. They’re right, of course, but I saw it in a different light: I think it was our most disruptive Olympics yet.

To put it in perspective, Europeans dominated men’s javelin from 1908 to 2008, coming out on top in 22 of 23 contests. American Cy Young won gold in 1952 at age 24, so for the first gold medalist from the Caribbean, who is also the youngest javelin gold medalist in Olympic history, it took 104 years to dislodge the incumbent. Now add the fact that our tiny nation had 12 athletes in the top 8 of their respective disciplines and you can see my point.

For me, the parallels to FDI are too hard to ignore. If Keshorn’s feat got me thinking about brand Trinidad and Tobago’s potential to take on the incumbents, Grenada’s Kirani James, who won his country’s first gold in the men’s 400m, and the exploits of Jamaica’s sprinters led by Usain Bolt, gave it an even wider Caribbean context.

The fact is, the region is brimming with talent, innovation and creativity in sports, in culture, in business. There are ample opportunities to exploit in this space if business leaders have the courage to be as disruptive as Olympians when they sit down to consider foreign investment.

I can say with certainty that there are significant opportunities here in Trinidad and Tobago in ICT, in renewable energy and manufacturing, and in creative and maritime industries.

My remarks at the launch of Caribbean Investment Forum in May, that 2012 will be the watershed year for a new flow of investment in Trinidad and Tobago, signals our renewed efforts to make the shift. This is based on our significant advantages for businesses in the targeted sectors,  together with a well-structured incentive program . We’re adding to our strengths the specific training needed to make us the best in the world.

Our tax-friendly environment is ideal for businesses who are looking to be disruptive.

We have the lowest energy costs in the region; our strategic location in the south provides ready market access to Latin America; our oil and gas help finance quality infrastructure and an educated workforce.

What Keshorn accomplished in one of the most difficult Olympic field events, reminded me that we have to adopt new ways of thinking about FDI given the persistent global economic downturn. To me, disruptive is a good thing. What do you think?

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