Paula Gopee-Scoon

Newly elected TTMA president Tricia Coosal, from left, Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, and her parents Sieunarine and Sintra Coosal.

—Photo: Jermaine Cruickshank

NEWLY elected Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) president Tricia Coosal says she wants to continue to strengthen the relationship between business organisations’ relationship with ports, the police service and Customs in order to improve the country’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.

“This will allow us to protect our local industry through the strengthening of our borders. Our manufacturers have invested time, human resources and expenditure to ensure goods attain a certain level of standard and certification. An unfair playing field is created when goods that do not meet those standards are allowed to enter our local market and compete with us. They also do not come with quality assurance and put a drain on our already strained foreign exchange.”

Coosal’s election as the TTMA’s 65th president was confirmed at its annual meeting at the Hyatt last Wednesday.

She succeeds Franka Costelloe as president, becoming the association’s third female president since its inception in 1956.

Coosal had served as Costelloe’s vice president for the past two years, and has been a director of the TTMA for the past four years, working on building the strength of the Association.

She noted that Costelloe has been a hardworking and results-oriented individual, who has left her stamp and indelible mark on the association.

EXIMBank support

Amid a foreign exchange crisis, through the EXIM- Bank Facility, 104 manufacturers benefited from a US$100 million injection from the start of the facility in 2020 to now.

Coosal said the association heard the manufacturers’ challenges in accessing foreign exchange and worked closely with the Ministry of Finance for them to be granted the US$100 million.

Coosal indicated that another injection of US$100 million is expected in 2021.

“From the start of the facility in 2020 to present, 104 companies have benefited from the EXIMBank Facility. Last year, there would have been an injection of US$100 million for 2020 and it has been indicated that another injection of US$100 million will be received in 2021 to the facility. For this year so far, just over US$18 million of the new US$100 million injection has been used,” she said.

Coosal is executive director of Finance and Administration at the Coosal’s Group of Companies, which manufactures concrete blocks and pavers, although it is better known for its quarries and roadworks.

In an interview with Express Business last Friday, she said taking up the post of TTMA president during a pandemic would have its challenges, as these are unchartered waters and has never been experienced in our lifetime.

“There is no map to assist us with chartering the course. We need to be creative and innovative. The pandemic has exacerbated already existing problems to manufacturers but we did a good job as a sector to stabilise in the remainder of 2020. I think my biggest challenge will be accelerating the export drive as we seek to double exports from TT3.6 billion at the end of 2019 to $7 billion by 2025.”

She outlined that her focus will be on supporting the small- and medium-size enterprise (SME) sector so that it does not further shrink and the TTMA will help those who are exporting to extend their reach into larger markets or by building capacity.

Coosal said: “We have worked closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to access funding under the Export Booster Initiative by employing the services of a consultant who has one main objective—to work toward growing exports in the country with the aim of doubling by the target date of 2025.”

In securing an enabled environment for the manufacturing sector, the TTMA president noted that the association is already on a Joint Customs Committee with other business groups to work and address the existing issues there.

“We are monitoring closely the Ease of Doing Business indices and hoping to reach out to the relevant agencies that feed into this, such as water and electricity, to name a few, and see how we can all work together to boost T&T’s ranking on that index. We are currently 105 out of 195 countries. If we can move our ranking in a positive direction, it will also have the ripple effect of attracting investments into the country.”

Covid impact

Speaking about the impact that the pandemic has had on the Coosal’s Group, she said thankfully they were able to respond to the shift in the economy, having been in existence for the last 70-plus years and having lived through recessions in the past.

“While the sudden lockdown was novel even to us, our focus continued to be on sustenance of our employees. Our employees are our greatest asset. Even at the TTMA, during the lockdown period we were in constant communication with our members and the Government to get the sector up and running. The TTMA secretariat hosted webinars to disseminate information on the Covid protocols and how they should be implemented in the workplace and how to deal with the new human resource challenges which this pandemic has brought with it.”

Coosal indicated that a similar approach must be followed with SMEs, in order to create an environment where they feel encouraged to expand on their skill sets while providing the necessary avenues for success.

FACT BOX

Tricia Coosal is an executive director of Finance and Administration at the Coosal’s Group of Companies which involves the management and execution of a wide range of economic aspects.

Her role in the 70-plus-year-old Coosal’s Group allows her to utilise her broad range of managerial skills, which are not only limited to finance and administration but extend to manufacturing, wholesale and retail.

She has been in the family business for ten years, managing and overseeing various departments including Finance, Audit, Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Information Technology, Security Management and Future Business Development.

Coosal attended St Augustine Girls’ High School as well as the International School of Port of Spain (ISPS).

She said attending SAGHS ensured she had the structured approach to schooling, more importantly building a lifetime connection and camaraderie with fellow SAGHS alumnae. ISPS allowed for a more holistic view and approach to education and was key element in preparing her for university studies.

Coosal then went on to study at the University of Miami and Nova South-eastern University (NOVA) in Florida.

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