Thursday, 29 January 2009

Looking Back at a Successful Year - The Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Whilst writing the Annual Report for the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACOCI) I was struck by the number of different areas the Chamber has been involved in on island in 2008.  

Below is an extract from the Annual Report:

The Chamber's Active Year

At Home...

2008, the year that The Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACOCI) was proud to have been selected to join the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States' (OECS) Private Sector Forum, was characterised by continued activity on island, designed to assist the Anguillian business community.

The goal of the OECS Private Sector Forum is to be a development-networking forum, which researches, identifies resources and exchanges ideas about the role of private enterprise in an attempt to enhance economic competitiveness.  'Being selected to join the Forum is an important achievement for the Chamber of Commerce,' said a delighted Calvin Bartlett, ACOCI Executive Director, at the time. 

In addition to this the Chamber has been busy in other areas.

Officials from UK Customs and Excise and the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council wee on Anguilla to review Customs and Excise Operation on Anguilla.  They specifically asked to speak to the Chamber as part of their review.

Danny Pedley, Operations Team Leader, when asked why the team particularly wanted to speak to the Chamber of Commerce, explained, 'Over the years the Customs business has changed dramatically in the way it approaches how it delivers the service to the public.  At one time customer service tended to operate autonomously and without reference to its main customer base, which was trade.  That thinking has moved on, certainly in the last ten years, to the point now where effective dialogue between Customs and the Commercial Sector is an integral part of the way customs internationally does its business. If Customs aren't sensitised to the needs of the trade they cannot get their delivery systems working perfectly.

'We are here as a Review Team looking at, and working with, the Customs and Management in Anguilla, as it works through a transition process which includes changes in management, changes in structure and also, the introduction of some automated systems.  Part of our review is about looking at who are the key stakeholders that must be consulted, so that when customs worked through its transition process it's able to do so and come out at the other end as en effective organisation which complements the working of trade.'

ACOCI's first information meeting took place in May.  Members turned out to hear speakers outlining how the National Health Fund would affect them and to hear about the emergency medical transportation service offered by MASA (Medical Air Services Association).

Ms Gercheal Richardson-Gumbs outlined a National Health Fund which aimed to benefit all equitably in providing health care for life.  All family members would be covered for one small contribution.  'The object of the national health fund,' she said, 'is ensuring that all Anguillians and residents have access to good quality health care when they need it and in an equitable manner.'

Aaron W Mitchell, Director of Eastern Regional MASA outlined the services his company could provide.  He pointed out that since 1974, when MASA invented the industry, the company had grown to 12 international offices and 800,000 members worldwide.  In the last year MASA had facilitated 600 medical evacuations in the Caribbean. 'When something happens and someone needs to be flown out, we don't panic, it is something we do every day,' he said.

In July the Chamber hosted a General Meeting and Forum.  Members of the public were able to ask panel members, department heads of public services, questions on areas of concern.  This well attended meeting produced questions on such topics as sand mining, the preservation of older homes, beach access, the issue of stray or dead animals on the roads, condoms on the beaches, gastroenteritis among the population, rubbish burning, arming of the police, rudeness of immigration staff and the costs of rental property.  

ACOCI hosted a media luncheon in October to inform the public of its activities throughout the year and to highlight the forthcoming Caribbean Home Expo and the Business After Hours Initiative at La Sirena hotel.  This event also spotlighted the fact that ACOCI had facilitated Anguillian businesses to travel, all expenses paid, to attend the 11th Annual Americas Food and Beverages Show.  

The Business After Hours initiative, a networking event designed to provide Chamber members with business to business opportunities, featured a presentation by Niguel Streete, Director of Anguilla's Financial Services Commission.  He spoke on the Financial Action Task Force, combating money laundering, terrorist financing and managing risks.

ACOCI, with the Anguilla Hotel and Tourist Association, in the first collaboration of its kind, hosted a Renewable Energy Forum in December. Members of the public were invited to hear about the ever-growing problem of energy and proposed solutions for Anguilla, from a panel of three members of the Energy Committee.   

As you can see, the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry was involved in a varied spread of activities on behalf of the business community.  With the global financial problems looking to worsen in 2009, it remains to be seen how the Chamber will fare in the coming year. The workshops on Business Planning by Morton Patterson, Business Consultant, which take place today at the Paradise Cove hotel give some indication of the way that the Chamber plans to continue to assist Anguilla's businesses through this most difficult of times.  It will be interesting to read of the Chamber's activities this time next year.

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