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Budget for Creation? – A 2023 Budget Analysis

Ryan J. Assiu.jpeg

Ryan Assiu is a sustainable development and climate change specialist by qualification, project manager by experience, and educator by passion. He is currently the Principal Environmental Consultant at Advisors Next Door Limited, a Trinidad-based sustainability and financial consulting firm that supports Caribbean governments and companies. His writings focus on his experiences and knowledge on various environmental topics relevant to Small Island Developing States.

Catholic News, 30th September 2023 - Each year from September 1 to October 4, we Catholics observe the Season of Creation in which we unite in prayer and action to protect our common home – the planet – and all who share it. The 2022 theme is Listen to the voice of Creation.

We centred our prayer on the cries of the Earth ravaged by environmental degradation, resource overexploitation, pollution, and climate change. We also respond to the cries of the poor, marginalised and most vulnerable communities whose lives and livelihoods are lost.

Pope Francis once said, “prayer that does not lead to concrete action is fruitless and incomplete…[they] should never be separated but lived in profound unity and harmony”.

Thus, as the honourable Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, read the 2023 budget on September 26 amidst this special season, I keenly listened for measures that aimed to address the threats to creation, protect the vulnerable, and empower us – as a Catholic community – to act. I was not disappointed.

Creation-centred measures

Themed Tenacity and Stability in the Face of Global Challenges, the 2023 budget threads this line with a mix of measures that tries to appease both the cries of the vulnerable as well as the Earth.

Pollution Control, Overexploitation and Ecosystem Loss

These measures aim to address illegal activities that threaten environmental health.

· Penalty for illegal timbering on State Lands increased to $100,000 from January 1,


· Penalty for oil pollution increased to $100,000 from January 1, 2023.

· Amendments to law to allow the State to levy on, seize and forfeit equipment

  found at illegal quarry sites.

Agriculture and Food Security

These measures aim to enhance food security and sustainable investments into the sector.

· $3 million allocated to marketing and awareness campaigns, training of staff and purchasing of materials to address Morgue Locusts

  and the Giant African Snail.

· Grant funding facility of 75 per cent up to $340,000 to producers of alternatives to wheat flour.

· Up to $25,000 rebate for implementing renewable energy in approved agricultural holdings from January 1, 2023.


Renewable Energy and Energy Transition

These measures provide incentives and disincentives to fossil fuels.

· No VAT on new equipment for manufacturing companies using alternative energy sources such as biomass, wind, solar or water

  for 1 year, January 1 to December 31, 2023.

· Prices of premium and super gasoline, and kerosene increased by $1 per litre, and diesel by 50 cents per litre.


Social Safety for Individuals

These measures help provide home, education, and financial security to the most vulnerable.

· 2,563 HDC homes under construction for low- and middle-income citizens.

· All recipients of social grants to receive a one-time transportation grant of $1,000 in 2023.

· Personal income-tax allowance exemption limit raised to $7,500 per month from January 1, 2023.

· Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) standards relaxed to allow those who previously accessed funding for diplomas,

  associate degrees or lower TVET level to pursue baccalaureate level degrees.

· Apprenticeship allowances to NTA-registered companies that hire persons 16 – 25 years old in short-term capacities for all remuneration

  paid up to 5 per cent of company’s total wages for one year starting on January 1, 2023.


Entrepreneurship and Business development

· Approved small companies exempted from Corporation Taxation for six years from January 1, 2023.

· VAT registration threshold increased from $500,000 to $600,000 from January 1, 2023.

· Tax amnesty for small businesses up to the year ending 31st of December 2021 from the November 14, 2022, to February 17, 2023.

· One-time Manufacturing Tax credit up to $50,000 for companies investing in new machinery, product lines and equipment from

  January 1, 2023.


Trinidad and Tobago’s tight rope

Within the budget presentation were also incentives to continue oil and gas exploration, stimulate government construction, and encourage the digitisation and financial sector growth.

This may seem antithetical to Creation because the fossil fuel extraction and use are responsible for 90 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. These pollutants drive global climate change, which manifests locally in warmer temperatures, more extreme rainfall, increased flooding, and greater agricultural pest prevalence.

However, oil and gas sector contribute the most to our gross domestic product (GDP), at about 30 per cent. As such, investing in the sector is an unavoidable necessity if we are to balance the country’s short-term fiscal needs against long-term sustainable development.

This is especially important because in recent times external shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic and declining global energy prices have led to country’s spending more than they earn.

At the onset of the pandemic, Trinidad and Tobago’s debt-to-GDP stood at 80 per cent. This means that for every dollar we earn as a country, 80 cents must go to repayment. The little that remains must be shared between meeting the needs of this generation and invested into future generations.


The message to Catholics

Through a Season of Creation lens, the key message of the 2023 budget is that we must support a low emission economy by pioneering sustainable enterprises in agriculture, manufacturing, and digitisation.

For example: setting up a renewable-energy powered Agri-processing operation to develop root-crop flour allows one access to over $400,000 in grant funding and tax rebates, with added tax breaks and reimbursement on machinery and labour.

Youth entrepreneurship in agriculture is strongly encouraged, as most measures also complement two recently launched programmes mentioned in the 2023 budget: the Youth Agricultural Homestead Programme which provides young nationals with land as well as financial and technical support for entrepreneurial efforts; and the Youth Agriculture Shade House Project that provides one-year of specialised training on intensive, small-area farming for high yield.

To those uninspired by business or agriculture, the Creation message is more subtle: adjust your transportation habits toward zero emission vehicles. The fuel subsidy has been reduced across four successive budgets in a complementary effort to measures implemented in 2021 and 2022 that remove taxes on hybrid- and fully electric vehicles.


Advisors Next Door
supports Rotaract
in mangrove restoration

San Fernando,30th April 2022 - With corporate T&T’s support, two south Rotaract Clubs removed 130 bags of garbage from the Cipero Wetlands in the first phase of their Mangrove Restoration Project. 

Nestled behind Soogrim Trace, Gulf View fifteen hectares of estuarine mangroves adorn the intersection of the Cipero River and the Caribbean Sea. This natural jewel provides aesthetic beauty to the neighborhood and environmental services to the wider country such as flood prevention, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitation. However, over the years there has been an observed decline in the mangrove’s quality and coverage which has prompted the Rotaract Clubs of San Fernando and San Fernando-South to act. 


Volunteers from the weekend's Cipero Mangrove Clean up with 130 bags of garbage collected from the Cipero Mangrove.


Dr Khan (AND) and Assistant District Representative, Crystal Mohammed at the Clean-up Event.

Assistant District Rotaract Representative, Crystal Mohammed explains, “In 2020, Rotary Foundation Trustees and Rotary International Board of Directors added ‘supporting the environment’ as the seventh Area of Focus for all Clubs recognizing its importance in creating a just, sustainable, and healthy future for all. Although the Cipero wetlands are among the smallest in the country, it is the closest to home for these two Clubs. We must act locally while thinking globally. We hope to increase mangrove numbers in the area as part of Rotaract’s fight against climate change. Cleaning-up is just the first step.” 

The multi-phase project includes routine mangrove cleaning, soil, and water quality assessments to determine the causes of mangrove losses, and then potentially seedling transplanting. Mohammed continues, “We are undertaking the project in phases based on the availability of funds and partnerships. We deeply appreciate our partners, Advisors Next Door Limited, REPSOL Ltd. and Central Equipment Rentals Limited (CERL) for enabling this first phase, along with the guidance of the LEDO Officer from the San Fernando City Corporation, Mr. John Kissun, who would have worked closely with us from planning to execution. It is our hope to work closely with both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders for the second phase, which requires technical expertise that we do not have.”

This initial phase was sponsored by REPSOL Ltd, with in-kind contributions provided by CERL and Advisors. The garbage which totaled 130 bags of litter, old tires and discarded appliances was moved at no-cost by CERL. Advisors Next Door provided technical and promotional support to the Clubs. 

Kerresha Khan, PhD. in Environmental Biology attached to Advisors Next Door Ltd spent the morning cleaning the wetlands alongside the Rotaractors. Asked about the causes of mangrove loss and the solution, she replied: “Human activity negatively impacts the mangrove. Studies by the IMA indicate that housing encroachment and pollution are the major impacts to this system. While there is a lot of physical pollution that comes downstream and accumulates here, there are also chemical pollutants invisible to the eye. The root cause of the loss needs to be better understood before an appropriate long-term restoration strategy can be identified. In the near term, clean-up efforts like this help improve the mangrove’s overall health and resilience.”

Over thirty volunteers attended the two-hour clean up, including students from the Interact Club of San Fernando Central Secondary and the wider public. “I am really pleased with the turn-out, and all that we achieved in this brief time. For me, this collaboration between our two Clubs, Interactors, and different companies has been an enormous success” said Celina Baldeo, President of the Rotaract Club of San Fernando-South. 


Volunteers in Action.

President of Rotaract San Fernando, Jerdiah Boodoo, said that while he was proud of the fellowship, it was a heart-breaking experience to see how human actions were affecting nature. He urged all to be mindful of where their waste goes and to not litter.

Principal Environmental Consultant of Advisors Next Door, Ryan Assiu, encouraged more youth to get involved in environmental volunteerism. "Maintaining the health of our wetland systems is an important element in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of inaction will be felt by today's youth and their children in the years to come. Opportunities like this empower them to act so we must support them whenever we can.", Assiu said.

Individuals and companies wishing to support this, and similar projects undertaken by the Rotaract Clubs are encouraged to connect with them via social media or contact Advisors Next Door Limited.

[This Media Release was adapted in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian on 4th of May 2022 "Rotaract Clubs Remove 130 bags of Garbage from Cipero Wetlands". The event was also covered by the Trinidad Newsday on 3rd of May 2022, "Rotaract Youths Engage in Mangrove Rehab". We thank Kalain Hosein and Yvonne Web for bringing national attention to this event.]

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Ms. Jennifer Massiah, National Director of Habitat TT, and Mr. Ryan Assiu, Director of Advisors Next Door, sign MOU instruments.

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Ms. Jennifer Massiah, National Director of Habitat TT, and Mr. Ryan Assiu, Director of Advisors Next Door, exchange MOU instruments.

Advisors Next Door and Habitat for Humanity Trinidad and Tobago team up to make Trinidad and Tobago more Climate Resilient

El Socorro, 29th September 2021 - Advisors Next Door Ltd. has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Trinidad and Tobago through a Memorandum of Understanding, to undertake climate change adaptation and resilience projects across the country.


Advisors Next Door, a consulting firm specializing in environmental and financial services, met on Monday September 27 with reputable NGO, Habitat TT, to sign the agreement. The MOU sets a collaborative framework for both organizations to undertake community-based projects aimed at identifying vulnerabilities, reducing disaster risk, and building adaptive capacity. 


Addressing the gathering at the signing ceremony, Habitat TT’s National Director Jennifer Massiah said: “We strongly believe partnership and collaboration are central to achieving sustainable development and long-lasting positive transformations. This strategic alliance strengthens our efforts to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter by augmenting our technical expertise in environmental policy and planning. The effects of climate change threaten to erode our progress in supporting marginalized and vulnerable communities. So, moving forward, we must ensure that all of our work continues to be aligned with national and international frameworks for addressing climate change and its impacts.” 


As the exchange of instruments was in progress, there were news reports of South Trinidad experiencing blistering temperatures of over 33oC, while isolated thunderstorms in North Trinidad brought hail showers and flooding. 


Speaking directly to the partnership, in the context of these unfolding events, Ryan

Assiu, Director at Advisors Next Door Limited said: “Climate change is like a magnifying glass on social inequities; it amplifies existing stressors in marginalized communities and deepens the struggle of those facing poverty, food insecurity or insecure housing. It is in this context that Advisors is thrilled to partner with Habitat TT. Supporting civil society is a core tenet of our environmental and social governance programme, so we will work with Habitat TT to establish climate-smart housing and help communities manage disaster risk,” 


Advisors Next Door Ltd. is currently providing technical support to Habitat TT on the project “Accelerating the Essentials and Making Port of Spain a Resilient City” funded by US AID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance. The project aims to advance local commitment and capacity towards disaster risk reduction. Through this MOU, Advisors Next Door Ltd. will continue to provide support for this and similar projects with Habitat TT over the next five years.


Advisors Next Door Champions
Model LGBTI+
Workplace Policy for
Trinidad and Tobago

In 2018, the Honourable Justice Devindra Rampersad delivered a land-mark High Court ruling to make 'null and void' the clauses of Trinidad and Tobago's Sexual Offenses Act Chap. 11:28 that made illegal consensual sex between same-sex adults. He wrote:

1625055738950.jpeg is unfortunate when society in any way values a person or gives a person their identity based on their race, colour, gender, age or sexual orientation. That is not their identity. That is not their soul. That is not the sum total of their value to society or their value to themselves.

This ruling cemented the individual's inalienable right to dignity afforded under the Constitution, and the importance of removing prejudice in society against the LGBTI+ Community. Decriminalizing was the first step. The next is to ensure that dignity is supported in our communities, schools and places of work. Advisors Next Door (AND) is proud to be a champion of workplace mainstreaming.

CAISO: Sex and Gender JusticeBritish High CommissionOpen for Business, and Trinidad and Tobago Equal Opportunity Commission has crafted a Model LGBTI+ Workplace Policy for Trinidad and Tobago. The workplace is necessary place for mainstreaming LGBTI+ inclusion because the average person spends 1/3 of their life at work. Individuals who face discrimination at work are more mentally burdened, less creative, and disconnected from organizational goals. This has compound effects to business function. Workplaces that have strong inclusion tend to have higher employee retention, improved morale, better teamwork, and increased outputs. Considering this, the AND Board of Directors has reviewed and accepted the Model LGBTI+ Workplace Policy as of June 18th, 2021.

At Advisors Next Door, we believe in walking the talk; that our policies must clearly translate into action. This is why we promote Core Behaviours instead of the typical Core Values. So, in adopting this new policy we have also followed up with four (4) clear actions to mainstream action.



Our culture as a company is a collection of our repeated behaviours. It is the way we treat each other, our clients, and our stakeholders. Instead of listing our values and hoping that our Advisors Next Door team adopts behaviours that match, we have chosen to make perfectly clear the essential actions we wish all to follow. Concurrent the Board of Director's approval of the policy, a sixth Core Behaviour on cultivating inclusion was approved. This forms the guiding ethos for all of our staff, Associates and teammates to act while under the AND banner.



On Monday 21st June, 2021, the Management and staff of Advisors Next Door had a virtual workshop via Mural to explore the challenges faced LGBTI+ persons at the workplace, the need for gender inclusivity, and specific ways in which the company can be made more respectful and welcoming to all. This bottom-up approach yielded ideas aligned with the Model Policy, as well as novel organization specific approaches. Additionally, it fostered a deeper appreciation, awareness and unity in mainstreaming LGBTI+ unity.


Emerging from the workshop, the inclusion of pronouns in email signatures was seen as a simple and effective way to increase our inclusion of LGBTI+ persons. Gendered pronouns are an issue of significant importance especially among persons in gender transition and an area in which there may be great discomfort and ridicule. At AND we make it clear that we accept your pronouns - no questions asked - and encourage our employees to openly share and respect how we like to be addressed. For those whose gender align with their biological sex, this effort has no consequence, but it can make a meaningful difference to those whose gender does not.



We are committed to leading by example to ensure that all persons in Trinidad and Tobago are treated equally and with dignity. The organization is proud to be an Early Adopter Champion of this LGBTI+ Workplace Policy alongside companies such as The ANSA MCAL Group of Companies, deSiu Masks, and Republic Bank Ltd. Through our network we have encouraged others to join in as Allies to the LGBTI+ community and will continue to do so moving forward.

AND represented at the public launch of the LBGTI+ Model Workplace Policy via Zoom on June 30th, 2021.

If you are interested in learning the LGBTI+ Workplace policy please reach out to CAISO: Sex and Gender Justice, find out what you can do, and join the cause! We are also happy to share our experiences in mainstreaming gender at our workplace and to help you do the same.

What do you think? We'd love to hear from you. Please comment and engage us in discussion.

Rishard Khan is a Sustainability Specialist at heart, currently navigating the environmental landscape as a Technical Assistant at Advisors Next Door. His experience and passions have taken him to different parts of the world for Marine Biology, Outreach, Education, and Research. Though his journey to find himself has taken him far, he finds himself drawn to working with people, and aims to reach them through his work and writing for the field of Sustainability. Follow his LinkedIn @ Rishard Khan | LinkedIn


Early Adopter Champions (June 30, 2021).

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