Now or Never
March 7th, 2023
The service industry’s contribution to national GDP has been steadily falling since 2016, and our global competitiveness has been in flux for much of the same time. Vashti Guyadeen, CEO, Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Service Industries (TTCSI), believes that stronger mechanisms need to be put in place to mitigate this.
“Over the past year, according to official figures, the services sector has experienced stagnated growth. Production volumes are declining, and performance expectations were not delivered in relation to forecasts. In 2019, the services industry in Trinidad and Tobago contributed 53.4% of the value added to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This share has been decreasing since 2016, when the services sector represented 59.3% of the same,” Guyadeen notes.
Recognising that what gets measured gets managed, the TTCSI has been focusing on collecting and analysing trade-in-services data to support its members, as, according to Guyadeen, even these official figures are ‘not a true reflection of services.’
Our fluctuation in global competitiveness is also an area of concern for the organisation. Michael Porter, one of the world’s most influential thinkers on management and competitiveness, highlights that it is firms that compete in global markets, not nations. Guyadeen suggests that ‘robust’ annual research can enhance local firms’ competitiveness. “The National Services Exporters (NSE) Survey 2020 now fully equips the private sector, government stakeholders and policymakers with bespoke information to make data-driven decisions regarding the implementation of recommendations aimed at improving the competitiveness of the national services sector. The recommendations not only support the Government’s efforts to develop a diversified sustainable economy while supporting export-led growth of service industries but also support the wider regional services mandate,” Guyadeen adds.
The NSE survey pointed out that exporting has become much more difficult for these firms. “This is one of the reasons that drove us to develop this country’s first national #GoGlobalTTServices, the country’s national services export campaign designed to improve firm competencies and local export potential.”
The organisation acknowledges that ‘stronger political will, together with employing the right talent to lead the transformation of services in T&T, is what we need’. “We must make radical moves to ensure that the Caribbean region is a knowledge-based hub. This process entails revamping institutions that were traditionally geared to support the manufacturing sector,” the CEO adds.
There are immediate aspects that we must tackle with stronger political will.
“In a nutshell, we need to aggressively dismantle and remove bottlenecks to do business in T&T to start with. We then need to digitise the top 10 mandatory services for investors to do business in the country – urgently in one fiscal year. This will send a signal to global investors that we are serious about attracting and sustaining investments and business,” Guyadeen advises. “With respect to foreign exchange, we need to prioritise support to services exporters. Government can start with the most export-ready firms under TTCSI’s Gateway to Trade as well as UTC’s Scale UpTT and other export accelerator programmes.”
Will this all work in time as we witness regional partners also making aggressive moves in the global economy? Guyadeen is optimistic, “Our preliminary research indicates a positive outlook for business and professional services. However, vulnerable sectors continue to stagnate, and business closures are evident in tourism, yacht and marine services, and personal care services.”
The indicators suggest that it may be now or never.
by Kieran Khan