Sean Nero

This country exported services valued at US$5.8 billion in 2011, Richard Young, chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB), said. Fashion ranked highest of the services on offer when compared to commercial sector which includes financial, medial and professional services, as well as ICT, education and the creative industries.

“The services sector is the largest sector in T&T, employing about 80 per cent of the workforce, while contributing on average TT$43 billion, annually to GDP. Services itself is highly diverse, covering business services, construction, transport, communications, financials, tourism/travel and government operations. These figures should give you an idea of the export potential of the services sector in T&T,” he said.

Young added: “Towards this end, the EDB in collaboration with the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation (CCI), prepared four reports focused on improving the level of non-energy exports.” He said the reports have been handed over to ExporTT for implementation and have also been shared with the Ministry of Trade.

Young said the EDB will embark on an aggressive course of action that will provide for the economic viability and sustainability of the local economy. Success in diversification, he said, will finally move T&T beyond the energy sector, since that oil and gas reserves are expected to last another two decades if sustainable discoveries are not made soon.

“This is very serious given that 80 per cent of our export earnings come from the energy sector and contributes to over 40 per cent to this country’s GDP. Therefore, the establishment of the EDB is important in both its advisory capacity and strategic co-ordinating role in achieving Government’s diversification strategy.

“We cannot make a bet on further finds. Moreover, a truly sustainable economy is built on a number of successful industries. The onus is how to use our energy revenue to create a truly diversified economy. “Towards this end, one of EDB’s goals is to identify new areas of investment within the National Diversification Strategy and to support local and foreign investors in both the manufacturing and services sector,” said Young.

The EDB was mandated to develop five growth poles but in seven industrial clusters diversification would not be geographical but sectorial too, Young said. The areas for development are financial services, tourism, food security, energy, culture and creative industries, maritime and information and communications technology. “Expanding into services should provide a strong diversification thrust away from oil and gas,” Young said.

“Success stories such as the case of Costa Rica, which has diversified away from eco-tourism into ICT, is proof that diversification through services can work.” He added: “Any country attempting to drive its economy into global competitiveness tends to look towards ICT in terms of creating software applications, outsourcing or data storage.”