The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries is optimistic that a number of initiatives announced in the 2011-2012 Budget presentation will lead to improved economic conditions over the next 12 months.

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We are however, disappointed that the projected 2% growth for 2010-2011 has in fact turned into economic contraction. Moreover, we are concerned that initiatives announced last year have not materialized. We hope therefore that the Minister of Finance’s statement that “what was said last year, will be done this year,” will prove to be accurate.

One of the major issues that the TTCSI was hoping the budget would address was the issue of confidence in the stability and potential for growth of the economy. In this regard, we welcome the news that inflation has fallen to its lowest point in several years. We also welcome news that VAT refunds are being processed more expeditiously. One of the most positive aspects in the budget from our perspective, is the attempt to widen the local stock market. We urge the government to continue this and to find mechanisms to ensure local participation by way of investment in the energy sector.

The focus on improving public sector efficiency and the imminent expansion of ICT infrastructure as a means to expanding business activity and increasing competitiveness are both welcome. After years of hearing of these objectives however, the TTCSI would like to see concrete action in both areas. The development of the creative industries is a key area of focus for TTCSI and we welcome the emphasis on this sector in the budget.

The TTCSI is also very encouraged by the efforts toward greater collaboration between public and private sectors as well as academic institutions. We believe that greater collaboration and a collective approach to the way forward will be a key factor in returning to positive national economic growth.

Though other announcements regarding improving access to financing require further review, we applaud the government for recognizing that access to affordable financing, particularly in the services sector is critical for economic expansion and development.

We also note the high number of services sectors identified during the budget presentation and take this opportunity to emphasise that effective diversification of the economy will require a greater emphasis on the services sector and individual services industries. This will require a greater appreciation of the differences between services businesses and those in the manufacturing sector.

We acknowledge that the economic climate is very uncertain and that a fine line has to be walked between fiscal responsibility and the need for economic stimulus and social spending. However, we believe that clear timelines must be set for a return to balanced budgets.

The TTCSI and its 39 member association, representing more than 75% of the services sector, stand ready to work with the government on sustainable, inclusive economic growth, economic diversification and export development.