The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) would like to congratulate the Honorable Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira on her maiden budget speech and for making history as the first woman to deliver the Appropriation Bill. We note with much pleasure that Mrs. Nunez-Tesheira came from the Services Industries prior to her Ministerial appointment.

The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries is an umbrella body that brings together all services sector organizations and associations. The services sector includes business, information and communications technology, construction, engineering, distribution, education, environmental, financial, tourism, recreational, cultural, energy, architectural and transport services. Given its range its no surprise that the services sector is the highest employer in Trinidad and Tobago.

The TTCSI is generally pleased with many aspects of the budget presentation but holds the view that the services sector which contributes over 50% of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should have attracted more specific attention. Additionally the services sector consists of many other non-traditional and potentially lucrative sectors that were barely mentioned such as Information Communication Technology, Entertainment and Cultural Services. The TTCSI would also like to note the absence of a National Services Policy which we believe is vital to guide and inform decision making in the services sector locally and as it affects international trade. This approach was adopted with much success by countries such as Mauritius, Ireland, Singapore and Costa Rica.

The TTCSI is pleased with the proposed introduction of the Business and Investment Secretariat (BISTT), but notes that there was no indication as to when it will be operationalized. The TTCSI believes that if a strategic approach is used involving both local and foreign investors, the BISTT can contribute greatly to the development and the sustainability of the services sector in Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally the new draft Investment Policy which is expected to be circulated in 2009 for public consultation can assist the BISTT in being an even greater success.

The TTCSI would like to congratulate the Government for its commitment to the development of the Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Centre (TTIFC). It is hoped that the new legislation would create a more secure, transparent and competent market, in which financial services can further develop into an even more competitive sector for Trinidad and Tobago business than it is at the moment.

The TTCSI further believes that the proposed work, if implemented, in the tourism, telecommunication, transportation, health, environmental and education services will contribute to the overall development of the services sector as it continues to grow and contribute to the GDP of Trinidad and Tobago economy.

With respect to crime, TTCSI notes with the rest of the country the deteriorating situation, not through lack of effort nor allocation of resources. Clearly, a new national non-partisan direction is needed. Accordingly, TTCSI advocates a national non political discussion and analysis involving all non political stakeholders, including the legal profession, social, community and rehabilitation groups, as well as law enforcement, labour and business among others, backed by relevant professionals. TTCSI stands ready to play a role in the planning and execution of such a consensus on this national problem.

Trinidad and Tobago remains a country rich in resources and talent. Our citizens generally enjoy a decent standard of living. All of this however is threatened by the new spiralling rate of inflation. The TTCSI sees the management of this economic indicator as critical to the well being to the country’s economy and citizens and therefore requires urgent priority attention. We call on the government to give this matter its immediate focus with a comprehensive and focused action plan, accompanied by targets for the short and medium terms.

The Honorable Minister of Finance mentioned that Energy Services will continue to be the driving force of the economy and that seven sectors will continue to be targeted as part of a plan for national industrial growth and diversification. These seven sectors have been identified for a few years now and initial steps have been taken for their development. TTCSI calls for a tighter focus on specific sectors for immediate action- an inner circle of sectors. In this light we join those who have identified the ICT, Financial and Tourism sectors as areas for more concentrated focus in the country’s diversification thrust.

Finally as loyal citizens of our beloved country, we all must play a role in the development of Trinidad and Tobago. As individuals we may not have to look far to start. It right there in our watch words. TTCSI calls on all Nationals to re-dedicate themselves to Discipline, Production and Tolerance in the interest of our beloved country. May God continue to bless Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago services sector.