Hon. Stephen Cadiz, Minister of Trade and Industry

Excellency Mervyn Assam, Ambassador Plenipotentiary of Trade and Industry

Dr Dax Driver, Vice President of TTCSI

Permanent Secretaries and other senior government officials,

Your Excellencies Heads of Mission and other Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

TTCSI Board Members,

Members of TTCSI,

Staff of the TTCSI,

Members of the Media,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A warm and pleasant good morning to you all. Welcome to the opening of National Services Week 2010. I am Nirad Tewarie, the CEO of the TTCSI.

I would like to begin by saying that this week’s activities would not be possible without the support of our sponsors namely: the Ministry of Trade and Industry; the Commonwealth Hubbs and Spokes Programme; bMobile and; the Intellectual Property Office of the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Additionally, the IDB and the SEC have partnered with us on specific events and we thank them as well.

This has been a year of tremendous growth for TTCSI. By the end of this week, we would have assisted in the formation of four new sector organizations: The Private Hospitals Association of T&T; The T&T Green Building Council; The T&T Chapter of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants and; the Printing and Packaging Association of T&T.

Over this year, membership has grown by 20 percent!

We have secured project funding for the “I cubed M” project: ICT Innovations In Mas – a project designed to improve competiveness and market penetration of MSMEs involved in the masquerade sector through the use of ICTs.

We have taken a trade mission to the French Caribbean – Martinique and Guadeloupe – and already tangible projects are being pursued.

We hosted an innovation workshop which was facilitated by Dr David Pensak, the inventor of the first Internet firewall, in which some 12 companies participated.

We organized a thought-provoking and oversubscribed session on the financial services sector entitled, “Creating the Future We Want” in which several of the leading minds in that sector participated.

We partnered with out member, the T&T Association of Midwives to have a conference – which was also oversubscribed – to build capacity in that sector. The Feature Presenter there was Ms Bridget Lynch, the President of the International Confederation of Midwives.

In between – and I have to say in-between because, as you can tell, with so many events, this was a very busy year – we continuously lobbied to protect and promote the interests of local service providers; engaged the government and regional partners on policy issues and; worked with individual companies and member associations on matters related to developing export capacity and exports.

After all, this in a nutshell, is the primary mandate of TTCSI. As an umbrella, business support organization which brings together associations in the services sector, our mission is to “assist the local services sector to become increasingly competitive internationally, to contribute to the development and growth of the national economy.” We are determined to be a driving force in the growth and expansion of the services sector in our home market while at the same time, increasing exports of the sector.

If the diversification of the economy is to be achieved, it is the services sector which will drive the process. That is not an assumption; it is a fact. However, TTCSI is of the firm view that the full potential of the services sector can only be realized if there is concurrent growth in the manufacturing sector. To us it is not a zero-sum game; both sectors of the economy must partner and grow together. In recent months, TTCSI has been talking to the other Business Support Organisations about potential areas of collaboration and we all agree that working together we will achieve more than in isolation. Therefore, regular meetings of BSOs are being planned and before the end of the year, TTCSI will be hosting a meeting of the CEOs of the Energy Chamber, TTMA, T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce and hopefully, the AmCham. Our President has also been speaking to some of his colleagues about hosting a similar meeting of Presidents.

The two key issues facing the business community as whole are the issues of competitiveness and market penetration.

As we all know, issues such as crime, traffic, inefficiency at the ports and customs, lack of a proper e-payment system and environmental degradation all have an impact on cost of doing business and therefore competiveness. I will not attempt to discuss all of these this morning but I will say for the umpteenth time, that crime must be reduced. A major priority of the Government must be to make our streets safe again. ‘Nuff said.

This government, a new government, is faced with many challenges. TTCSI is pleased however, with much of what is being proposed. In particular, we welcome the realization that foreign and trade policy are related and therefore eagerly anticipate Ambassador Assam’s presentation.

In this regard, we look forward to this country’s diplomatic missions becoming more involved in trade promotion.

We welcome the statements from the government regarding the preference to utilize local content in development projects.

We support the structured approach to the development of a national innovation system.

We endorse the commitment to the creative and cultural industries.

Most of all, I have to say that we appreciate the government’s overall openness and willingness to consult with stakeholders.

We are especially appreciative of Minister Cadiz’s forthrightness and openness though it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the support we had gotten from both former Ministers Valley and Browne with whom TTCSI shared excellent relations.

In this regard, TTCSI hopes that the Government will take into account the concerns of the Credit Union movement with regards to the CLICO bailout and work swiftly to find a compromise position which ensures the stability of that sector.

Also, while we recognize the difficulty of the current fiscal position, the government must find a way to make payments to not only contractors but others such as architects and engineers who are owed money for work done on government projects.

Most importantly, while new initiatives are being embarked on, attention must be paid to the ensuring that the local business environment is one which is conducive to the growth of firms. In this regard, legislation and regulation must be updated and enforced to afford locals a chance to compete on a level playing field with foreigners. We don’t want protection but we do want at least equal treatment.

In addition, the national investment policy must be targeted to encourage the introduction of new technologies and skills not just to invite competitors in areas where no value will be added. In this regard too, the system of the award of work permits for foreigners must be reviewed to ensure that we are not placing our own citizens at a disadvantage by giving away jobs that can easily be done by locals. In the region, we must push for the recognition of the Certificate of Registration as a Service Provider. This will widen the market for service providers and foster intra regional collaboration. Both of these will make our service providers more competitive.

Most of all, TTCSI looks forward to the implementation of the plans of this government. For too long, talk has not been backed by action. This must change.

We recognize though, that the private sector must be more proactive. We must seek out new markets and equip ourselves to enter these markets. No matter how much support the government gives, ultimately it is up to individuals and firms to press flesh, make contacts and promote their services.

The Private sector must do more to ensure that our businesses meet international standards and must be more aggressive in seeking international partnerships. We must not allow fear of failure to stop us from venturing outside of the relative comfort of the domestic and regional markets.

We need to look at non-traditional markets in Europe, the DR, and Latin America with more interest. The energy sector is already finding some success and willing partners in both West and East Africa; so can other sectors.

Over the next year, TTCSI will redouble its efforts to assist in building export capacity – starting this afternoon with our services export workshop. We are already looking to build on this afternoon’s workshop and have started speaking with one of our international partners about a second workshop on export marketing and joint-venturing for the services sector, which we hope to host next year.

So, as we embark on this week of activities, we also look with optimism toward next year. We will intensify our efforts to promote service exports. Part of those efforts will be focused on ensuring that the domestic conditions support the development of local businesses.

In us, the government will find an eager and willing partner. We look forward to participating in meaningful consultation on policy matters but we caution that we not allow the organization to be used to simply ratify decisions which have already been taken.

We prize our close relationship with the Ministry of Trade &, which has given TTCSI tremendous support from birth. However, we believe that it is our duty to speak out when the interests of service providers are being threatened and we shall do so fearlessly if the need arises. To do anything less would be to abdicate our responsibility to work toward the economic and social development of our beloved Trinidad and Tobago.

To the membership I repeat that it is our responsibility to go forth and multiply – our dollars. Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher – and I hope my members in the construction sector forgive me for importing from China – Confucius once said that if we aim for the stars, we may just clear the treetops. This is sage advice. We cannot think small; even small businesses must think big. The economic downturn is resulting in foreign firms looking for new markets. Trinidad and Tobago’s economy is not only very small; it is also very open. Long-term, even medium term survival will depend on constant innovation and a diversity of markets.

I recently had a conversation with our own fashion designer Claudia Pegus, in which she expressed the kind of vision that TTCSI believes is necessary for all service providers to embrace. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, that it is time we start developing fashion houses to target and capture a share of the global fashion market – fashion houses which employ several designers under one brand – just like Gucci or Calvin Klein would. This is how we need to think. Ronnie and Caro recently had a band launch in Japan. Japan Barbie is singing chutney. Our energy service suppliers are aggressively entering African markets. Toucan media has an office in Dubai. If they can do it, so can others. We must see the entire world as our market; to do any less is to condemn ourselves to a very uncertain future – a future which will be determined by external economic shocks, the uncertainty of politics in the Caribbean and the fickleness of local consumers. The conditions will never be perfect to take on risk but I would argue that several factors, including the current orientation of the government, make now a pretty good time to look at internationalization. Should you agree, TTCSI is here to help.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I end, I must express my deep gratitude to the Board and staff of TTCSI for all the support and effort which they have put into making this week’s activities a success. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty and their dedication is indeed rare. Without them, none of this would be possible. Thank you for your attention.

It is now pleasure to introduce you the President of one of TTCSI’s Pioneer Members, the T&T Association of Midwives…