Community making strides to boost Services Sector

(l-r) ASG, Mr. Joseph Cox; Chair, Barbados' Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Hon. Sandra Husbands; and Dep. Prog. Manager, Services, Mr. Timothy Odle.
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In recognition of the key role that the Services Sector plays in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community is taking steps to boost its performance in a more structured and harmonised approach.

At a Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Services held 31 January 2020, in Georgetown, Guyana, Ministers examined the Draft Regional Strategic Plan and an Implementation Plan for Services across the Region.

The developments come against the background of the important role that the Services Sector plays in the economic and social growth of the Community. At a minimum, the Sector accounts for 50 per cent of all regional economies, and is flagged as the economic area on which the Community can rely to develop and deliver on the objectives of the Article 6 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Among the provisions of that Article are improved standards of living and work, full employment of labour and other factors of production, accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development, and more efficient operation of common services and activities for the benefit of the people of the Community.

The Meeting in session. Some delegates joined the Meeting via videoconference

Chair of the Meeting, the Hon. Sandra Husbands, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Barbados, said that a majority of CARICOM Member States derive their GDP from Services.

“Therefore (the Sector) is important and it is important for the future and so CARICOM was mandated to look at a draft strategic plan and they presented a number of documents to us. Under consideration was the analysis of the current performance of Services in the Region. We also looked at a SWOT Analysis that helped to identify where our strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats are and therefore this will help to inform how we drive forward our plan in relation to Services.

Seven Sectors

“And then we took the time to look at seven sectors that we developed strategic plans for. These included areas such as Professional Services, we looked at ICT, Sports, Entertainment and Culture. We looked at Health; we looked at Tourism, and these things are the things that we have an advantage in,” Minister Husbands said.

Special COTED Meeting on Services underway at CCS

In a post-Meeting interview, the Minister underlined the fact that funding was important to achieve the realities of the Services Plan, and delegates took that into consideration in their discussions. Governments are being asked to prioritise funding for the Services Sector in the national budgets.

“We are hoping that over the next five years, we will be able to make a serious dent in the 696 activities that we actually have to execute in order to be able to achieve our objectives in Services. We believe that this is important because it will create space for more people to participate in the development of their economies.

“So if we look at Sports, and Culture and Entertainment – this is the realm of young people. It will create a space for their creativity, their energy, their ability and if we can assist them in commercializing these, then this is going to allow them to take the Region on to the world stage and to be able to be among the world’s best,” Minister Husbands said.

She added that she believed that the investment in education would allow the Region to be able to create a cadre of persons who can adequately fill all of these areas and “create an economic development and prospects for us”.

Delegates at the Special Meeting of COTED on Services

Education was one of the sub-sectors to which Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration at the CARICOM Secretariat, referred in remarks he made at the opening of the Meeting. To illustrate his point that emphasis needed to be placed on education, he cited a report out of the Statistics Institute in Jamaica which indicated that 9.8% of males and 21.3% of females have university degrees, and 75% of males and 54.7% of females had no certification, which has implications for emerging industries and could pose challenges for expansion and for moving up the Services value chain, for example.

Data availability

Deputy Programme Manager, Services, at the CARICOM Secretariat, Mr. Timothy Odle, said that Ministers called on institutions and organisations to make available more current data on the performance and emerging trends in Services for efficient decision-making and management of the Sector. They decided that an outline of a plan for statistics as well as one for Communications should be presented at their next Meeting.

Mr. Odle said the Meeting placed emphasis on Tourism Satellite Accounts, the linkages between Tourism Services – which contributes to GDP in the range of 7%-90%, with The Bahamas being a maturing market – Agriculture and the Manufacturing sectors, as well as the inclusion of other sub-sectors, especially Energy and Transportation, in the SWOT analyses.

The SWOT analyses are to be the basis of deliberations with donors and in trade negotiations, as well as for common reference and uniformed approach to the Sector.

A Regional Services Project Steering Committee will meet early in March in preparation for another special sitting of COTED on Services in April.

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