CARICOM moves step closer to Regional Strategy for Services Sector

A teacher engages students virtually | Education Services are among the seven priority sectors for which SWOT analyses were approved (Image via CDB)
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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has moved a step closer to a Regional Strategy for the Services Sector with Ministerial approval of the Strategy in March. 

When they met virtually on 8 March in a special session of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), CARICOM Ministers who hold responsibility for the Services Sector approved SWOT analyses for nine sub-sectors. The approval SWOT analyses include seven priority sectors – Professional Services; ICT Services; Postal and Courier Services; Health and Wellness Services; Cultural and Entertainment Services, Sporting Services; Education Services; and Tourism Services. The SWOTs will now inform national and regional planning, as well as provide the basis for requests for technical and financial assistance from the international community. 

The Ministers also approved a COVID-19 Services Sector Response Plan and a Community Master Strategy and Implementation Plan for the Services Sector, starting with four sub-sectors that the COTED deemed ready.  The COTED will now seek the imprimatur of the CARICOM Heads of Government.

With the decisions the Ministers took, the Services Sector is poised to be a major catalyst in CARICOM’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a key vehicle through which the Region can achieve its objectives of full employment and increase standard of living. The Sector can also help the Region to deliver its commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals including poverty reduction, increased female participation in the market and good governance. 

Accounting for almost 70 per cent of the Region’s economy that translated to EC$164B or US$65B in 2018, the sector is well positioned to rebound from the hard impact the pandemic has dealt the Region and to contribute to sustainable economic recovery and growth. 

“There is that emerging conclusion that the Services Sector is really the engine of growth that the Region could tap into to realise its Sustainable Development Goals and, more importantly, in realising the objectives set by the Founding Fathers which would include improved living standards, increased wealth creation, full employment and things like that,” said Mr. Timothy Odle, Deputy Programme Manager for Services at the CARICOM Secretariat. 

Mr. Odle was at the time providing the Communications Unit with an update on the decisions that were taken at the Special COTED Meeting that was devoted to the Services Sector. The Meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Hon. Joseph E. Farrell, Premier of Montserrat. 

The approval of the COVID-19 Services Sector Response Plan came as Member States were rolling back measures that were in place to reduce the spread of the virus, allowing for the safe re-opening of their economies. 

The Plan provides a harmonised blueprint for re-opening and focuses, inter alia, on boosting intra-regional travel and tourism, making the employment market more nimble, and building the Region’s capacity to produce and deliver personal and protective equipment (PPE), sanitisers, as well as focus on developing the capacity for producing vaccines. 

At their Intersessional Meeting in Belize, 1-2 March, CARICOM Heads of Government had agreed to explore a regional strategy for manufacturing vaccine in the Region.  The agreement came as they noted the challenges Member States were encountering with achieving the desired levels of vaccination and rebounding from the economic impact of the pandemic. 

The Communique issued at the conclusion of the Intersessional Meeting said the Heads of Government acknowledged that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has required that Member States re-imagine their development strategies and global economic engagement towards building back better with more sustainable and resilient economies. In that regard they mandated the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), to coordinate the formulation of a regional resource mobilisation strategy to raise the funding required to drive the economic recovery programme. 

Heads of Government stressed the need for the continuation of public health measures including masks, testing, isolation and quarantine and supported CARPHA’s recommendations for safe and sustainable air and sea travel to protect the Region. 

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