TT and the wider region can no longer rely solely on low resource cost when competing for business, not when emerging technologies are being used to increase efficiency and reduce expenses.
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee Scoon issued the warning last week during the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute’s (CARIRI) conference, Innovating with Emerging Technology, at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
“As TT, and indeed the wider region, plays catch-up with its better-resourced and more advanced partners to the north, we must admit that the easy phase of business growth by accumulation is over, and the more difficult phase of growth by assimilation and innovation is upon us.
“We must pronounce the death of competitive advantages once characterised by low resource cost, and prepare ourselves for its replacement – technological capability. Whether grudgingly or not, we must also admit that the technological frontiers are advancing rapidly and most developing countries, like TT, are already late in entering the technology capability development race.”
Referencing statements made by the World Economic Forum’s founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab, Gopee Scoon said the Caribbean stands on the threshold of a technological revolution that will essentially alter the way we live, work and relate to one another.
“The importance of today’s conference cannot be underscored and neither can the impact of the technological revolution that is unfolding before our eyes with each passing day.
“In its scale, scope and complexity, this...Fourth Industrial Revolution...transformation will be unlike anything we have experienced before, and although we do not yet know just how it will unfold, one thing is clear. Our response must be integrated and all-inclusive, involving all stakeholders, from the public and private sectors, as well as academia and civil society.”
Gopee Scoon said one of the “many challenges” facing her ministry is balancing the pace of technological innovation with inclusive growth in the context of TT’s still emerging economy.
“Undoubtedly, there is a structural problem where significant amounts of the working population are in low-productivity sectors, have unmet needs and, rightfully or wrongfully so, expect the Government to fill that breach. Additionally, many of our small and micro enterprises are competing on a low resource-cost model and lack the scale to invest significantly in innovation capability.”
Gopee Scoon also said the Trade Ministry has identified two major innovation hurdles which it must cross, if TT is to enjoy the benefits of the current industrial revolution.
“The first is our ability to develop the capability of local firms to catch up, or at least avoid falling behind, technologically, in the global market place. The second is our ability, as a wider government, to address the social needs of the lower pyramid population and hasten the pace of structural transformation.”