THE TT Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) has launched a new initiative to promote the services sector and boost the export strategy of Trinidad and Tobago.
In a virtual launch on September 3, the TTCSI unveiled its national services campaign — Go Global TT Services which will be supported by A Gateway to Trade programme, to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in four sectors. They are business and professionalism, information and communications technology (ICT), energy businesses, events tourism services, such as accommodation providers, restaurants, ground transportation, and tourism attractions and event organisers.
The programme includes capacity building for services, SMEs and business support organisations including training and SME coaching, market and sector research, export plan development, export promotion initiatives and sector strategy development.
It is geared towards providing export-readiness training to SMEs, delivering an export-focused trainers certification programme to support sustainability and knowledge transfer; provide coaching to SMEs to support the development of export plans and improve export marketing initiatives such as value proposition, website development, company profiles; building internal and external commercial opportunities; supporting development of strategic initiatives and supporting the growth of services exports and create employment.
The initiative is supported by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) which has provided most of the funding and ExportTT and will be rolled out in three phases.
Phase one, which starts next month will end in December, is focused on training and coaching; phase two takes places between January and March 2022 and involves advanced coaching and phase three which deals with market connections will take place after April 2022.
According to the TTCSI, the services sector is a significant contributor to the economy’s gross domestic product (GDP), having in 2017 contributed 72 per cent or $115 billion in GDP and employing over 85 per cent of the labour force.
It said, “In 2018, the sector contributed an estimated 58 per cent to GDP, followed by 53 per cent in 2019. Despite its success on home soil, the services sector accounts for less than 10 per cent of export earnings. Therefore, the sector has significant scope for growth in terms of export generation.”
MTI acting permanent secretary Ayleen Alleyne-Ovid said the initiative has the potential to make a significant impact on the services sector and promote efforts towards economic diversification.
“It is particularly encouraging to note that this initiative focuses on improving the export readiness of SMEs which are the backbone of our economy.
“During the period 2015-2019, the sector on average contributed to approximately 60 per cent of the country’s GDP. In 2019 alone, the sector’s contribution to GDP was approximately $93.5 million. In addition to this, with respect to employment, approximately 75 per cent of the national labour force is employed in the services sector,” she said.
Alleyne-Ovid said the covid19 pandemic sharply exposed the weaknesses in the global economy and threatened economic development goals.
This, she said, not only affected TT but as recorded by the World Trade Organization (WTO) there have been significant declines in services trade across all regions with some exceptions.
“There were some positive trends observed notably, the increased trade in services via digital modes during the pandemic in sectors such as distribution wholesale and retail, health, education.
“This has highlighted the importance and need for improvements in our ICT infrastructure and use of ICT in general for services delivery,” she said.
The ministry, Alleyne-Ovid said, was working to promote the services sector through initiatives such as a national services policy and energy services export strategy, aimed at providing a comprehensive plan to promote the exports of our energy services provider; a partnership with Caricom to develop a regional services strategy to strengthen governance arrangements and to help build the competitiveness of seven subsectors and the establishment of a services unit in the Tobago House of Assembly to assist in strengthening the capacity of policy makers.
On the front of ICT, she the ministry was aware of the challenges and the importance for properly working platforms to conduct business and transactions.
“To address, in part, some of ICT infrastructural issues, the MTI has developed and is currently implementing a national e-commerce strategy to help create a more facilitative environment for e-commerce activity including the adoption of e-payments by digital businesses.
“The MTI is also working on reengineering its business processes related to import, export, transit and business facilitation services. Key border agencies involved in enhancing its service delivery and online payment systems include trade licensing unit, TT Bureau of Standards, the food and drug inspectorate and plant quarantine.”
TTCSI president Mark Edghill said the initiative was one step in developing the services sector’s capabilities by providing institutional strengthening for members and building capacity for exporting.
“We are now ramping up these efforts. There is no time like the present to focus on expanding our reach to new markets. The TTCSI has a mighty task ahead and we are up to the challenge. As we navigate the global pandemic, we must focus on sectors that will stimulate the economy.
“Sectors in which we have talented nationals that, if given the opportunity, they could grow businesses that will become regional and international players over the next five to ten years. This in essence is why we are here today.”
CEO Vashti Guyadeen added that the initiative has been in the planning for some time and after rigorous research conducted in 2019/2020 the findings identified key challenges which were preventing service companies from expanding their business.
“As a result, TTCSI decided that we needed to take a more strategic approach to the expansion of the services sector by incorporating all our export initiatives under a single forward-looking internationalisation strategy – an export call to action for the services sector.”
The TTCSI was established in 2006 to bring together services organisations and associations in TT and functions as the focal point to lobby, channel and address trade in services issues and services development issues.
It represents over 55 services associations with a combined membership of over 650,000 companies and individuals.