Vision for the next decade: Empowering Trinidad and Tobago's services sector

Vashti Gaitri Guyadeen, CEO of the TT Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI). -
Vashti Gaitri Guyadeen, CEO of the TT Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI). -

Bavina Sookdeo

As Trinidad and Tobago’s pursuit of economic independence continues, the services sector is emerging as a formidable engine driving growth, diversification and global engagement.

Newsday spoke with Vashti Guyadeen, CEO of the TT Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI), who provided a comprehensive insight into the prospective potential the services sector has to transform the socio-economic landscape of the country.

Asked to highlight some of the major milestones of the service sector, Guyadeen pointed out a few examples.

“The services sector has played a pivotal role in supporting TT’s economy. Services support both the manufacturing and energy sectors. For instance, are you aware that 30 services are required to get a loaf of bread into a shopping basket, accounting for 72 per cent of the final price?

“While historically reliant on the energy sector, we have successfully extended into areas such as finance, information technology, and creative industries. This diversification, if done correctly with the best and the brightest at the forefront, has the capacity to ensure that TT is more resilient and less susceptible to the fluctuations of global energy markets.”

Expansion of financial services is another key area. As Guyadeen pointed out, “Our financial services industry has witnessed significant growth, with TT becoming a regional financial hub. We have developed a robust banking sector, a well-regulated insurance industry and a dynamic capital market.”

She pointed out that tourism could act as a catalyst if it is prioritised.

“Through our Doing Business with the World series, we have seen how countries such as Jamaica and Peru have transformed their economies by focusing on tourism development. TTCSI, in collaboration with the TTMA (TT Manufacturers Association), has put forward a proposal to the Trade and Industry Ministry to conduct a national study on the linkages between tourism and manufacturing.”

Guyadeen said information and communication technology (ICT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors have also enjoyed success.

“At the TTCSI we are actively working to position TT as an international services hub.”

Creative industries – music, animation, film, fashion, and design – have escalated internationally, elevating local talent and nurturing cultural identity while boosting economic prosperity.

The services sector has supported the growth of local talent, enabling it to reach global audiences and contributing to TT's cultural identity and economic prosperity.

The TTCSI has also been working on its trade and export services.

“Through partnerships and negotiations, we are actively working towards building alliances for our service providers to access international markets, boosting revenue streams and promoting cross-border collaboration. This is something that we cannot do by ourselves,” she added.

So where does Guyadeen see the services sector going in the next ten years?

“In September 2021, the TTCSI launched an ambitious programme called GoGlobalTTServices. The primary objective of this programme is to develop a cadre of 100 globally competitive services firms and providers by the year 2031. Under the umbrella of the GoGlobalTTServices, we conceptualised projects which are all geared towards building capacity and more so export competencies of a community of services exporters."

The projects focused on building awareness of what it takes to be an exporter through the training programme.

"Over the period 2019-2022, the TTCSI, with support from Caribbean Export, was able to certify over 200 service-providers across seven countries with Caricom. This effort was documented with the production of the region’s first Caribbean services-exporters catalogue.

“We are talking about a global services market with the potential to grow to over US$10 trillion by the year 2032. Let me say it this way…the global trade in services has the potential to double in ten years, from the US$5.89 trillion it generated in 2022 alone.

"And those are conservative estimates! There are analysts who believe the global services market could be worth some US$14.7 trillion this year and US$15.6 trillion by 2025.

"This is why it is imperative that our services enterprises are able to tap into that if our economy is to achieve true diversification, sustainability and resilience.”

The TTCSI knows there is tremendous room and potential for growth in export earnings for TT services-sector companies.

"Indeed, we have been aggressive in our quest to create a corps of exported-oriented entrepreneurs, preparing them for intense competition and to weather any disruptors on the international market.”

With this in mind, TTCSI designed three important initiatives:

- G2T, which prepares services SMEs to successfully access international markets.

- National services exporters portal (NSEP), created to help TT’s services-sector firms be seen by and make connections with services-sector firms in other countries.

- Doing Business with the World series, which helps services-sector firms interested in entering regional and international markets by providing them with the information they need on their countries and markets of interest.

“We will continue to work with our partner services-sector representative organisations and their member firms and entrepreneurs on developing the new holy grail – an exporter’s mindset,” she said.

So what is the way forward?

Guyadeen indicated government action is pivotal. She highlighted a few key areas that were identified by over 100 stakeholders at TTCSI’s inaugural services roundtable.

• ICT infrastructure: Participants noted that government can help by ensuring access to the internet. Service exporters are dependent on the internet, as is export marketing and communications.

• Research and analysis: Assessing the state of the national services sector by identifying strengths and needs, collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, identifying priority sub-sectors and developing relevant strategic interventions to support these.

• Better co-ordination and organisation of services: Establishing a service-sector task force which comprises representatives from the government, trade/business support organisations and priority services sector. The role of the task force would be to provide guidance to the government with respect to policy-making, legislative and regulatory changes, human-resource development, financing, standards, competitiveness and export development.

• Strategy: The government should also ensure that organisation(s) responsible for the implementation of the strategy have the necessary resources to do so.

Asked about the ultimate aspiration for the services sector in the next decade, Guyadeen underscored the significance of strategic planning.

Building on the momentum generated by the inaugural services roundtable in 2022, the TTCSI is poised to lead a services taskforce. This taskforce aims to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the Go Global TT Services initiatives, prioritise support for Gateway to Trade, and map the trajectory of the services sector.

“The TTCSI is prepared to take the lead on this taskforce. There is no time like the present to get it done,” Guyadeen said.


"Vision for the next decade: Empowering Trinidad and Tobago’s services sector"

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