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Remarks by Nirad Tewarie _ CEO TTCSI at the Excellence in Services Awards Ceremony – Services Week 2011 Opening

Minister of Legal Affairs the Honourable Prakash Ramadhar

Deputy Secretary General of the Caribbean Community Dr Lolita Applewaithe

President of the TTCSI Mr Rabindra Jaggernauth and other TTCSI Directors

Members of the Head Table

Permanent Secretaries and other Government officials

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Members of the TTCSI

Representatives of CSIs from around the region

Colleagues in the Business Community

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

A pleasant good evening and warm welcome to you all. I am Nirad Tewarie, the CEO of the TTCSI. It is a pleasure to have you all here this evening.

Looking out at this full room, it might be easy to remember that just three short years ago, the TTCSI was relatively unknown; that we struggled to get people to attend our events; that we faced an uncertain future.

Tonight, the TTCSI is strong. We have grown membership to 39-member associations. We have been able to secure international project funding for several of our members and for capacity building activities such as this one. And most importantly, non-government revenue has increased in each of the last three years, including this one.

Various national and regional government and quasi-governmental agencies have started seeking out the TTCSI to partner on developmental activities or get our input into initiatives which they are planning. Indeed, the presence of the Hon Minister and CARICOM Deputy Secretary General here tonight is testimony to our growth over the last five years.

Standing here today, at the beginning of National Services Week and the first ever Excellence in Services Awards Ceremony, is a triumph of sorts. This Award Ceremony has been in the making for more than three years. We believe that public recognition of the individuals and firms who excel in the services sector will go a long way to encouraging greater national appreciation of the sector and its unique needs. It would therefore be remiss of me not to thank our sponsors who helped to make this event possible – Caribbean Export Development Agency, the German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ), The Caribbean Communications Network, the European Delegation and our service partner Events Management International (EMI).

Looking out at this room tonight, it almost easy forget that three short years ago, some Services Week events had more speakers than guests. One event had five people in attendance, one of whom was my wife and the other my uncle. Former President Larry Placide was another. We had one paying attendee and Florence sat in the audience to make up numbers. We certainly have come a long way.

That would not have been possible without the support and hard work of the TTCSI staff. To Flo, Sherry, Hema and Takiyah I want to say a heartfelt thank you.

Simultaneously, the support and guidance of the Board has been critical to the success of the TTCSI. I have been a part of many organizations and I have never seen more commitment from Board or Executive Members than I have seen at the TTCSI.

It is common in organizations such as ours, to either have a Board in which people take little interest and are concerned only about something else to put on their CV or to have a Board in which Board Members want to control everything to see what they can get. Over the years, the TTCSI Boards can be classed in neither of those categories. In fact, Board Members have taken pride in their service to the organization. They give the staff, including me, room to try out what must quite often seem like hair brained ideas and then do all they can to ensure that the organization is successful. So to the Members of the Board,

President Rabindra Jaggernauth

Vice President Dax Driver

Secretary Mahindra Satram Maharaj

Treasurer Dianne Joseph

Director Joseph Berment Mc Dowald

And

Director Hollis Charles

I must also place on record my deep appreciation for your support and guidance. I must also again thank former President Larry Placide for all he did to not only develop TTCSI but to help me to grow as well.

When TTCSI was formed five years ago, it was formed as a Public-Private Sector partnership. From then to now, the organization has received both financial and technical support from the Ministry of Trade. That support has been across administrations. This speaks to the growing recognition of the importance of the services industries to the economy. Minister Stephen Cadiz has been an enthusiastic champion who would have been here tonight had he not been attempting to sell T&T at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Former Ministers Mariano Browne and Ken Valley were also supportive of the work of the TTCSI and the Ministry’s technical team led by the indomitable Permanent Secretary Carl Francis continues to be a tremendous asset to the TTCSI and our members.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues/ those of you who have been coming to our events may be tired of hearing me say that services are the key to sustainable economic diversification.

That’s not hype it’s fact. Six of the seven sectors identified for development by the last administration and almost all of the sectors identified by the Minister of Finance in his last budget presentation, speak to the development of services industries.

In 2009 at the Opening of Services Week, I said the following: in order to make our society an innovation society we must, among other things:

1)  Find ways for all citizens to participate – and feel as though they are participating – in the economy, the society and national discourse regardless of where they come from, their religious or ethnic background, their sexual orientation or their political affiliation.

2)  Accept that differing points of view, alternative points of view and dissent are signs of a society on the move. Dissent allows us to refine our own ideas, incorporate factors which we may have overlooked and fosters participation, which leads to buy in.

3)  Be realistic about where we are; clear on where we want to be and targeted and focused with a plan to get there.

 

To consider these and other related issues, I humbly suggest that the government consider the establishment of a National Innovation Council comprising members of civil society, the public sector and private sector.

We at TTCSI are therefore happy to see that a National Innovation Council has been appointed. We are also pleased to see the development of the Medium Term Policy, which seeks to identify the places where we want to go and develop a roadmap to get there.

We urge the Government to keep listening and to continue to allow different points of view to impact the national discourse without resulting in political sanction. Economic and social development will only come as a result of multi sectoral partnerships.

 

One such Partnership in Japan has resulted in collaboration between the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the creative industries. Policy makers there know that in order to revive their economy, an economy which is hamstrung by an ageing population, the country must be seen as, quite frankly sexy. In tangible terms, Japan wants to spur a nearly fivefold increase in cultural exports by 2020, to ¥ 11 trillion (US$140 billion). Maybe this is achievable. Maybe it is not. But what is clear is that Japan is recognizing the importance of the creative industries not just as industries themselves but as a means to promote the sale of other products from the country.

An Ipad is cool not just because it makes our lives easier but rather because cool people said it was cool. We need to place greater emphasis therefore on our creative industries in T&T and do more development work. While we quibble about race and who gets more than whom to the point that no one wants to take the chance to do anything outside the box, according to the economist magazine On October 7th, 14 small Japanese labels, supported by METI, kicked off the Cool Japan campaign by opening a temporary store in Singapore called Harajuku Street Style, named after Tokyo’s edgy fashion district . The aim was not just to promote Japanese brands, It was to promote the “atmosphere” of fashion in Japan

What would be the response if someone were to propose similar initiatives for our Fashion, Entertainment and Masquerade industries? If foreigners like our clothes, for example, they are more likely to buy our drinks, want our architects to design their houses and want to come here for vacations. It isn’t rocket science and we don’t need to go after hundreds of thousands of customers. An increase of a few thousand will go a long way.

But to make our country conducive to business development we must do more. Antigua has been boasting about the support that the government is giving to software developers who design mobile apps. They have picked a spot on the value chain and decided to focus some effort there. We must do the same in every sector. To do this, I appeal to members of the TTCSI to assist us with data gathering so that we can more effectively represent your interests to the policy makers.

And while we acknowledge that the government has been trying to create a climate which in which it is easier to do business, even in these challenging economic times, there is a lot of work still to be done.

In the construction sector we will not be silent if foreign professionals are allowed, as they were in the past, to come into the country and work on government projects without going through the proper procedures. We are not in favour of protectionism but we are adamant that locals benefit from a level playing field.

In this session of Parliament, we would like to see the Electronic Transactions Bill not only approved by Parliament but implemented by the Government as well.

Finally, crime. Crime is the biggest disincentive to doing business and encouraging both investment and re-investment. In this regard, the business community, including the TTCSI supported the imposition of the state of emergency. Nothing that had been done before had put the criminals on the back foot so service providers took the hit in the national interest. We believe the long term impact can justify the short term loss.

However, going into the Christmas and Carnival season we would like to see the curfew lifted. Once the current period of the State of Emergency is over in early December, we do not believe that the curfew should be continued. We hope that the protective services have had enough time to deal with the imminent threat to national security.  As an organization whose major bloc of membership is in the creative industries, we fear that economic impact of continuing the curfew through the Carnival season will outweigh any potential benefits and we will be very reluctant support that.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, enough heavy talk. Tonight is a celebration. A celebration of the achievements of the services sector and a celebration of the growth of the TTCSI.

Welcome once again to Services Week 2011. Thank you for your attention.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Mr Rabindra Jaggernauth, President of the T&T Coalition of Services Industries to deliver Opening Remarks.