The importance of the Services sector to the future of the Caribbean was highlighted Friday as CARICOM Ministers began a day-long consideration of matters that are key to moving the sector forward.

The Services sector is the largest and fastest growing within CARICOM, accounting for more than 75 per cent of GDP in Eastern Caribbean, and more than 55 per cent in the more developed Member States. Statistics indicate that there was growth in the sector in recent years, with 2017 figures indicating an expansion of almost 2.45 per cent to EC$108.5B.

Those figures dictate that it was critical that nations paid close attention to the growth of the sector, as part of efforts to provide citizens with a good life, said Chair of the Meeting, the Hon. Sandra Husbands, Minister in the Minister of Foreign Trade of Barbados.

“Our coming together today in a Special Meeting of COTED for Services, what we are seeking to do is to look at the tremendous work that has been done over the past couple of years in terms of assessing the size of the services industry, analyzing its performance, identify the SWOT pertaining to how services (sector) performs within our various territories, as well as looking at draft plans for the implementation of a strategy to take services forward,” Minister Husbands said.

She cautioned that there was a lot of work to be done with respect to the create the environment for the further development of the sector to fulfil its role in the improvement of the contribution to the lives of the citizens of the Region.

Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration at the CARICOM Secretariat, in remarks at the opening of the Meeting, called for the recognition that there must be fundamental realignment of “how we do business” in the Region, especially from a perspective of education and finance, and how we deal with sizeable rate of informality.

He called for a strategic review of how concessions were granted in the Region, and urged delegates to pay particular attention to the dynamics of finance, banking fees, artificial limits for foreign currency transactions, health and wellness matters, especially non-communicable diseases, and the 2019 coronavirus update.

As the Community focuses on the sector, a Regional Services Project Steering Committee has been coordinating the preparation of a Draft Regional Strategic Plan and Implementation Plan for Professional Services. Priority attention has been given to seven sub-sectors including Financial Services, ICT Services, Professional Services, Cultural, Entertainment and Sporting Services, Health and Wellness Services, Education Services and Tourism Services.

Work has also been done on identifying core elements of the Draft Regional Strategic plan including Legislative Framework, Financing Requirements, Incentives, Human Resource Requirements, Technological Needs, Constraints, cross-sectoral Linkages.