Chief Secretary says creative sector can help diversification thrust

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Tom Tom’s Akimola Prince, second from left, and Ornaldo Lindow talk about their products with Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon at the TIC in Tobago. – Photo courtesy THA

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine believes TT’s creative sector has the potential to contribute significantly to the country’s thrust towards economic diversification.

“Time and time again sometimes we push the creative sector to a side not recognising that they have a potential in really leading our country towards the kind of diversification thrust that is required,” he said in remarks on Wednesday at the opening of the 23rd Trade and Investment Convention at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.

The convention, which featured displays by local, regional and international entrepreneurs, ended on Saturday. Its theme was Business Resilience.

This year, Tobago had a bigger presence than usual. The Studley Park Quarry made its début and the Tobago Agri-Business Development Company (TADCO) also attended.

The THA is hoping to make TADCO the Caribbean’s number one producer of alternative flours.

Several small and micro enterprises, including leather craft, clothing and other areas were also featured at the convention.

Augustine said in order for Tobago to become globally competitive, it must invest in areas outside of those for which it has been known historically.

He cited the “orange economy” as one such sector.

“We have to look beyond the usual things we seek to trade and begin to look at the creative sector. I am sure you observed the dancers, the speech band. They are part of what Tobago wishes to offer to the world and that Tobago wishes to monetise.

“We hear all of this fancy talk about the orange economy, but we have to invest more in the creatives in order to earn from them.”

Augustine wondered if anyone had ever take the time to examine singer Rhianna’s contribution to the Barbados economy or even Usain Bolt (sprinter) or Bob Marley’s (late reggae legend) impact on the Jamaican economy.

“We are saying to the world, just like the rest of the country, that we are open for business. Come and invest with us, have a chat with us and let us work together.”

He said TT and the rest of the Caribbean must re-position itself to capitalise on its diverse offerings.

“We need to find, post haste, these opportunities and begin to ensure that we do not just do like a turtle in rough seas and surface above the water but that we make our landing sure, make our nesting sure and be able to put our society at a place where we can earn and be successful.”

Group Executive chairman of Coosal’s Sieunarine Coosal, left, speaks with Studley Park Enterprises Ltd’s general manager Nigel Abraham, at the Trade Investment Conference in Tobago. – Photo courtesy THA

Augustine said although the Caribbean comprises relatively small islands and may be considered insignificant by many people in terms of population size, this should not limit its potential.

“The Caribbean’s potential is limitless.

In his address, Augustine said apart from the external shocks Caribbean economies sometimes experience, businesses also face internal threats.

“We must understand that business in TT and across the region can experience trauma from government and other policy changes, from employee theft or fraud, from vandalism, other cultural issues, lack of skilled employees, from damage to property and commercial buildings like flood and fire, supply issues, management issues.”

He said businesses have to become resilient not just against global activity but also things that are internal.

“The only way to survive these trauma is to find ways to hang together because if we don’t hang together we will hang alone.”

Augustine said he understands this can sometimes be a challenge.

“In our world it is difficult to tell businesses that they have to collaborate, find ways to share information, share capacity and share skills because competition and capitalism teaches us that we don’t need to share anything.

“But our best bet in standing against all the risk factors that we do face and really and truly finding ways by which we can collaborate.