CARICOM Ministers with responsibility for the Services Sector meet on 8 March to approve regional strategic plans for four Services sub-sectors. The Ministers will also chart the Region’s course in the Services Sector for 2022.
Ahead of the Special Meeting of the powerful Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) dedicated to Services, sector stakeholders met on 17 and 18 February to hold discussions on the issues that are to be placed before the Ministers for decision. Various regional SWOT analyses; a COVID-19 Services Action Plan; and a Community Master Strategy and Implementation Plan are among the items on which the officials will deliberate.
The Services Sector is the largest in the economy of the Caribbean Community, accounting for almost 70 per cent of the total regional output, according to 2018 figures, with a value of about EC$164B or US$65B, Mr. Timothy Odle, Deputy Programme Manager for Services at the CARICOM Secretariat, said. About 77 per cent of the region’s workforce is involved in the Services Sector. Figures for 2018 indicate that that translates to more than a million persons, the majority of whom are females.
Mr. Odle said the sector represented the value of human capital investment and is “the value added created or consumed by humans.” It accounts for a wide array of activities through the value chain from weeding and trichology to aeronautical engineering and neurosurgery.
Statistics from 2018 indicate that the distributive sector which includes hotels and restaurants, wholesale and retail sales, was the highest performing area. The second-best performing sector was financial services that includes real estate and technical business services, while the third included human health, healthcare and education sector, Mr. Odle said.
Like practically all segments of economic activity globally, the CARICOM Services Sector – its tourism industry in particular – is adversely impacted by the continuing pandemic and the measures countries are taking to confront it. But it is showing the capacity for resilience in the face of external shocks.
While the tourism industry, on which many of the Member States depend for economic survival, is hard hit by the pandemic, digital services grew as technology became vital, especially for remote work, schooling and shopping.