Wednesday 6th April, 2005

 

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One body for services sector

A national umbrella body that proposes to bring together all services sector providers—organisations, associations and professionals—will be officially launched by June.

Once fully operational, the T&T Coalition of Service Industries (TTCSI) would be an independent entity, and serve as the private sector institution responsible for highlighting and dealing with services sector interests, particularly sector development. Services trade interests would be better co-ordinated—within a national context—for the respective bilateral, regional and multilateral negotiations.

Services trade has become increasingly important over the past few years, at the national, regional and international levels, hence the necessity to create the national coalition.

Services: new engine of economic growth

Along with manufacturing, the services industry is being seen as the new engine of economic growth and sustainable development, given the rapid increase in the global trade in services.

The services sector is the largest contributor to economic activity in T&T, accounting for 65 per cent of GDP. It is the largest employer in the economy, with over 60 per cent of the labour force in the distribution, transport, storage and communications sub-sectors.

It provides core support for the development of other sectors of the economy, and includes the following areas of economic activity: construction; transport and communication; infrastructural activity such as water and electricity supply; distribution of goods; financial and insurance services; real estate; tourism and travel related services; government, business and professional services.

Moving towards a regional CSI

As part of the regional development plan for the services sector, the Caricom secretariat, in collaboration with the governments of Caricom member states, has been working on strengthening the services component of the private sector. In 2001, Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (Coted) agreed that each member state should form its own national coalition of service industries, and these would be linked and combined into a Regional Coalition of Service Industries (RCSI).

Ideally, the proposed RCSI would review and make recommendations on issues pertaining to the development, facilitation and promotion of services trade, within the context of global service developments. It would also link all the regional professional associations and the national coalitions together to promote the common interests of service suppliers.

The process has been moving at a somewhat slower pace than originally intended, however. T&T’s Ministry of Trade and Industry took the initiative to help establish this country’s coalition, a move endorsed by Coted in March 2004, which encouraged member states to provide the necessary support for establishing the national coalitions.

Since then, the Caricom Secretariat, the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) and Caribbean Export have stepped up efforts to make the RCSI a reality.

To date, only Barbados and St Lucia have launched their national coalitions—the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries in 2002, and the St Lucia Coalition of Service Industries in March. Other Caricom countries are at varying stages of launching their coalitions, with T&T poised to launch in June.

What will the TTCSI do, exactly?

Among other things, the umbrella TTCSI would disseminate vital information to prepare service stakeholders for the challenges and opportunities of the service regimes of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

It would also encourage an increase of service exports within the CSME itself, between CSME and FTAA member countries, and between CSME and WTO member countries. It would also partner with the public sector in the overall development of the region’s services sector.

Step by step

Establishing the TTCSI is a three-stage process: the initial assessment phase, a logistics phase, and, finally, the actual launch. During the assessment phase, stakeholders who were surveyed indicated their willingness to form the national coalition.

Following on this encouraging result, the Ministry of Trade and Industry hosted a consultation with services sector providers in September. One of the key outcomes was an agreement to establish a task force, which would be responsible for undertaking activities leading to the creation of the national coalition.

In early March, the task force held a strategic planning retreat to review the constitution of the TTCSI, as well as to develop a strategic business plan for its sustainability. A second consultative forum with stakeholders is scheduled for May when the task force will present its recommendations for the establishment of the TTCSI.

The benefits (whether you’re big or small)

The experience of other countries has shown that service providers do benefit significantly from being members of such umbrella bodies:

n Strength in numbers when lobbying governmental authorities on the sector’s developmental issues.

n In trade negotiations, governments are better able to address market access problems faced by services.

n Synergies are more readily developed and attained within the sector itself, and more efficient information flows to and from government, and between members.

For T&T service providers, the TTCSI is the ideal mechanism to bring to Government’s attention critical services trade issues, and to ensure that these are addressed in a timely manner. This is especially important in the context of negotiating trade agreements, such as the WTO, FTAA, the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU; the CSME, etc.

On the one hand, it is an entity like the TTCSI which will ensure that a government has a strong negotiating position in services industry issues, at the various international trade negotiations fora.

On the other hand, coalition members would benefit from having access to information on the negotiated trading agreements and arrangements, and would be alerted to prospective opportunities and possible threats to their growth and development.

Many of the service providers in this country are small in size and need a strong lobby on their behalf. Only through a national coalition such as the TTCSI would their special interests be adequately represented, in the context of trade negotiations and services liberalisation. An umbrella body such as the TTCSI provides the small service providers with real hope for some measure of special and differential treatment at the trade negotiations.

The bottom line: the TTCSI will ensure that the interests of its members—service providers large and small in the services sector—are considered and met by Government when policies are being formulated to facilitate the sustainable development of the sector.


Making the death choice

By Prakash persad

[email protected]

At the juncture of human dignity and medical progress protrudes euthanasia, the kind twin of Yamraja (the Grim Reaper).

Birth, life and death are an inseparable threesome. Life is bounded by birth and death in any one incarnation.

How far are we prepared to go to extend life?

How can we tell when we have crossed the limits of life extension and have entered into the realm of delaying death?

Has the so-called culture of life morphed into a matrix of death denial?

One of the major social issues that face us today, as highlighted by the recent case in Florida, is that of euthanasia, defined as the act of inducing a quiet and easy death.

It will continue to arise from situations of coma that may arise from accidents, vehicular ones in the main, and from sicknesses.

Also, since increasingly large numbers of people are living longer than was the case in the past and, as happened in another country a few years ago, there will be those who will want to be relieved of the burden of terminal illness and unbearable pain.

No matter how wistfully we may long for the fountain of youth, the fact is that Laws of Thermodynamics are irrefutable. Sooner or later, decay sets in, be it in the sixties, seventies, eighties or beyond. One inevitable consequence of this is disease and pain.

There will be some, one assumes the majority, who will be of the conviction that the pain and other age-related handicaps are but a small price to pay for the joys of seeing the great grandchildren grow up, to finally accomplish some long-held ambition or dream.

There may be others, though, who may have no such dreams or family ties and to whom the pain may be too much to endure. They may feel that having lived to a ripe old age and experienced life, they are ready to move to the next stage. And they are looking for a timely, quiet and easy passage. Is it wrong to grant that to them?

The argument is often advanced that by allowing euthanasia, we would be opening the floodgates. Unscrupulous individuals will set about killing the old or pulling the plug on coma patients in a willy-nilly fashion. A culture of death would replace the culture of life.

That indeed is a most serious concern. No one wants that or would advocate such. Life must be preserved and protected at all times. Having said that, we must also be aware of other factors involved also.

In seeking the answers, honesty is essential. The sad fact is that there are many people in this world, including people here, who die or are dying because they cannot afford the cost of medical treatment or the treatment is not available. In many such situations they may be young and still productive and, more importantly, want to live. The ethics of life and death must include such situations.

It leads to the following question: who has the primary responsibility for one’s health? The individual or the State? The answer must be both. It is a partnership. This must be reflected in health policies.

The reality is therefore that the decisions we take at the personal and societal levels impact on our health and lives. How much we invest in a health plan, the Government’s healthcare policies and the countries we live in are major contributors to our health.

Since the individual plays an active part in the managing of his/her healthcare, shouldn’t the person also have some say, under a well-defined and monitored system of rules and regulations, to determine his/her future?

Life is about living. Being alive is an active and conscious condition. Activity here includes both physical and mental activities.

It is worth pointing out that a physically paralysed person may be more mentally active and thus more alive than a person with full command of his/her physical faculties. The quality of one’s life is a measure of one’s degree of “aliveness.”

In situations of a person being in a prolonged coma or being in a vegetative state, the practical and ethical questions as to the quality of live must be considered.

There are no easy answers. But what is clear is that there cannot be one answer for all situations. Herein lies the challenge.

There must be a careful weighting of all the factors involved. Respect for the sanctity of life, acknowledgement of the importance of the quality of life, consideration for the concerns of the family and, above all, deference to the wishes of the individual.

Issues involving life and death, like euthanasia and abortion, quickly become emotionally driven ideological wars, thereby delaying implementation of laws that are required to serve a real need. The battle becomes a self-sustaining goal unto itself.

The diversity of thought, systems of belief and plurality of the world should not be allowed to be dichotomised as this leads to nothing but stagnation of the path of human development.

Simplistic notions of absolute right and wrong have led to enough pain and suffering in this world already. For any man or group to presume to know or represent the Infinite Being and hence have all the right answers is nothing but an attempt at self-delusion of the infinite variety.

Prakash Persad is Chairman of Swaha Inc

 

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