The global economic downturn brings many challenges, but it also offers us the incentive or opportunity to explore tradable services beyond tourism.

??This major point was made today by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, as she addressed the opening of the one-day Validation Seminar of the Barbados Services Export Project. ??It was entitled: "Strengthening the Capacity of Barbadian Services Suppliers to compete effectively in the EU and other Developed Markets and was hosted at the Accra Beach Hotel.

Senator McClean told the participants that although Barbados had a world class tourism product; it should not deter the country from exploring other business possibilities in the diverse and expanding services sector.

"Tough economic times often tend to bring out the best in many persons, by stimulating their creative and innovative side to craft new ideas, as the country tries to strike a balance between supporting existing industries and encouraging entrepreneurship," the Minister said.

And, she described how this could work, noting that since the annual jazz festival would not be staged next year, there was nothing to prevent what she termed ???we jazz’ ("showcasing our young Barbadian musicians in the interim").

Pointing out that this idea was shared with the National Cultural Foundation, Senator McClean added: "I spoke to the coordinator of the entertainment/cultural part of the programme and he said that they were thinking about it. And, I said, ???Let me know and I will certainly be the first to purchase my ticket, because I believe that is how we look for opportunities. Too often, we stand and we hold our hands out; [put] our hands on our heads and forget that the creativity has to come from within us and not necessarily from forces outside of us," she maintained.

It was further noted that Barbados could broaden its economy in order to smooth out the dramatic highs and lows which accompany economic cycles. "An economy characterised by diverse tradable services, rather than one omnipresent service activity is better placed to weather economic storms and to benefit from the growing global services trade.

"This challenge is not that unprecedented and should not be beyond our capacity, since we are already successfully exporting many services. We must, however, broaden the mix of services sold and the countries to which we sell, while developing better data to mark our progress…," the Foreign Affairs Minister asserted.

The Validation Seminar was the final component of a consulting project, coordinated by the EPA unit and executed by the firm WYG Consulting. Expected to conclude this month, the consultancy also included an audit of Barbadian service providers in order to assess their capacity to export services to the EU market; the ??identification of opportunities in that market; and determining how to equip these providers to effectively compete and take advantage of market access opportunities in that region.??

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