The services sector may have been “dogged” by challenges in the past, but this island’s Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrrie Symonds, believes that this sector presents future opportunities for diversification of the island’s economy.
He emphasised this point today while speaking during the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries’ Fishbowl Conversation Series on Facebook live, where the topic for discussion was Services for Economic Resilience and Post-Pandemic Recovery.
Minister Symmonds reasoned that the renewable energy (RE) sector could be used more effectively to expand the services sector and build out a cadre of skilled nationals, as “renewable energy endeavours expanded across CARICOM states”.
Noting that the tourism sector was “here to stay”, he added: “The renewable energy sector allows for co-investment in other sectors, so that, for example, you can make agriculture a lot more competitive by way of bringing the RE and indeed the digital technology into the agricultural space, so that agriculture really comes into the 21st Century and in similar vein, transportation.”
He continued: “What we really want to be able to do is to have a menu of options at the disposal of a young Barbadian, who may, 10 years from now, be saying ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ And if the feeling is that you want to go into services, then you have a range of choices before you.”
The Energy Minister told participants that it was Government’s intention to have 25 per cent of the grid capacity dedicated to service entities that were critical to the national development infrastructure of the economy and those that had become “increasingly lumpy” because of the weightiness of the maintenance bill.
“So, I speak specifically to entities like the Barbados Water Authority, the University of the West Indies, the Barbados Transport Board…. Those are some of the areas where we believe we can move to a complete energy independence. As you establish that energy independence, you are protecting the patrimony of the country because those are the key things – the suppliers of water, the suppliers of transport, the supplier of education at the tertiary stage.
“But more important than that, you are also developing commercial and employment opportunities in a new sector and a new industry via the use of new technology at a time when that is very critical,” he stated.
The Minister said the COVID-19 pandemic had taught Barbados a very serious lesson, in that it had to be more resilient and continue finding ways to use the digital space effectively to drive business and services.
The session was moderated by Editor-in Chief at The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, Kaymar Jordan. The panellists included Acting Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Isabelle Durant; Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, and Chief of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean, Diane Quarless.