Finance Minister Larry Howai says there is no better time for new investments, entrepreneurship and growth than now. “Our economy is strong and our macroeconomic fundamentals are good. We have a well-educated workforce and we have reasonably sound infrastructure.” “Telecommunication costs are very competitive. In fact, I am advised that telecommunication costs are cheaper in T&T than in the United Kingdom. More specifically, regarding fixed broadband prices, we are among the lowest in the world, at 27th globally.” He added that the T&T’s economy has been able to withstand the vicissitudes of the global economic downturn. While retail sales remain strong and very encouragingly, the volume and value of electronic transactions as measured at merchant point of sale machines have shown consistent increases in volume and value, year over year. “Therefore, there is room for much optimism and opportunity for new investment, entrepreneurship and growth,” Howai said. Howai was speaking on Tuesday at the University of T&T’s (UTT) conference: The Role of Universities In Entrepreneurship for Socio-Economic Development: UTT’s Response, at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel, Port-of-Spain.
Howai praised UTT for making significant strides in achieveing its mandate. The institution, launched in 2004, has provided young people with a wide range of education in the areas of arts and education including fashion, engineering, manufacturing, information and communication technology and sciences, agricultural, bio-medical and maritime research. Howai said, “We are reaping substantial dividends from our educational investments. The diverse technical institutions under the UTT are preparing our students for work life; and unlike in the past, they are being prepared for an intensely competitive economy in which the average work-life will span many jobs and more than one profession. Howai said the likelihood is that increasingly employees would migrate to becoming employers, thereby strengthening the role of medium, small and micro-enterprises in the national economy. “With strong demand in the economy, stimulative fiscal policies and interest rates at an all-time low, it has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur than now in the local economy.”
However, he stated that T&T must be mindful of the downside risks. Howai said he is looking to the United States to take steps to implement a credible medium-term fiscal plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, which could push that economy back into recession. Regarding the euro, he said he is expecting it will adopt confidence-inducing policy actions to restore growth and employment. “We would like to see an improving global environment since we recognise that global conditions will continue to influence micro- and macroeconomic developments in T&T through existing trade and finance channels.” These realities, Howai said, would make the promotion of entrepreneurship a timely and critical policy consideration for job creation, economic growth and innovation through the expansion of T&T’s skilled workforce. He said the Government would be focusing on modernising the local economy through the facilitation of new investment in the non-energy sectors, in particular: financial services, tourism, downstream energy, industries, the maritime sector, information and communication technology and the creative arts.
Universities going entrepreneurial
Meanwhile, the feature speaker Prof Henry Etzkowitz, president, Triple Helix Association and the originator of the ntrepreneurial University, and Triple Helix concepts, presented his model as an option for UTT to employ. The idea behind the Triple Helix model is for universities to become more entrepreneurial to align itself to produce students that would be more equipped to meet the socio-economic needs of society. His Triple Helix model is basically the interrelation of the state, industry and academia where the point of connectivity of all three produces ideas and innovation. Etzkowitz explained that universities should be able to function outside of its traditional role “by playing the leading role in a knowledge-based society, while having the capability of interfacing and integrating with other structures, such as incubators, technology transfer offices and science parks.