As a country, T&T has lived off the fat of government-funded subsidies for much of our post-independence history.
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Tewarie: New industries need innovation financing
Innovation financing is necessary for growth and development of new industries. Dr Bhoe Tewari, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, said so when in the feature address at the opening of an exhibition of work by Cariri’s 2012 Ideas to Innovation recipients in Freeport, central Trinidad, on Monday. The minister said some citizens were afraid to share ideasfor fear that they might be stolen.
“This culture is so afraid of sharing ideas, people are very afraid that if you put forward an idea it would be stolen and it took some convincing for people to understand that once you made your idea public sphere you have already claimed ownership, therefore if it was opened to a competitive situation the chances of somebody simply stealing your idea and running away with are remote,” Tewarie said.
He said it was only in the second year of the Ideas to Innovation competition that people became interested and 103 ideas have been funded with the real possibility of the majority becoming real businesses. “That has to do with the way we are thinking about diversification,” he said. The minister said T&T as an economic entity lives off the revenue of oil and energy and was using oil money to finance everything else.
“Because of that we have had a two tiered economic system. One is linked to the energy sector and one is outside the energy sector. With that is a two tiered everything in terms of productivity, in terms of competitiveness and in terms of income.” Tewari said in the last three years Government has tried to diversified in the energy sector after bringing it up to the highest level of productive capability.
He explained: “That is how we ended up with an investment with Mitsubishi and Neal and Massy in the south western peninsula of Trinidad. That is how we did a study on the services sector in the energy sector which has seen phenomenal growth in this country in the last decade or so and which has the capacity to grow more significantly than it has in the past at a faster pace with a longer and broader reach and with a greater capacity for innovation and development.
“What do you need to do? You need to pick other areas to diversify and that is what we did, we consulted with the business community.” Tewarie said 500 participants were consulted with the Economic Development Board and came up with seven suggestions for diversification including areas of creativity and maritime industries. He said five geographical areas were chosen for these growth poles. Tewarie said he was in Tobago recently for discussions on the North East Growth Pole in Tobago.
Tewarie said Government has put public sector spending and infrastructure in the five growth poles. He said the economic zones in the growth poles would require private sector investment and it was in that framework innovation financing arose. “You need people with the vision to use their imagination to create things that have not existed, or do not exist and who can turn that into a business proposition or opportunity that can expand at home and move abroad and employ people,” the minister said.