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ExporTT CEO: Faster growth needed
Chief executive officer of ExporTT Adrian Theodore is arguing that the country needs to urgently move out of its “incremental” approach to development and begin seeking “exponential answers.”
Theodore’s remarks came as the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Centre for Language Learning (CLL) launched its Language and Competitiveness website Monday and discussions followed on the value of foreign language competencies in the conduct of business and trade.
“We are in an age where we need to seek exponential answers in terms of our growth,” Theodore said.
“Incrementalism will not work for us.”
He said that at a time when “within one single year the price of your oil goes from 150-something dollars to 50-something dollars, you cannot be seeking growth at a one per cent rate. The math does not work out.”
Theodore said the challenge was finding ways of “accelerating through stages of development” without skipping some important stages.
The ExporTT boss said among the key strategies was engaging the rest of the world, something that required greater levels of familiarity with the language, customs and business practices of potential markets. Foreign language competence, he argued, was indispensable.
He cited what he described as “micro multinationals” that were “born global” and “do not need to use the domestic market as a springboard for entry into foreign markets.”
Theodore’s concerns echoed the views of UWI principal Prof Clement Sankat who said T&T and the rest of the Caribbean appeared to be losing opportunities by focusing almost exclusively on markets in which English was the dominant business language.
“If businesses in Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean are to successfully tap into the very large South and Latin American markets,” he said, “particularly export managers will need better language skills.”
“Linguistic competence can indeed create economic value and propel a country to be more competitive,” Prof. Sankat said.
This, he added, was made even more urgent by the fact of the country’s dissipating foreign revenues due to the low price of oil and natural gas.
Referring to the opening up of Cuba as a prospective, lucrative market, the UWI principal said “there are tremendous and exciting possibilities for businesses to make a mark in Cuba” but that the “importance of getting in there early and for learning Spanish to be successful in that marketplace” had to be recognised.
Reporting on the CLL’s Language and Competitiveness project, CLL director Dr Beverly-Anne Carter said in the United Kingdom, poor foreign language skills by the business community was estimated to be costing the economy up to £7.3 billion annually.
This, she said, proved to the British that though English remained the dominant language of global business and science, competence in foreign languages was necessary as a tool to achieve greater success in the export sector.
The Language and Competitiveness project focuses, as sub-projects, on trading with China, French language competencies in the workplace, the presence of Spanish-English bilingual children, a language audit and the development of a language management strategy in selected small and medium enterprises.