Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran wants the public and private sectors to re-examine the capabilities to provide financial opportunities to young entrepreneurs. Speaking yesterday at Commonwealth Day celebrations at the Banquet and Conference Centre, Movie Towne, Dookeran said he made a similar call last week at a United Nations conference on Sustainable Development.
He said financial opportunities for young people has always been a major obstacle to their development and with several financial institutions operating in T&T and the Caribbean much more must be done.Citing a recent World Bank report on Caribbean development, Dookeran said: "The financial sector has total assets of 350 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) regionally, while the banking sector alone has as asset base near to 150 per cent GDP. "
Given these strong figures, he went on: "The first step in establishing new opportunities for the young population and entrepreneurship in T&T lies in the financial sector providing access to funding."I make a strong call for us to have a re-look at the capability of the financial sector to deliver financial opportunities for entrepreneurship and young entrepreneurs. There must be avenues, which can be accepted for financing at risk that is acceptable for those young entrepreneurs."
Dookeran said more than 60 per cent of the Commonwealth population is made up of young people and there is an official pledge to invest in youth and entrepreneurship. He said that was the reason this year's Commonwealth celebration had the theme Opportunity through Enterprise: Unlocking Potential with Innovation and Excellence.He said the role of entrepreneurship in economic development is becoming a greater focus and the World Economic Forum which has indicated that a country's ability to compete globally depends largely on the capabilities of its people and the youth in particular.
"In this regard, T&T is pursuing a number of initiatives based on the premise that the State must create that environment and continue to be the catalyst for entrepreneurship development," said the minister who also underscored the need for other initiatives to boost trade and business.Dookeran said he hoped with the many endeavours the Commonwealth has embarked on, such as the Hub and Spokes project, they would support the call for more financial opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
The Hub and Spoke programme is geared toward building capacity in trade and policy development, negotiation and networking, which would assist foreign countries with smaller economies to enter global markets.To mark this year's celebration there is a Commonwealth Youth programme which seeks to provide young people with opportunities to achieve their goals through the creation and support of conditions which enable youth empowerment. The programme includes the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative, Commonwealth Financial Literacy and Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment 2007-2015.
Dookeran said the new Commonwealth charter is taking on a new transformation, which is good and important "as it recognises that we are in a period of economic change and political differences" and is positioning itself to address contemporary challenges.British High Commissioner Arthur Snell, who spoke on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, encouraged young people to follow through on their dreams, be courageous and venture out to the unknown because everyone is born with the potential to learn.