The financial services sector may arguably be the most significant


Financial services
The financial services sector may arguably be the most
significant of all business-related services, insofar as it
affects virtually all other sectors — both goods and
services. Financial services are critical to the financing
of new investments and individual transactions, and
access to credit is a critical determinant of whether
new ventures are profitable or even feasible. There
are some developing countries that are leaders in
this sector, such as Panama and Lebanon, but most
others rely at least partly on the presence of foreign
providers in this sector.
Regulation in the financial services sector is therefore
a matter not merely of sectoral but of horizontal
importance for developing countries, and one that
merits close attention in a TPF. The report on Angola,
for example, recommended with respect to financial
services that the country adopt reforms to enhance
the use of banking by the national population. The
recommendation urged improvements in regulatory
and institutional support for the national Law on
Financial Institutions, and called on the Government
to build a hub for credit risk information, increase the
quantity and quality of human resources specialized in
banking and develop a law on money laundering.
2. Transportation and tourism
Like financial services, the transportation and tourism
sectors have widespread effects on the economy
as a whole. Efficient and affordable transportation
is a critical element in determining the international
competitiveness of a country’s goods, just as tourism
is linked with a wide cluster of goods- and servicesproducing sectors.
Panama offers a good example of a country that has
benefited from the efficiency of its service providers in
these sectors, and hopes to move from strength to
strength. Services account for about 90 per cent of
the total Panamanian exports, and are concentrated
around canal-cluster activities, tourism, banking,
telecommunications and other related activities. The
persistent services trade surplus partly offsets that
country’s equally persistent deficit in merchandise
trade. Panama had decided to double down on its
commitment to trade in services, with the National
Logistics Plan (PNLog) identifying the interoceanic
area as an area of vital importance to logistics
development. Nor are these aspirations unique to
relatively high-income countries such as Panama.
Namibia is positioning itself as a services hub in
the SADC region, especially in transport services.
Liberalization of these transport and tourism sectors,
according to that country’s TPF, 

enables Namibia to
forge ahead with its trade and industrialization plans
with minimal policy let or hindrance in the region.
Countries may nonetheless encounter difficulties in
exploiting their potential for tourism. Officials can
sometimes fall into the trap of believing that with respect
to this sector “if you build it, they will come”. The TPF
for Algeria took a more realistic view, stressing that the
development of touristic infrastructure is necessary
but not sufficient. Similar logic may explain why this
is one of the few services sectors in which most
developing countries have made GATS commitments.
“If you commit it”, the hope may have been, “they will
invest”. An open trade and investment regime may
be a necessary element for the attraction of foreign
investment in tourism facilities, but it is not sufficient.
The other elements include such diverse elements as
the presence of attractions that range from museums
and sports stadiums to beaches and ecotourist sites,
efficient airports and cruise ship ports, frequent and
affordable connections with major population centres
and a reputation for preserving the physical safety of
visitors from crime, political unrest, tropical diseases
and gastrointestinal disorders. These are all factors
that should be given just as much consideration as
trade agreements and promotional campaigns when
assessing how a country might tap more effectively into
this potentially lucrative source of foreign exchange.

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