BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 30, CMC – A number of issues will be on the agenda next week when CARICOM heads meet in Barbados for the Ninth Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CARICOM Single Market and the Economy (CSME).
These were discussed during a national preparatory meeting with high level Government officials chaired by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) on Monday.
Issues relating to the contingent rights of citizens, such as health care, education, the single registration of international businesses, and the approval of automatic six-month stays to CARICOM nationals, were among the areas discussed.
The Prime Minister indicated that there were some issues that required follow-up action which could not be treated in a vacuum.
“The global market has to be our market,” she stressed.
She called on those present to identify policy issues within their areas and come up with suggestions for how they could be addressed.
“I need for each of you to tell me what it will take to transform each Ministry you have so that we can turn things around,” Mottley said.
A day before the September 5 CSME meeting, Prime Minister Mottley will join Ministers of Finance from around the region for the Sixth Special Meeting of the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP). The COFAP is responsible for economic policy coordination, financial and monetary integration of Member States. That meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne.
The CARICOM Single Market (CSM) is the ultimate manifestation of Regional Integration. This is according to Chairman of the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government and Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness. He was speaking at the opening of the Thirty-Ninth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on Wednesday evening in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
According to Prime Minister Holness, some of CSM’s pillars represent the only means by which the Region’s citizens will experience the process of integration. He said the leaders of the community should therefore relentlessly pursue the goal of overcoming what he called their implementation debt.
We must address the critical role of the Single Market in supporting economic development, in further facilitating trade in goods and services, the expansion of investments and the free movement of people across our Region”, he said.
Prime Minister Holness also called on all Member States to summon the political will to ensure that all programmes and initiatives were strategically focused and geared towards meeting an ambitious process of reform. He said it was imperative to undertake an honest and thorough assessment of whether the Community was appropriately positioned to collectively advance economic cooperation for the mutual benefit of the Region’s countries and peoples.
Turning to the issue of crime and violence, the Chairman said it would be one of the priorities of Jamaica’s Chairmanship, which will last until the 31 December. He stated that while gun and gang violence had decreased in some Member States, it had escalated sharply in others. This he said has had significant effects on citizen security and economic development prospects.
He urged the Heads to ensure that everything possible was done to make sure the well being of the Region’s economies, infrastructure and territory were protected from threats related to criminal activity. He expressed the view that those challenges transcended borders and were difficult for any one country to solve alone. He posited a synergetic approach through increased vigilance information sharing and networking among Member States and International Development Partners as one solution.
Building resilience to climate change and natural disasters was another matter raised during the Chairman’s address. He said it was an absolute imperative for survival as the costs associated with the frequent reoccurrence of natural disasters were excessive. To highlight the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Holness pointed to statistics from the World Bank which indicated that Hurricane Irma caused damages of 14% of GDP for Antigua and Barbuda and 26% of GDP for Dominica.
Our reality is one of deep vulnerability created by existential threats that far transcends our income status”, he stated.
On a more positive note, Prime Minister Holness said the Caribbean was taking responsibility for designing appropriate risk mitigation, risk transfer and risk financing tools. He said CARICOM was absolutely important from functional, economic and resilience perspectives and was the means by which the Region would be able to survive and recover from existential threats.
Mr. Holness also used the opportunity to reaffirm Jamaica’s commitment to the principal objectives of CARICOM, including the expansion of trade and investment opportunities for its members, the promotion of foreign policy coordination and structured functional cooperation. He outlined that Jamaica’s chairmanship would have specific focus and intention, mindful of the rapid dynamics of the global world and the need for effective response to the changing realities. He said the theme being followed for the Chairmanship was ‘Building stronger resilient and secure partnerships for prosperity’.
In concluding, Prime Minister Holness said that there was no doubt that CARICOM would have to contend with challenges, uncertainties and setbacks in pursuit of Community building efforts, but in order to keep progressing, the Region would have to keep evolving.
I unreservedly believe that it is worth recommitting to collectively harnessing the potential to drive development and prosperity in the Region. Indeed, we have a responsibility to our people to drive real and measureable progress. Let us not fail them. Our collective future depends on our commitment to building stronge,r resilient and secure partnerships for prosperity”, he concluded.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 19) adopted the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks.
The Commission was charged with evaluating the effects of Jamaica’s membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the country’s economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and job creation.
In his address to the House, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said that since tabling the report in February of this year, the entire region has awaited the Government’s final position on the document.
“I think it only appropriate that they be granted the requisite bipartisan consideration, so that they may be duly shared with my CARICOM colleagues for discussion at the upcoming Regular Meeting of the Conference in July,” the Prime Minister said.
He informed the Lower House that the Report has 33 key recommendations, which boldly project a way forward in addressing aspects of regional relationships that are not fully meeting their intended objectives.
“Our extensive review of the report has identified recommendations at various stages of readiness for implementation, including some that may not be within our reach at this time for various reasons,” Mr. Holness said.
Among the recommendations in the report are full free movement of people throughout the Community, subject only to exclusions for security and public health reasons; harmonisation of customs laws, regulations and procedures, especially in the treatment of perishable goods; and agreed protocols on sanitary and phytosanitary standards and procedures.
On the matter of integrated capital markets, the Prime Minister said it is believed that an agreed protocol for cross-border regulatory cooperation is essential to any custom union.
“In this regard, we support the view that this recommendation is attainable within the next three years. However, we are also mindful that many member states are currently at various stages of reform to bring their regulatory landscape in line with institutional standards. Consequently, there may be need to apply some flexibility with respect to the timeline for full implementation by all member states,” Mr. Holness said.
On the right of establishment, as well as the services market, Mr. Holness said these recommendations are well-founded, as member states participating in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) have an obligation to remove restrictions on the right of establishment and the right to provide services across the region.
“In relation to the right of establishment, all member states are to pass the requisite Regulation to facilitate the movement of managerial, technical and supervisory staff. Jamaica is also assessing its implementation of the regime, to ensure that no further restrictions exist. Jamaica has enacted the Caribbean Community Establishment, Services, Capital and Movement of Community Nationals Act 2004,” Mr. Holness noted.
“From a legal perspective, the Commission’s proposal… on the full free movement of persons throughout the Community, which is subject only to exclusions for security and public health reasons, is quite feasible and consistent with the rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ),” he added.
The Prime Minister explained that it will now be a matter for the organs and bodies of CARICOM, in consultation with the respective members states, to decide whether these goals may be attainable within a five-year time period.
As it relates to the removal of all non-tariff barriers to trade, Mr. Holness said CARICOM has done considerable work in its efforts to implement a myriad of harmonisation protocols and policies to minimise obstacles to trade in this area.
These, he said, include the establishment of various regulatory mechanisms, namely the Caribbean Agriculture, Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) and CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).
“Notwithstanding the existence of these mechanisms, as well as the various monitoring frameworks, there are still significant challenges being experienced as manifested in ongoing disputes among member states,” the Prime Minister argued.
For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, also welcomed the report, noting that it is an “extensive and representative national effort,” which involved widespread consultations, not only within Jamaica but across the Caribbean.
“I think it represents an important and good starting point, and what I would propose is that it become the template that we should ask the assembled Heads of Government of CARICOM to utilise, as they collectively embrace the need to move forward to implement the single market and economy, and to review other aspects of the CARICOM experience,” Dr. Phillips said. (Jamaica Information Service Press Release)
Is the architecture on which the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was built appropriate today? Is the CSME overly ambitious? Is there political will and courage to continue the progress on the CSME? Why is there a deficit in the implementation of decisions?
Is the Region taking account of the global context? Are we ready for the changes that are coming? Is the capacity of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States adequate to put in place the infrastructure necessary for the CSME?
These were some of the questions that were raised on Friday as the Stakeholder Consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) began at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana.
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CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and Director, Economics Department at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Justin Ram set the tone of the two-day Consultation. They positioned the CSME as critical to the sustainable development of the Community and honed in on implementation as one of the major elements that needed to be tackled.
“The major focus should be on implementation”, Dr. Ram advised.
He added that new ways and a greater level of accountability needed to be found to tackle the implementation deficit. There also needed to be planning laboratories, and plans and budgets had to be communicated to the regional populace to elicit feedback and buy-in, he underscored.
Ambassador LaRocque said that while there was progress on the regional flagship programme, the agenda needed to move along much faster.
The time it was taking to get things done was a cost to the Region’s private sector and to the credibility of the Community, he pointed out. He advised that regional positions had to be adopted rather than national stances. He said the Consultation needed to produce concrete recommendations to put to Ministers and Heads of Government
A high level discussion on fixing the CSME featured presentations by Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Bruce Golding. (More details to follow).
The Consultation is being held with the support of the CDB.
The well-attended opening session that was live-streamed drew reactions from persons across the Region and in the Diaspora who weighed in on what they considered the challenges to the CSME and regional integration.
Panels throughout the day examined matters such as what the CSME objectives and priorities should be and the private sector and labour. Tomorrow, the Consultation will focus on free movement of persons and public awareness.