Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, on Monday said that substantial progress had been recorded in the regional integration movement, particularly with the Single Market component of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). He acknowledged, however, the need to implement the existing plan for outstanding issues regarding full compliance within a specified time frame.
The Secretary-General was at the time making remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Twenty-Ninth Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The CSME is one of the main matters that the Heads will discuss during their two-day meeting. Among the specific issues they will address are administrative requirements in the process to acquire a Skills Certificate, and the procedures to which Member States must adhere with respect to refusal of entry of CARICOM nationals. Heads of Government, in 206, had mandated a comprehensive review of the CSME, the Region’s flagship programme.
The CSME was conceived by CARICOM in 1989. The Single Market component came into being in January 2006. The CSME is intended to better position Member States to grow by accessing and using their combined, rather than individual resources. Its successful Legal and Institutional measures and mechanisms include transforming regional arrangements into domestic law. There have also been agreements and arrangements to establish and operationalise various Community institutions needed for the effective operation of the CSME. These include the Barbados-based CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), the CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) headquartered in Suriname, the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) in Barbados, and the Trinidad and Tobago based Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).
In Haiti yesterday, the Secretary-General said “we must accelerate the use of the provisions of the CSME to help us build our economic resilience.” He noted the eagerness of Haiti to complete its internal arrangements to become CSME-compliant. The Secretary-General on Friday, last, in Port-au-Prince, participated in a forum on the CSME involving members of Haiti’s private sector, youth and civil society which inspired his belief that their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit will ensure Haiti plays a major role in the CSME.
Given the importance of transportation to the efficacy of the CSME, he said that this sector will receive a boost during the Meeting with the New CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement being ready for signature.
Seen as a major development, the Agreement expands the scope for airlines owned by CARICOM nationals to provide air services throughout the Community. It also allows for no restriction on capacity or traffic rights, and is expected to facilitate increased intra-regional travel as well as cost-effective cargo options.
“So we will hope that through these [sessions]…we are able to plug all the loop holes and ensure we get this right once and for all,” Inspector Brown said.
“We all should know each other’s [role] and what we do, because when persons arrive at the airport, it is our responsibility as immigration officers, as the first point of contact, to inform them, to educate them…” said Constable Jeffers.
The Caribbean Community’s development of a Single Market and Economy has been given a boost with the launch of four new on-line platforms aimed at promoting trade and improving the ease of doing business.
The CARICOM Secretariat, with support from the European Union, on Monday launched the CARICOM Online Companies Registries; Labour Market Information System; Community Public Procurement Notice Board; and the CARREX Platform and On-Line Public Portal, at a ceremony in Barbados.
The CARICOM Online Companies Registries provide a region-wide electronic platform for online name searches and name reservation, business and company registration, public access to records, e-payment and e-signature, among other features. It will also facilitate a better overview of the prevailing business climate in the Region, helping for example, to identify areas of saturation, those with growth potential, and even the role of the informal economy.
The EU’s Dr Stephen Boyce, in remarks at the launch, said at least one recent high profile example illustrates the critical importance of this platform.
“A few years ago, the inflight magazine on LIAT was rebranded as LIME. This was just a few weeks before a telecommunications giant in the region acquired a similar moniker. The result was a further rebranding to Zing to avoid any conclusion. A regional register would have avoided this,” he noted.
The development of this platform required automating the more than half of the national company registries in CARICOM which were still paper based, upgrading those already automated, and providing a functioning web software/application information system.
With the Labour Market Information Systems there is now a central depository for data on the labour markets in participating CARICOM Member States. This allows for better matching of skills with available positions at the regional level, and will thus facilitate movement of skills in the region and better management of labour migration within the Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Additionally, the launch was told that the system can guide the education system, helping it to meet market demands through academic, technical and professional development programmes designed to build and repurpose those already in the workforce and those about to enter.
The Community Public Procurement Notice Board should help both the private sector and governments by facilitating the exchange of information on procurement opportunities and contract awards. Governments, in particular can, through improved coordination of their public procurement exercises, maximise the potential economies of scale. Suppliers, including small and medium enterprises, can access opportunities both in their national space and engage in joint-bidding with other regional suppliers for opportunities across the region. The platform can also facilitate the capture of statistics on specs, pricing and other areas which can be used for future tenders and budgeting.
The CARICOM Rapid Alert System for Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods (CARREX) Platform and On-Line Public Portal should help business-customer relations by serving as a source of public information on dangerous non-food consumer goods that pose serious risks to the health and safety of consumers.
CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, in remarks at the Launch, noted that significant strides have been made in advancing the CSME’s regional and sectoral policies but that more is left to the done.
“These have been enumerated in the CSME Review considered by the Conference of Heads of Government and the Conference has approved the Implementation Plan for the CSME 2017-2019 in line with the CARICOM Strategic Plan which will see work progressing in these areas.”
The EU’s Dr Boyce stressed the need for building resilience in the system across the region:
“During the past three weeks, the path of devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has reminded us of the fragility of our built infrastructure. As our brothers and sisters across the region rebuild their lives and livelihoods, attention must also be paid to building a more robust and resilient digital infrastructure. At the regional and national levels, it will be vital to create technology recovery strategies as part of the business continuity planning process.”
Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM Robert “Bobby” Morris, speaking on behalf of the country’s Foreign Minister, stressed the importance of the CSME to regional development.
“The realisation of the CSME is seen as a major item in the advancement of the Caribbean and in recent times the COTED (CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development) and the Conference (of CARICOM Heads of Government) have had the CSME and Freedom of Movement, in particular, under intense scrutiny in attempts to realise the full benefits of integration for the masses of our people,” he said
More information on the CSME can be found at - http://csmeonline.org/
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat will officially launch four (4) online platforms on Monday 25 October 2017. These online platforms have been developed to help make the benefits of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) more accessible to CARICOM Nationals.
They were created with the assistance of the Tenth European Development Fund (10th EDF) Grant Agreement between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the European Union (EU).
These electronic platforms are:
They are intended to provide an online database and repository of regional labour market statistics, public procurement opportunities, information on the registration of companies, business names and other entities; and alerts and notifications on dangerous and harmful products in the Community.
During the official launch, there will be remarks and addresses by officials from the CARICOM Secretariat, representatives of the International Development Partners and a CARICOM Member State. Presentations on the platforms will be made by the technical officers from the CARICOM Secretariat, with interventions where necessary by project consultants who will join via the online streaming platforms. Arrangements will be made for the national focal and contact points for the four (4) projects in all Member States to participate via the online streaming platforms. Contact points from the line Ministries in Barbados and representatives from regional institutions, the private sector and civil society organisations resident in Barbados will be invited to the launch.
The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the Community's best response to the inevitable changes in its traditional markets in Europe, the prevalence of economic liberalisation and the emergence of economic blocs, Outgoing CARICOM Chairman, President of Guyana, His Excellency David Granger said Tuesday evening.
Speaking at the opening of the 38th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM at the Grenada Trade Centre in Grand Anse, the President of Guyana said the CSME is still the best vehicle to allow small states like those of CARICOM to compete in the global economy while promoting economic and social development. CARICOM Heads of Governments, who began the first business session of their two-day meeting on Wednesday, were expected to examine the findings of a comprehensive review of the CSME.
Describing the deepening of economic integration by advancing a single market and economy, as the “most ambitious project attempted by the Community,” President Granger said, “It must not become its most ambiguous.”
“The CSME, especially given the present uncertainties facing the Region's international relations, must be accelerated in order to create a single economic space” he said.
“The Community, with a total land area of 462, 352 km2, is larger than Sweden and, if it were a single country, would be the 56th largest in the world. Size matters...", he stressed. Given the accumulative land, the labour, the talent and the capital the Community possessed, it could guarantee food security for its citizens, the Guyanese Head of State posited. Within this context, he bemoaned the Community's annual food import bill, which he said exceeded US$4B. Noting that such a situation was “a notorious indictment,” the outgoing Chairman said non-tariff barriers continued to constrain trade in food. The need was urgent, therefore to re-examine how it can dismantle the non-tariff barriers to trade in agricultural products while generating employment for citizens,” he said. Emphasising the critical importance of removing barriers to foster more efficient intra-regional trade, he said: “Small internal markets consign states to high dependence on external trade. Intraregional trade, therefore, is important. The Caribbean Common Market was established to ensure markets for regional production, inter alia. Intraregional trade provides a basis for increasing national production, augmenting investment and generating employment. The environment is an inescapable economic reality.” As he reflected on his “semester” as Chairman of the Community, President Granger said current international realities provided ample opportunities for the Community to work together to protect vital interests at the levels of citizen, country and the community. Expressing confidence in the future he said, “With such a clear vision and commitment, CARICOM can confront the future with confidence.” The President of Guyana reminded his colleagues to keep citizens at the centre of the Community and to reject “the odious notion of 'statelessness'.” Providing a nexus between the rights of the citizen and the freedom of movement regime of the CSME, he said that the respect of the right of citizens obliged leaders to “dismantle restrictive immigration practices, which impede free movement.” Referencing the original Treaty of Chaguaramas, he said the Founding Fathers envisioned the strengthening of “bonds among the people of the Caribbean to fulfill aspirations for "…full employment and improved standards of work and living...” He also recalled that the Charter of Civil Society of the Caribbean Community established the respect for every citizen's fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Therefore, he stated: “The perverse notion of a ‘stateless’ person is anathema to the Community’s concept of human dignity. The Community must never cease condemning inhuman treatment meted out to Caribbean citizens in the Dominican Republic or anywhere else.” The Guyanese Head of State said: “The Caribbean, our home, must be secure. It must remain a 'zone of peace' through our unstinting solidarity in defence of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of member states.” At the same time he said that security cooperation, under the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACs) and through international agreements such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), which have helped to keep citizens safe, were not sufficient in an age of international terror. Underscoring the importance of advancing the Roadmap for a Single ICT Space, he said it could help the Region to “straddle the 3,200 km2 of sea space, which separates Nassau in the north from Paramaribo in the south, through information and communications technology.”
Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, is of the view that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is still the most viable way for sustainable development in the Region. He made this disclosure at the Opening Ceremony of the Thirty Eighth Regular Meeting of the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government on Tuesday evening in Grenada. He said the task now was to ensure the private sector fully utilises its provisions.
“We must move to strengthen the enabling environment to support their efforts. Trade facilitation and the ease of doing business at the regional level are at least equally important as fiscal incentives. We must come to a conclusion on issues such as government procurement, harmonisation of customs rules and regulations and transparent harmonised sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
Citing results from an Inter-American Development Bank study, the CARICOM Secretary-General explained that if the Region addressed challenges associated with regional transportation, inter-regional trade could be doubled. This, he said would have a positive effect on competitiveness and external trade as well as Member States’ ability to attract investment. He also said that a new CARICOM Multilateral Air Services agreement – which will be an item on the Heads’ agenda – could result in reduced freight rates and passenger airfares and increase air transport services, leading to more options for consumers and expanded inter-regional tourism.
Another topic on the agenda for the Heads of Government will be the Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy. Secretary-General LaRocque said the Commission on Human Resource Development would present the Strategy, which will address the development of skills for the 21st century economy and society. He said that the important factor in education and training was providing employable skills, opening the mind to identify opportunities and encouraging the process of lifelong learning. According to him, the plan was to have a globally competitive innovative and seamlessly integrated education system for the Region by 2030.
Ambassador LaRocque also advised that an agreement for the establishment of a Caribbean Community Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which will be headquartered in Barbados, will be open for signature at the Meeting.
Turning to the matter of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Secretary-General lamented the fact that the lifestyle and choices being made by the citizens of the Region were causing incidents of NCDs to reach almost epidemic proportions. He noted that while NCDs affected persons individually, there were repercussions that had adverse social and economic effects, regionally. As the Region commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Port-of-Spain Declaration on NCDs, He urged the Heads of Government to reassert their leadership and encourage regional citizens to accept responsibility for their lifestyles and what they consumed, especially since there remained areas of significant concern with regard to risk factors for NCDs, particularly childhood obesity.
Ambassador LaRocque also used his remarks to congratulate Ms. Shirley Pryce who was honoured with the Triennial Award for Women. He said the award recognised an outstanding CARICOM woman who had made a significant contribution to the economic development of the Caribbean.
“Ms. Pryce has earned this award through championing the rights of domestic workers in the region and around the globe. She is a true Ambassador and a global leader who is making a difference in the lives of so many women and marginalised workers! Congratulations Miss Pryce.”
Speaking to the matter of regional security, the Secretary-General said significant progress had been made on regional security instruments since the last meeting of the Conference. This, he said, would add to the arsenal in the battle to secure the Region. He also expressed hope that a CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty, which was approved by the Legal Affairs Committee (LAC), would be opened for signature at the Meeting.
In closing, the Secretary General did not miss the opportunity to invite everyone to Barbados for CARIFESTA XIII from 17 August to witness what he called the creative talents of our people and the bedrock of the Region’s creative industries.
“Come and have some fun. Come and celebrate the Caribbean civilisation”, Ambassador LaRocque said.
The Summit will conclude on Thursday 6 July, 2017.
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