A single market and economy

first_imgAt the opening of the 44th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Georgetown, Guyana, a few days ago, Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said that while the regional grouping has significantly advanced the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), “we must do better”.In stressing the need for more work to be done to fill the existing gaps, the SG sought to reinforce the point that the Region’s Private Sector and – more importantly – citizens themselves are demanding better results from Governments and policymakers.It was indeed quite refreshing to see the Region’s top diplomat himself giving a frank and honest opinion on how he feels about where the CSME is at the moment. While he has noted the many achievements of the CSME thus far, he was being very practical in his assessment of the areas in which the grouping has not delivered as expected.The CSME, conceived in 1989 and given various priority areas for focused attention over its existence, 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.Even though much is yet to be achieved, the successes of the CSME thus far cannot be underestimated. For instance, agreements were made 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, the Caricom Competition Commission headquartered in Suriname, the Caricom Development Fund in Barbados, and the Trinidad and Tobago-based Implementation Agency for Crime and Security.The Secretariat has also reported that work has advanced in shaping regional policies and strategies in the productive sectors to achieve increased production, competitiveness, and exports of goods and services. It said that in agriculture, the focus has been on addressing the constraints to reducing the Region’s high food import bill, increasing exports, and achieving food and nutrition security. In the services sector, the Secretariat highlighted that strategic plans are being developed for professional, cultural, entertainment and sports, health and wellness, educational, financial, construction, tourism, and ICT services.Additionally, under CSME provisions, Caricom nationals have a right to enter a member state and be given a stay of six months. Member states have also moved towards the use of common embarkation/disembarkation forms and the introduction of Caricom/non-Caricom lines at immigration points at ports of entry. It should be noted though, that while some member states have by and large adhered to these general policies, some have had major difficulties in implementing them. For instance, from time to time, citizens have complained bitterly that they were unfairly targeted at various ports of entry.As alluded to earlier, in spite of the progress, the challenges are many and require serious commitment and political will from leaders to surmount them. Heads of Government, in July 2016, had requested a comprehensive review of the CSME. The review was done and was considered at the Inter-sessional Meeting of the Heads in Georgetown last February. At that meeting, the Heads had noted the significant programmes in various areas, but they were quick to point out the many concerns they had in relation to the non-compliance with some of their decisions.In fact, leaders had lamented the fact that some of the CARICOM organs and bodies had failed to meet to consider critical aspects of the CSME, leaving many of the issues hanging. They had said that items remain much too long on the agenda of the Councils.In spite of the criticisms from regional stakeholders, we believe that there was still a high level of optimism for the regional integration movement, and a high level of interest in the goal of a CSME. It is expected that the Heads of Government will consider again the progress and challenges of the CSME at their next Regular Meeting, which will be held from July 4 to 6, in St George’s, Grenada. Leaders must make every effort to ensure that the idea of the regional integration movement is kept alive and that it is responding appropriately and in a timely fashion to the challenges that arise from time to time.last_img read more