The issue regarding the slow pace of implementation of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Single Market and Economy (CSME) again took prominence during the 18th Special Meeting earlier this week of Caricom Heads of Government meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago. During the special meeting held to review the CSME, heads were challenged yet again to take the necessary steps to ensure its implementation is fast-tracked so that citizens all over the Region would begin to experience the benefits of the CSME.
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.
It is meant to be an integrated development strategy that is intended to benefit the people of the Region by providing more and better opportunities to produce and sell goods and services and to attract investments. It is built on five core regimes – free movement of capital, free movement of goods, free movement of skills, the provision of services, and the right of establishment.
It is well accepted that the rate of implementation of the CSME is not at the level where stakeholders would like it to be. In fact, some persons have claimed that they are yet to be directly touched by the benefits of the CSME. Hence, the Region’s Private Sector, and more importantly; citizens themselves, are demanding better results from governments and policymakers.
No other than the Caricom Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque had said while the regional grouping has significantly advanced the CSME, “we must do better”. He had stressed the need for more work to be done to fill the existing gaps.
At their most recent gathering, Heads embraced the declaration which shows that they are committed to all the major areas; both of the single market and of the single economy. Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister has stated that this declaration demonstrates the commitment of various countries in ensuring that the 10 categories of workers agreed to previously, would enjoy free movement throughout the Region. New categories were also added, among them agricultural workers, persons working in the fashion industry and related fields such as barbering and hairdressing, among others.
The Heads also agreed to a schedule of deadlines to ensure certain measures are put into effect within the next three months, at the end of 2019 and subsequently, implementation by 2020.
Even though much is yet to be achieved regarding the implementation of the CSME, its successes 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.
From all indications, work has advanced in shaping regional policies and strategies in the productive sectors to achieve increased production, competitiveness, and exports of goods and services. 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, it was 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.
Over the years, there has been quite a lot of talk about the CSME and its benefits; the time has come for action. Governments and policymakers must place greater focus on advancing the CSME so that citizens of the Region would enjoy its full benefits.