By Vahnu Manickchand
In light of the recent bout of tension between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago over trade issues, the Heads of
the two countries have declared their commitment to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and more specifically its integrated development strategy – Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), while pressing for much focus to be placed on the initiative to make it more effective and efficient for people in the Caribbean.
Delivering remarks at the opening of the 37th Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, which got underway on Monday in Guyana, Prime Minister Andrew Holness pointed out that Jamaica has always been supportive of CSME and undertaken the necessary reforms including changes to its legislation.
He said Jamaica now provides a strong, transparent and predictable regulatory environment for those who wish to relocate there for working purposes, noting that this is an integrated pillar for the integration process.
“For many, including the man-in-the-street, free movement represents a tangible in which he can benefit from tangibly,” he posited. However, the Jamaican Prime Minister noted that there have been increasing cases of Jamaicans being denied entry and questionable treatment at ports across the region. This, he said, must be urgently addressed in a meaningful way, otherwise, the economic sense of Caricom will be questioned.
To this end, Holness disclosed that this matter is being discussed bilaterally and he is encouraged by the responsiveness of the concerns.
“We believe that bilateral consultations supported by additional effort in the institution of our community and make the movement of labour equal to that of the movement of goods – a reality that would extend the progress and benefit of the integration effort.”
The Jamaican Head of State observed that the region has been lacking in its efforts to strengthen bilateral relations with each other. In this regard, he announced that Jamaica is currently working with Trinidad to establish a joint commission agreement with the aim of developing a mutually beneficial cooperation programme. Similar initiatives will be undertaken with other Member States, the Prime Ministersaid.
He further explained that regional integration is not an end in itself but a means to achieving a much broader objective, that is, the economic growth and development of Caribbean countries and the improvement of the lives of its people: “It should allow small economies like ours to overcome regional constraints, build our resilience, and take advantage of new and existing opportunities in the global market place.”
Regionally, Holness emphasised that while integration processes like the CSME can deliver economic gains, it must be mindful that CSME as a mere concept cannot deliver these promises. He stressed that as a functional and transformative integration process, CSME can deliver the much needed economic dividends to our citizens.
Prime Minister Holness’ sentiments were adopted by Prime Minister of Trinidad Dr Keith Rowley, who in his remarks, requested that integrated development strategy be put on the front burner of discussions during the conference.
Rowley outlined that the Region must take ownership of the challenges and opportunities facing the Caribbean and view them as critically matters to be addressed.
“In this vain, Trinidad and Tobago has requested that the Caricom put the Single Market and Economy back on the agenda and the deliberations and decision-making should focus on that aspect,” he stressed.
The Heads of Government will have a packed agenda for business sessions, today and Wednesday. Some of the major highlights include: regional security, CSME, Border Issues, Correspondent Banking (De-risking), Caricom-Cuba Relations, among other issues in the region.