Moving the OECS & Belize deep into the CSME

By: Rickey Singh on Sunday, June 06, 2010

TRADE and economic disadvantages being experienced by the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) of the Caribbean Community pose a critical challenge to their full integration in Caricom’s Single Market and Economy (CSME).

These are largely countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Belize. According to the findings of a just-completed major study, the creation of a Regional Stabilisation Programme (RSP) must be treated as an urgent priority.

Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will shortly discuss the findings and recommendations of the study, viewed as a very serious exercise in support of “the full integration” of Belize and the OECS into the CSME.

Presented as a descriptive and analytical 210-page report, the study involved six months of work across the OECS sub-region and Belize by the former three-term prime minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur.

Submitted by Owen S Arthur and Consortium, the study was funded by the European Union in the context of its support for Caricom. The community’s heads of government are expected to take relevant action based on recommendations from the forthcoming meeting of COTED.

Arthur, who had lead responsibility for CSME-readiness arrangements while in government, held varied discussions with government leaders, ministers, technocrats, private sector and other representatives to complete four phases of his mandate during six months of extensive consultations, research and writings.

Revised Treaty

The revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which provides the legal basis and philosophical framework for the CSME, envisages “a fully liberalised and integrated market” to facilitate sustained economic growth and development in member countries through production and export of internationally competitive goods and services.

Over the years, however, it became increasingly evident that the less developed countries (LDCs) of the 15-member community were facing disadvantages from their size, structure and economic vulnerability.

Recognised as even more relevant, following the inauguration of the single market component of the CSME, was that the LDCs are facing “economic dislocation” as a consequence of the various regimes of the CSME.

A rupture between the so-called LDCs and More Developed Countries (MDCs) was, of course, never an option for Caricom’s flagship project designed for a seamless regional economy by 2015.

That deadline, of course, is now to be revised for later inauguration during this decade due to serious implementation deficits in some of the member states — LDCs and MDCs.

Last year, the former Barbados prime minister started his consultancy assignment for Caricom, in co-operation with the European Union, examining and making recommendations that could enable “the full integration” of the OECS and Belize in the CSME.

The Arthur Report points out that one of “the chief sets of disparities centres around the adverse circumstances and the weakening economic positions of the LDCs in absolute terms and relative to the position and prospects of the MDCs of the community”.

The wide-ranging report speaks to the functioning of the CSME regimes for movement of services, capital and rights of establishment, and also facilitation of labour mobility in relation to specific needs of the LDCs.

Girvan Report

Among major recommendations for possible interventions at the subregional level are 10 suggested initiatives in pursuit of a programme for Structural Diversification and Transformation.

Recommended interventions, at the wider community level, include designing of the proposed Regional Stabilisation Programme (RSP).

Once approved for action, it is to be hoped that the Arthur Report does not suffer the fate of the seminal work by Professor Norman Girvan which provided a roadmap for Caricom’s march ‘Towards a Single Economy and a Single Development Vision’.

The sequential implementation of recommendations as outlined in the Girvan-authored report remains largely ignored although the concepts and approaches for action had flowed from extensive consultations and research.

Interestingly, as the then prime minister with lead CSME-readiness responsibility, Owen Arthur had played a key role in the preparation of Girvan’s report.

Perhaps both the St Lucia-based OECS Secretariat and the Guyana-located Caricom Secretariat can become more actively involved in advancing the ideas and recommendations outlined in the Arthur Report, as well as the earlier work by Girvan focused on the larger issues pertaining to “a single economy and single development vision”.

Source: Jamaica Observer

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