Jun 27, 2017 Last Updated 8:13 PM, Jun 16, 2017

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Immigration and Customs Officers took the opportunity this week to discuss CARICOM Single Market and Economy processes at a training workshop. The two-day session in Barbados sought to ensure there was common understanding of the Free Movement of Persons regime. Participants were also involved in training in Customer Service and the Right of Establishment and Provision of Services.

There was representation from all Member States who are significantly participating in the CSME and some officials were engaged on-line. The training took place at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre with support from the 10th European Development Fund and ended yesterday 14 June 2017.

In the wrap-up comments, participants commended the timeliness of the activity and the information received. They also highlighted networking and sharing experiences as a useful tool for implementation of obligations within the CSME.

Participants committed to ensuring follow-up activities are implemented within their home state as they engage peers via the development and execution of training. This is expected to assist with maintaining and reinforcing capacity within Member States.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) consumers now have access to the CARREX Online Electronic Platform and the live public portal for providing alerts on dangerous non-foods consumer goods on the markets in all fifteen CARICOM Member States. The platform, which went live recently, can be accessed via www.carrex.caricom.org

Registered National Contact Points (NCPs) and their alternates, national authorities and economic operators, will be able to transmit notifications on this IT platform. It was developed with assistance under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Economic Integration Programme.

Through the online platform, consumers and consumer organisations will be able to submit complaints about products that may have caused or have the potential to cause harm to them. The facility can also be used by the public to submit complaints electronically to consumer protection agencies on defective products purchased from suppliers in the Community.

The system functions as a general alert and surveillance structure intended to cope with emergency situations. It aims essentially to permit the rapid exchange of information between the Member States and the CARICOM Secretariat when the presence of a product which represents a grave and immediate risk to consumers’ health and safety has been detected.

It enables the national authorities to act immediately where a serious and immediate danger has been registered to circulate non-food and pharmaceutical products on the national territory. Food and pharmaceutical items have been excluded from this system as procedures which monitor such products tend to have a higher level of stringency and are regulated by different processes.

Member States are expected to establish their CARREX National Networks which shall include the CARREX Contact Point and all of the authorities involved in ensuring consumer product safety.

CARICOM Immigration and Customs Officers will undergo training next week to clarify the roles and functions of Border Officers. The training is also geared at ensuring that there is a common understanding of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in general, and the Free Movement of Persons (FMP) in particular.

The Train-the-Trainers Workshop for Immigration and Customs Officers is being held by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat 13- 14 June, in Barbados. It is part of the Tenth European Development Fund CSME Economic Integration Programme.

The Workshop will also include a module on Customer Service and on Effective Communication.

In addition to further strengthening and building the capacity of these officials on the CARICOM Free Movement regimes, it is expected that this intervention will enhance their ability to train their peers upon their return home. In light of this and the follow-up that is required to make this intervention successful and sustain the efforts, there will be a need to ensure that further training activities take place at the National Level.

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Community’s Strategic Plan, and internationally agreed goals, including those from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will be taken into account as preparations begin for the upcoming Round of Population and Housing Census.

This is in an effort to ensure that issues of importance to CARICOM Member States are considered and that there is greater harmonisation and comparability of the data that emerges from the exercise.

The next Population and Housing Census Round is in 2020, and the CARICOM Secretariat, earlier in May, held a workshop that is aimed at building on the approach that was used in the 2010 Census Round which saw a common core of questions being asked.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the three-day workshop on 16 May in Bridgetown, Barbados, Director, Regional Statistics, CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Philomen Harrison, pointed out the reasons why the CSME, Strategic Plan and international goals were identified for inclusion.

The measurement of the functioning of the CSME – the region’s flagship programme – largely relied on key statistics and indicators, and was therefore vital to determine the impact of the regional integration thrust, she said.

Preparations will also take into consideration the resilience theme of the CARICOM Five-Year Strategic Plan. The Plan recognises the threats to the sustainable development of the Region, including financial, economic, social and environmental.

Information on population and housing, and baseline data, are necessary to monitor and report on the sustainable development goals and the Samoa Pathway to evaluate the impact of those interventions which seek ultimately to eradicate poverty.

“Statisticians of the Region are therefore challenged to consider these frameworks which perhaps in some respects are outside of their comfort zones relative to the traditional list of topics that are incorporated in census-taking.

What issues can we include to provide in an innovative approach, the basis for the transformative agenda of the CSME, the Strategic Plan of the Community, the 2030 Agenda and the Samoa Pathway”, Dr. Harrison challenged workshop participants, as she urged them to “think outside the box.”

The workshop is the first preparatory one ahead of the Census and was supported by the government of Canada, the United Nations Populations Fund and PARIS21.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministers with responsibility for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on Friday, 19 May, 2017, approved the Integrated Work Plan for the Community’s Single ICT Space.

 

The approval came during discussions at the Sixty-Eighth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on ICT. The Virtual Meeting was anchored at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

The Single ICT Space is conceptualised as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Region’s flagship programme. It encompasses the management of Regional information, human resources, legislation and infrastructure in the sector to elicit maximum benefit for the Region’s populace.

The Single ICT space and the Region’s Digital Agenda 2025 are premised on the Regional Digital Development Strategy (RDDS) which was approved in 2013, and will also have inputs from key regional Commissions and the Post-2015 Agenda.

 

Special COTED ICT 19 May 2017 from Caribbean Community on Vimeo.

CARICOM Heads of Government approved the Road map for the Single ICT Space in February 2017, and the Integrated Work Plan was developed and fine-tuned following several meetings of senior officials of ICT in the Region. The integrated approach allows for the coordination of activities which are geared towards the best solutions to meet the needs of the people, and to achieve economies of scale across the Region.

CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Mr. Joseph Cox, said that in the course of developing the workplan, several matters were brought to light, including the fact of the different stages of ICT development across CARICOM Member States.

“The Single ICT space workplan provides a guide for issues that the region can work on together- with those that have done some things before helping the ones now embarking on those projects”, he said.

Mr. Cox also reminded the Meeting that this week the world observed World Telecommunication and Information Society Day with the theme of ‘Big data for big impact’.

“Big data is just one of the issues on the front burner of the digital sector. Are we dealing with the issues of standards, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence at the national and regional levels?”

He cautioned that “our citizens are very aware of what is happening around them and possible resulted impact. We as servants of the citizens of this Region and the practitioners and decision-makers in the sector have to give them the assurance that we are aware too and are earnestly working to ensure that we do not retard their progress as digital citizens.”

Cohesiveness in national and regional ICT endeavours, and the indicative budget for the Single ICT Space elicited robust discussion at the Meeting on Friday. Ministers commended and gave their imprimatur to the Work Plan which will now be placed before the CARICOM Heads of Government in July in St. George’s, Grenada.

Before the Ministers got down to business Friday morning, Chairman, Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, the Hon. Ferdinand Welzijn thanked the senior officials from CARICOM Member States and regional organisations who worked on the draft Integrated Work Plan.

“I want to thank them for their dedicated efforts on this important regional initiative”, he said.

The Minister added that given the importance of the Single ICT space to both national and regional development, “Heads of Government expect ICT Ministers to play a pivotal role in the guidance and development of key regional documents and processes. It therefore means that you have to endeavour to prioritise areas which are not only on the national agenda, but are regional as well. Ultimately, one affects the other, especially since we are working towards a harmonised ICT Space.”

While he pointed to challenges which the Community may encounter, he issued a reminder that when used strategically, ICT was a solution provider. He said that ICT was becoming a main pivot in the four pillars of the Community – trade and economic development, human and social development, foreign policy coordination and security.

“Let us therefore focus on doing our part so that the big picture can be understood and appreciated by the citizens of the Region whom we serve. The work on the Single ICT space forces us to collaborate like never before as Ministers, policy-makers, officials and civil society, if we are going to succeed and advance as a Region”, he told his fellow Ministers.

The half-day Meeting also paid attention to the Community’s Digital Agenda, which encompasses the role ICT plays in the development of society such as in relation to the elderly, disabled and marginalised; in transportation, agriculture and energy; and in the green economy approach now being undertaken by Member States.

The Ministers also acknowledged the cyber security action plan which was recently approved by the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) and agreed to forge ahead with a coordinated approach to keeping national assets secured. They agreed to meet before July to discuss digital broadcasting and switch-over issues.

The private sector's full, safe and unhindered access to the CARICOM Single Market was important for the promotion and  sustainability of economic growth, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry of Suriname, the Hon. Ferdinand Welzijn, said on Thursday.

Delivering remarks at the opening of the Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Georgetown, Guyana, Minister Welzijn, who is chairing the Meeting, said that development depended on public-private partnership.

 "After all it is the private sector that trades and does business," he pointed out.

His remarks were made in the context of one the main  item for discussion at the Meeting - the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).  The Minister said that his background in the private sector provided a full understanding of the concerns and frustration of entrepreneurs who were facing trade difficulties within CARICOM.

He told delegates at the Meeting that the ways in which business was being conducted in the Region, had a "big impact" on the achievement of sustainable development and growth.

"Abiding by the principles, set out by the CSME, as well as full implementation, shall pave the way for a sustainable growth, as well as establish reliability for our business community," he reasoned. "Therefore I wish to stress the need for full, safe and unhindered access for our business society to the CARICOM Single Market.

Member States, he added, needed to consider what they wanted from the CSME and how to maintain it.

"We must not hinder each other to trade by using non tariff barriers", he warned.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in his remarks to the opening session of the Meeting, also referred to the role of the private sector and the creation of the environment to facilitate its full involvement in the CSME.

"The private sector is asking us to do better. The people of the Region are asking us to do better. "You can send a clear signal of your determination to make that difference by reaching agreement on the Regional Policy for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. It is an opportunity to open the way for the small entrepreneur to benefit from our Single Market", the Secretary-General said, as he rallied the Council Meeting to "do better".

The COTED is responsible for the promotion of trade and economic development of our Community. In particular, it is required to oversee the development, operation and implementation of the CSME.

The Meeting concludes on Friday, 12 May, 2017.

 

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