Feb 23, 2019 Last Updated 12:51 PM, Feb 18, 2019

To blame the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat for the gaps in implementation of the Single Market and Economy was unfair, a former Prime Minister of Jamaica has said.

Mr. Bruce Golding, former Jamaica Prime Minister, addressed the matter frontally as a member of a high level panel that discussed the CSME during a stakeholder consultation in Georgetown, Guyana on Friday.

The two-day Consultation, hosted by the CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, with support from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), continued on Saturday at the Ramada Princess Hotel.

Mr. Golding gave credit to the CARICOM Secretariat, the Community’s administrative arm, for the considerable effort it was making to push the process and its assistance to Member States. He said it was unfair that the Secretariat and the Secretary-General were being made scapegoats for the lack of implementation of the Region’s flagship programme.

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Implementation, he pointed out, was primarily the responsibility of national governments.

“… credit must be given to the Secretariat for the considerable efforts it has made to push the implementation process and assist Member States to fulfill their obligations. The Secretariat is often made the scapegoat for CARICOM’s failures. It is unfair to the Secretary-General and his staff. I would not want his job for five times his salary; the frustration that it must certainly cause would be hazardous to my health.

Implementation is primarily the responsibility of national governments. The Secretariat dare not even appear to be inserting itself in the decision-making or implementation process of Member States”, he told the well-attended session which was live-streamed.

He added that “hardly any excuse or explanation”had been proferred by Member States on their tardiness with respect to implementation.

“What is the primary cause of this malaise? Capacity or resource constraints? Lethargy? I think not! Is it lack of political will? That would suggest acceptance of the merits and necessity of doing something but an absence of the courage to do it. I think not, as well.

“We continue to be deceptive to each other and to the  people of the community if we conceal doubts and fears of honouring our commitments while we speak so passionately about the CSME”, Mr. Golding said.

He advised, however, that there had to be an acknowledgement that implementation action required of Member States, in some cases, were complex and required far-reaching policy changes, legislative processes and executive action. He pointed out also that many Member States were challenged by resource and capacity constraints.

He recommended on Friday that “we need to delve deeper than the quantitative and qualitative assessment of the progress or lack thereof of the CSME implementation. It seems to me that among most – if not all – member states (including my own), there are deep misgivings about some of the CSME provisions and requirements. It seems to me that some Member States are of the view that full implementation of the CSME is likely to do them more harm than good”.

The matter of perception and the benefits of the CSME also resonated with other participants at the Consultation. From the floor, questions were raised, for example, about whether Member States wanted to cede their financial independence; conflict of interest positions that may occur in the area of national interest versus regional obligations.

Former Prime Minister Golding chaired a Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. The Commission was charged with evaluating the effects of Jamaica’s membership in CARICOM on the country’s economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and job creation. Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Hon. Andrew Holness earlier this year tabled the Report of the Commission in the House of Representatives.

Is the architecture on which the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was built appropriate today? Is the CSME overly ambitious? Is there political will and courage to continue the progress on the CSME? Why is there a deficit in the implementation of decisions?

Is the Region taking account of the global context? Are we ready for the changes that are coming? Is the capacity of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States adequate to put in place the infrastructure necessary for the CSME?

These were some of the questions that were raised on Friday as the Stakeholder Consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) began at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana.

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CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and Director, Economics Department at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Justin Ram set the tone of the two-day Consultation. They positioned the CSME as critical to the sustainable development of the Community and honed in on implementation as one of the major elements that needed to be tackled.

“The major focus should be on implementation”, Dr. Ram advised.

He added that new ways and a greater level of accountability needed to be found to tackle the implementation deficit. There also needed to be planning laboratories, and plans and budgets had to be communicated to the regional populace to elicit feedback and buy-in, he underscored.

Ambassador LaRocque said that while there was progress on the regional flagship programme, the agenda needed to move along much faster.

The time it was taking to get things done was a cost to the Region’s private sector and to the credibility of the Community, he pointed out. He advised that regional positions had to be adopted rather than national stances. He said the Consultation needed to produce concrete recommendations to put to Ministers and Heads of Government

A high level discussion on fixing the CSME featured presentations by Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Bruce Golding. (More details to follow).

The Consultation is being held with the support of the CDB.

The well-attended opening session that was live-streamed drew reactions from persons across the Region and in the Diaspora who weighed in on what they considered the challenges to the CSME and regional integration.

Panels throughout the day examined matters such as what the CSME objectives and priorities should be and the private sector and labour. Tomorrow, the Consultation will focus on free movement of persons and public awareness.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque is hosting on behalf of the lead Head of Government for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), a Stakeholders consultation on the CSME on 8-9 June 2018 in Guyana. State and non-State stakeholders will examine the CSME and its implementation as currently configured and identify what is necessary to make it more effective and used.

The findings and recommendations from the Consultation are intended to be considered by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and also to inform the review of the CSME being undertaken by the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government which will continue in a Special Session at its upcoming meeting next month.

he two-day activity will engage, via a series of panels, on what the CSME objectives and priority measures should be; a more and effective CSME; the Free Movement of Persons and Public Awareness.

Almost fifty participants are expected to gather at the venue – the Ramada Princess Hotel in Guyana for the Consultation. The event is being facilitated with assistance from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

Progress on the development of the Single ICT space in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and cyber security, are among the main areas that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) officials will discuss when they meet on 7 June.

The virtual meeting of officials that will be anchored at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, is in preparation for a Special Meeting of Ministers of ICT in the last quarter of this year.

The COTED ICT has agreed to meet at least twice per year to have discussions on how the regional ICT agenda can be advanced. This meeting is the first for the year, and follows a number of activities relating to ICT which were conducted in the Region over the past months.

The Single ICT Space – a cross-sectoral and highly complex undertaking –  is the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The Single ICT Space will allow for harmonisation of the ICT and other legislative frameworks, the removal of roaming charges, the encouragement of digital entrepreneurship, equipping all citizens as digital citizens and looking at ICT financial solutions among other regional benefits. CARICOM Heads of Government approved the Road map for the Single ICT Space in February 2017.

Discussions on the Single ICT space will cover matters such as the digital citizenship, and sectoral linkages. The officials will also focus on guidelines for ICT in Disaster Risk Reduction Management. Those deliberations will be made against the background of intensified natural disasters that continue to damage CARICOM Member States, and the communication disruption that occurs.

The discussions will be held under the over-arching theme of leveraging technology to build a resilient community and sustainable growth and development.

General discussions will include an assessment of ICT strategies and programmes in the Region, cyber security and protecting internet borders and assets

And, as emphasis continues to be placed on the development of quality statistics for regional development, the officials will pay attention to the CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Development of the Statistics. ICT officials will hold the discussions on statistics in the context of inputs for measuring progress and sustainability.

The meeting will also deliberate on global issues that will have an impact on the region’s ICT agenda. As global discussions are being held on the European Union General Data Protection Regulation, the Senior ICT Officials will also focus on how this can affect the Data Privacy and Protection laws in the Region, and the impact on citizens and various industries and sectors.

It is important to consider the protection of the consumer as many persons now engage suppliers in a different jurisdiction. This was posited by a senior official from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat during the Barbados Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC) annual lecture series held last evening, 8 March, 2018 at the Accra Beach Hotel & Spa in Barbados.

Mr. Philip McClauren, Deputy Programme Manager, CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), was a co-presenter on this year’s topic – Protecting Consumers in the Digital Era. He made the point that with so many CARICOM consumers purchasing products on-line, there was the question of whose laws would be used to protect the buyer.

Mr. McClauren said that consumers must ensure that the supplier provided on-line, pre-contract information such as cancellation rights, delivery and performance deadline, jurisdiction and enforcement of consumer legislation.

He outlined the work CARICOM was doing to protect the consumer, such as the creation of model bills for distance selling and consumer protection in response to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. This Treaty is an Agreement among CARICOM Member States which was revised to include the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

Mr. McClauren also made note of the CARICOM Rapid Alert System for the Exchange of Information on Dangerous Non-Food Consumer Goods (CARREX). This on-line portal can be accessed via www.carrex.caricom.org where complaints can be launched and sent cross-border as well.

Mr. McClauren served for 13 years as the Director of Consumer Affairs in Saint Lucia before joining the CSME Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat which is based Barbados.

The other presenter at the lecture series was Attorney-at-Law and University of the West Indies Lecturer, Mrs. Ayanna Young-Marshall. A lively discussion ensued after the presentations as participants sought to have concerns clarified.

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