Move forward with implementing CSME, says Golding
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said Martinique had a cost of living relatively higher than many of its Caribbean counterparts and 40 per cent higher than in France because almost all consumption was supported by imports from Europe.
He said member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were failing to take advantage of opportunities for trade within the region, which imports US$35 billion in merchandise annually, but only US$3 billion from their neighbours, due in part to their failure to implement the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Golding said that was linked to a lack of competitiveness, diversification of goods produced and the absence of leadership with the will to implement a new market structure.
The former Prime Minister, speaking at a Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) breakfast at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston on Thursday, said the CSME has suffered from an implementation deficit.
The CSME, the subject of a 2001 agreement crafted for implementation in 2006, is an arrangement among CARICOM for the creation of a single economic space by removing restrictions resulting in the free movement of goods, services, people, capital and technology.
It accompanied the revised treaty of Chaguaramas in which the community decided on the free movement of goods, people and capital among member states.
Golding was lead researcher on a commission to review Jamaica's relations with the rest of CARICOM and CARIFORUM, the report of which was published in February this year.
“Caribbean countries have not yet implemented the 10 categories of workers which should have the freedom to move. If you are talking about the single market, the region has about 10 different fiscal regimes, monetary policies and differing debt dynamics,” he said.
Golding also highlighted the lack of unified regulations which prevent professionals such as stockbrokers, lawyers and doctors from working outside of their home nation without going through a new process of registration.
Noting that the revised treaty called for macroeconomic convergence, Golding said that only one Caribbean head of government had addressed the issue seriously, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that this was only to say it was unworkable because it required a supra-national political entity to implement it.
The report, Golding said, indicated that there was a lack of will and calls for the commitment of regional governments to a five-year implementation timeline.
Noting that he feared that governments would continue “kicking the can down the road”, the former Prime Minister said, “if we are not prepared to commit to a five-year timeline, something is wrong.”
Golding encouraged the private sector to take the lead in creating a more integrated and functional marketplace, saying that members of the JCC should join with the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association to work as one body to increase regional exports.
He said manufacturers often do not have the selling and distribution skills which were necessary to secure new markets and so they should hire the talent represented by the trading community to reach the desired goals of increased sales within the region.
Golding said that regional businesses were also failing to take advantage of the CARIFORUM agreement with Europe.
He noted that last year Jamaica exported to Europe Euro 23 million in beverages, the same value in processed foods, Euro 11 million in vegetables and Euro 8 million in conch duty-free, noting that part of the problem is that manufacturers “do not understand the markets.”
Golding said he feared that when CARICOM ministers meet in July this year to discuss the CSME report, a technical committee will be appointed for a long review.”The private sector could be the biggest game-changer in this CSME conundrum. If the concept were to be embraced and everybody put their muscle behind it, governments in the region would have to pay attention,” he said.
“CARICOM has reached the stage where we need to do one of two things - either move it forward or roll it back. It is depriving us,” Golding said.
“I still have the abiding faith that it [the CSME] can work if we have the kind of leadership which is bold and can move beyond the political cycle,” he added.
Golding said the single market should include Haiti with its population of 11 million to add to the six million in the rest of CARICOM.