Ross Sheil, Staff Reporter
Spanish Ambassador Jesus Silva. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Spanish officials met in Kingston yesterday to deliberate over the European Union's (EU) proposal to increase its aid package to the region fivefold over the next four years.
Speaking with The Gleaner, yesterday, at the opening session of deliberations at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, Spanish Ambassador Jesus Silva said that the US$100 million (J$6.6 billion) would include financing the single CARICOM visa for travel between nine Cricket World Cup 2007 host countries and Dominica. Other areas for funding will include training for the tourist industry and alternative forms of agriculture, explained Ambassador Silva.
The Ambassador said the package would mark a "historic moment" whereby Spain, colonial rulers of Jamaica before the British, is increasing its efforts to re-engage with Caribbean countries after what he termed an absence of two centuries. He expressed admiration with the process of integration between CARICOM member states which, he said, was second only to the EU.
"This is for us a very urgent and fresh experience," he said with respect to the Spanish experience of EU integration, which helped take the country from a net recipient of aid to a major donor country. "I think from this point of view we can become very significant partners," said the ambassador.
He added that Spain could play a part in bringing the grouping closer to Spanish-speaking states through the Organisation of Ibero-American States, a similar organisation to the British Commonwealth of which Jamaica is a member, but representing the world's Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries, with a population of over 600 million.
Increasing its presence
Spain has been increasing its presence in Jamaica in recent years through developments by hotel chains Riu, Pinero and Iberostar.
Speaking at yesterday's function, Senator Delano Franlyn, junior minister of foreign affairs and trade, said the investments were responsible for Jamaica meeting its target of available hotel rooms for Cricket World Cup 2007.
"This has not only brought in increased levels of construction on the north coast, but has also provided high levels of employment. It is therefore noteworthy that our engagement this week will provide an opportunity for advancing discussions on strengthening our respective bilateral partnerships in various areas," said Senator Franklyn.