Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders ended a one-day meeting in Port-of-Spain on Tuesday agreeing to the formation of a Commission on the Economy as they seek to revive the ailing economies of the 15-member regional grouping.
In addition, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who chaired the CARICOM Bureau meeting, said agreement had also been reached on the establishment of a Commission on Transportation.
"We also agreed that the commission should address the priority areas for fiscal sustainability, resource mobilisa-tion as well as critical economic infrastructure services, particularly energy and ICT (Information Communication Technology).
"We further agreed the recommendations of the Caribbean Convergence Model prepared by Mr (Winston) Dookeran (Trinidad and Tobago's foreign affairs minister) and the commission is to report by the end of 2013," she said.
At their last summit in July, the regional leaders had agreed to establish a committee to consider the economic situation facing member states and the wider region and Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who will chair the Commission on the Economy, told reporters he would advise regional leaders on the regional growth agenda.
"It is generally known now that the issue of economic growth in this region has been on the front burner agenda issue," he said, adding that growth across the region in the last few years has been anaemic.
"We thought we had to apply our minds to see how best we can put the economies back on a sustainable growth path," Stuart said, adding that the issue would involve "not just growth, but growth with employment".
He said the sustainable growth would also have to take into consideration the issue of resource mobilisation.
"So these are some of the priority areas that the Commission on the Economy will be looking at and as chairman I am allowed to co-opt people, and we have to report to the Council on Finance and Planning by the end of the year," Stuart said.
The Commission on the Economy will have two representatives from each member country.
Persad-Bissessar said the bureau had also decided on the Com-mission on Transportation, whose membership will also include representation from the shareholder governments of the regional airline LIAT, Bahamasair, Caribbean Airlines and Suriname Airways.
"We also want this Transporta-tion Commission to look at maritime transport as well," she said.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told reporters that the issue of the subsidy paid to the CAL by the Trinidad and Tobago government had also been raised and was pleased that Port-of-Spain had agreed to end the measure from this fiscal year.
"It is well known that I have been contending for quite a while that the subsidy to Caribbean Airlines was contrary to the multilateral air-services agreement under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The subsidy has been removed, so now there is a level playing field."
But Gonsalves said he was aware of efforts by the Trinidad and Tobago government to pump TT$400 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) to recapitalise CAL, and while he had no qualms about the recapitalisation measures, he would be following the matter to ensure that "there is no temptation ... to provide CAL with prohibitive subsidies.
"If that happens, you can rest assured that at the competitor airline, LIAT, we will make our voices heard," he added.
'It is generally known now that the issue of economic growth in this region has been on the front burner agenda issue. We thought we had to apply our minds to see how best we can put the economies back on a sustainable growth path.'