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CARIFORUM, EU sign 82m agreement

Published:Monday | April 2, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) and the European Commission on Wednesday signed three financial agreements designed to boost the Caribbeans ability to deliver tangible results of integration to its populace.

Under the agreements, 82.6 million (US$110 million) will be used to provide support for, among other things, the economic integration and trade of the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); the further development of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), with special allocations for Belize and Haiti, and CARIFORUMs implementation commitments under the Economic Partnership Agreement ((EPA).

Of the amount, 8.6 million will be used by the OECS to advancing its economic union, particularly in the areas of harmonized policies in tourism and agriculture, strengthening its capacity to integrate into the wider CARICOM arrangements and boosting competitiveness and export capacity of the private sector.

Another 28 million will be used to lend support under the CSME programme to develop areas of government procurement, labour market information systems and e-commerce, the CARICOM secretariat said in a statement.

It will also place emphasis on transferring social security benefits, and building capacity in statistics, among other areas. Funds have been set aside under this agreement to support Belize and Haiti to be better placed to take advantage of the CSME, as well as to assist other CARICOM member states to bridge the implementation gap.

The third agreement provides 46.5 million to boost CARIFORUMs capacity to take full advantage of the provisions of the EPA and to honour its commitments therein. The programme provides support for fiscal reform and adjustment, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, services, the rum sector and removing technical barriers to trade, the statement said.

Secretary-General of CARIFORUM, Irwin LaRocque said the EU support to the region came at a time when heads of government had declared their determination to ensure that the benefits of integration were felt by the people.

He said the signing of the agreements signalled a beginning, but cautioned that the end product would have no meaning if the people of the region did not feel the impact of the resources.

Impact, results and benefits must be the watchwords at the level of implementation, said LaRoque. We must satisfy regional stakeholders that our actions bring added value to their lives. That is the bottom line.

Head of the European Union delegation in Guyana, Robert Kopechy said funds for the three programmes would be drawn from the 165 million regional programme of the European Development Fund.

He said the funding was a testimony of the EU's continued commitment to support the Caribbean region in the dynamic process of regional integration and signal another milestone in the longstanding relation between the Caribbean Forum of ACP States and the European Union.