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ECLAC tells Caribbean to double integration efforts

Published:Friday | June 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

A UNITED Nation official is urging the Caribbean region to prioritise integration, innovation and investment as a growth strategy.

"We propose a strategy for economic growth that prioritises structural change, based on investment, integration and innovation, as well as strengthening public action for redistributing resources and promoting equality," said executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Brcena.

Brcena, who spoke via video to participants at the second Caribbean Development Round Table in Georgetown, Guyana, on Wednesday, said the role of integration in the region's advancement has become even more urgent.

The ECLAC chief has suggested the region should consider restructuring its economy and pursue closer regional integration in the light of the weaknesses exposed by the global economic crisis.

She called for the doubling of efforts to implement regional agreements that allow Caribbean countries to benefit from each other, emphasising that trade agreements must be leveraged not only for the benefit of markets but also to foster technology transfer, investment and capacity building.

Brcena said that with the world economic crisis, a drop in revenues from tourism and offshore financial services has revealed structural deficiencies among Caribbean economies, such as a lack of export diversification and the dependence on a reduced number of markets.

The largest of the Caricom countries, including Jamaica and Trinidad, have signed on to a single market agreement

But the broader regional integration programme, through the Caricom Single Market and Economy, has been stalled for years.

The round table on small states was organised by ECLAC's sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean in collaboration with Guyana's Office of the President.

ECLAC said government, business, international organisations and civil society representatives are discussing how small states can increase economic diversification, improve their access to financing sources and strengthen social safety nets while grappling with shrinking budgets.

"The search for new markets and trade relations that are consistent with the emerging innovative trade dynamics is an important factor to be included in new multilateral cooperation agendas," Brcena said.

"In fact, South-South cooperation is an essential strategy for small states to pursue sustainable development," she said.