Caribbean leaders end first day of summit on positive note

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders ended the first day of their special summit here on Monday, indicating generally that there was “great receptivity” on the need to move forward on implementing measures to ensure the future success of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labor and services across the 15-member grouping.

Now is the time

“I think all the heads and their delegates accept that now is the time for the CARICOM and the CSME to grapple with all the outstanding issues that we have in the past,” Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness told reporters.

Holness, the CARICOM chairman, who is also chairing the two-day deliberations, said he believes “we are in a good position” with regards to moving forward the initiative that was conceptualized in 1989 but has been plagued with concern about the rate of implementation of some of the decisions taken in the past.

“We spend the first day with a great deal of discussion, deep analysis (and) everyone has had a chance and opportunity to express their views and tomorrow we will be discussing in detail’s Jamaica’s Commission report on CARICOM,” Holness said, adding “that I believe will further advance our understanding.

“But at the end of the day tomorrow I believe we should be able to take some decisions on the future of this very important regional organization,” he said, making reference to matters such as the free movement of skills and how the more developed countries in CARICOM relate to the lesser developed countries in the region.

Re-evaluation of integration process

The Jamaican Parliament has already adopted a resolution that called for a re-evaluation of the integration process, and for member states to commit to implementing a fully functional single market within a five-year period.

The Parliamentary Resolution covered, among other things, the need for CARICOM member states to make a clear commitment to establishing the single market with a “specific time-bound, measurable and verifiable program of actions to fulfil all outstanding obligations within a period of five years.”

Being taken more seriously

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said he also believes the CSME “matter is now being taken much more seriously than it was before” adding that the initiative is so important to Trinidad and Tobago where we are constantly looking for market space and protecting our home”.

He made it clear Trinidad regards CARICOM “as its home market” saying “being the major manufacturing and exporting country in CARICOM we could not sit idly by and allow the single market vision to disappear.

“It is in Trinidad and Tobago’s interest more than any other and the interest of the regional entities that we do work on that and we decided to get it back on the agenda and try to work towards getting something done.

Private sector very eager

Earlier, the leaders held talks with both the business and labor movement. Holness said the private sector “is very eager to see a CARICOM that is predictable and is transparent, one that is forward leaning to business and governments are coming to the understanding …that the private sector is really the engine of growth and governments exist to facilitate the private sector.

“The labor unions were represented as well and they took a very enlighten view that there needs to be a social consensus obviously, the question of how in this model of development where the private sector play such an important role, how do you protect the rights of workers and ensure that workers get a fair share,” Holness added.

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