Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, has warned that governments in the region can only offer partial solutions to the challenges facing the private sector.
McClean issued this warning yesterday evening while speaking at the official opening of the offices of the Caribbean Export Development Agency at Baobab Towers, Warrens, St. Michael.
She argued that the ultimate solution to their challenges were in the agreements between Cariforum and the European Union and the seizing of the opportunities offered.
“I know that what we are doing is trying to break into markets outside of the region and even regional markets. The exercise is relatively new to most businessmen. In another life I would have worked with small and medium sized businesses who would have taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the EU,” McClean said.
“I must laud the work of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, led by Executive Director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton and her team of workers. I recognise the evolution of the agency, which has played a pivotal role in fostering business development. It has taken the region’s business persons to a level where they can really compete.”
She explained that the world had seen some revolutionary changes, particularly in the area of Information Communication Technology, which would facilitate small and medium sized businesses.
The foreign affairs minister also acknowledged that most of the businesses in the region were small in relative terms.
Having had the space for the agency provided by Barbados Government the minister said she anticipated a long and productive relationship with the manufacturing and creative industries in the region.
She also expressed the hope that the relationship with the EU and Cariforum would enhance the quality of life in the region.
Meanwhile, Director for Latin America and Caribbean at the European Commission, Jolita Butkeviciene, commended the management and staff of Smaks Luxury Group and Baron Foods Ltd on the receipt of direct grants as a result of a highly competitive selection process.
Butkeviciene pointed out that the grants formed part of a larger EU-funded package of assistance to the regional private sector provided through the EU regional development cooperation programme.
She explained that the purpose of the projects that constituted the package was to support firms and entrepreneurs in taking maximum advantage of the opportunities offered by the Economic Partnership Agreement signed by the EU and Cariforum in 2008.
The European Union official pointed out that the total amount of these interventions directly targeted at the private sector was approximately ‚47.1 million. She further noted that a key component managed by Caribbean Export was a Direct Grant Assistance Scheme valued at ‚8.8 million awarded through “Calls for Proposals”.
Butkeviciene told the gathering that since 2008, 197 firms throughout Cariforum had received support that ranged from ‚3,000 and ‚30,000.
She disclosed that the EU was providing an additional ‚35.8 million to support Cariforum member states in the areas of fiscal reform and adjustment, statistics, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and institutional strengthening. (NC)†