Minister of Culture, Youth Affairs and Sport Stephen Lashley has contended that the Economic Partnership Agreement is not a simple arrangement to implement.
Lashley voiced this concern yesterday in the House of Assembly while speaking on the Second Reading of the Economic Partnership Agreement (Agreement between the Caribbean Community, the Dominican Republic and the European Community and its Member States) Bill, 2013.
Lashley said: “At this juncture I want to compliment the EPA Implementation Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for doing a splendid job. Many consultations were held in Barbados on this matter. This is not a matter that has been top secret. The Government Information Service has been used to promote the EPA. There have been consultations.
“If you say to me that we need to do more in relation to where we take this matter, that is fine. I believe I will be doing our people an injustice if we did not acknowledge the contribution they have made.
“The South Centre Research Paper dated August 2013 pointed out that a major reason for the slow implementation of EPA is that CARIFORUM countries are not receiving the financial and technical support for the implementation which was anticipated in 2008 when the agreement was signed. The paper went on to say that they are therefore facing debilitating financial and human resourse constraints to compound their already weak financial position. Certainly the point must be made that there have been difficulties,” Lashley added.
The Christ Church West Central MP noted that when the Cultural Industries Development Act is finally proclaimed it will provide funding for the sector.
“Financing has been one of the major areas which has actually militated against access and investment by the cultural industries sector in our distant markets and this did not begin yesterday. The reason why we are putting in place a Cultural Industries Development Fund is largely because there has been a tremendous failure in providing financing.
“As I speak, there are persons going into Europe and doing things, but the issue is building capacity to make what they are doing worthwhile in terms of generating returns on investment,” Lashley said.
The minister stressed that cultural practitioners have been going into Europe over the years, but noted that with the introduction of the EPA conditions have become more difficult for them to penetrate the market.
“The certifcation requirements that have been placed in the EPA make it more difficult for these practitioners to get into the European market. I believe that one of them has to do with having a degree. I am saying do not knock the Government. Point to the fact that the EPA has raised the bar, created some new arrangements and we have to ensure that we can go through the necessary requiremets to make sure our people can benefit from what has been negotiated,” Lashley said.