One of the world’s most powerful political and economic unions is warning that Barbados – along with the rest of the region – has a lot more than just the economy to worry about.
The European Union (EU) has identified a poor justice system and rule of law that is left wanting, as well as inequality and brain drain, as issues countries in the region must address in order to progress.
And while making it clear she did not intend to dictate to Caribbean leaders what their priorities should be, EU Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Daniela Tramacere told a recent Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry function regional leaders must not ignore these areas of concern.
“These are countries which also have, not all of them, but many of them, serious limitation or shortcomings in governance; sometimes poor rule of law [and] poor criminal justice systems. This is widely known . . . and then human rights and protection for human rights, which is not particularly elating. I am thinking of gender and domestic violence and discrimination against minorities,” Tramacere said.
The European diplomat sought to distance herself from those very charges, telling the function at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that fingers were not being pointed at anyone in particular, but that she was simply “listing the concerns that are stressed everyday in the press, so I am not saying anything new”.
Tramacere also said key drivers of sustainable growth must include “effective, efficient, fair and transparent tax systems and the fight against fraud and illicit financial flows.
“In a nutshell, sound public finance management is a key element of good governance and a key basis for an effective and resilient public sector, which we need. This also requires stronger action to improve the policy and regulatory framework, as well as the business climate. This is fundamental for the business sector,” she said.
The EU official added that the region also had to contend with climate change as well as a number of global sanctions, including de-risking “and other types of blacklisting”, which make it even more difficult for Caribbean governments to adequately focus their resources on tackling economic and social challenges.
However, she promised that the union, which promotes greater social, political and economic harmony among the nations of western Europe, “fully recognize the vulnerability of the Caribbean countries, and for this reason . . . we, the European Union, remain the biggest donor in the Caribbean”, and that millions of dollars in support would continue to be allocated to the region.
During her presentation, Tramacere also gave the assurance that despite the fact that Britain was leaving the EU in 2019, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to create a free trade area between the EU and the
African, Caribbean and Pacific states would not be affected.
“We know that given the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean, especially Barbados, we know that many of you are very concerned about the UK leaving the European Union and what happens to the EPA. Well, nothing happens to the EPA. I can guarantee you that the EPA is there to stay with the 27 European states instead of the 28,” she said.