Barbados and its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours have been told to get cracking on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The stern warning has come from European Union Ambassador to Barbados Daniela Tramacere, who also laments the slow pace of movement on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe.
Speaking at a two-day CSME and EPA closing out workshop at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Tramacere was adamant that the region needed to stop talking and get acting.
The CSME is an integrated development strategy designed to benefit residents of the 15-member CARICOM bloc in the areas of free movement of goods, services, people, capital and technology, while the EPA is a trade agreement, signed back in October 2008, by Europe and CARIFORUM, which groups CARICOM with the Dominican Republic.
Over the past decade, the EU has invested €37 million (Bds$85.7 million) in support of the CSME and another €46.5 million (Bds$107.7 million) to support EPA implementation under the ninth and tenth European Development Fund (EDF).
With funding also being provided under the 11th EDF, Tramacere said, “we can’t afford not to see results”.
“This is not because we put money we want something back, but we believe in what we are doing. Of course we, like you, we sometimes can get frustrated about the lack of results,” Tramacere said.
“It is an investment for which we have to justify, not only to our taxpayers in Europe, . . . but this is something that is ticking down and it is a commitment to the citizens of the Caribbean,” she told representatives of government, private sector and non-government organizations who were focused on the way forward for both the CSME and the EPA.
Recognizing that there would be challenges along the way and various setbacks, the EU diplomat said there was no more time to waste, while recalling that an independent appraisal was done of the CSME back in 2012 which revealed that limited administrative capacity was one of the hindrances to countries capitalizing on the regional arrangement.
It was out of that study that the CSME standby facility was established with a complementary facility for the EPA, aimed at intervening at the national level.
Stating that the workshop was critical, Tramacere said it should provide a springboard for officials to make a significant “leap forward”.
“We are always very ready to criticize each other but at the time when resources are limited, when there is a lot to be done, I think we have no more time to waste . . . we are ready to support, but we have a responsibility to change pattern, to start a new paradigm in our relationship. And I am convinced that all of this cause is being raised at the national level. We now need to do a definite quantum leap in this change of paradigm becoming a reality,” she said.
In his presentation, Minister of Industry and International Business Donville Inniss also expressed disappointment at the pace of implementation of the CSME and the EPA while calling for action and “a shift in attitude”.
He complained that there was a lack of political will, as well as a lack of decisive leadership across the region.
“There is not enough enthusiasm, strong and decisive leadership and will at the political level throughout the Caribbean region to get these things done. There is also a need for a paradigm shift in our attitudes. This region is permeated with an attitude that says still someone else owes me a favour,” Inniss said.
“We must change our attitude and recognize that we have to get up and get things done for ourselves, and where opportunities are presented we must not squander them,” he warned, adding that what passed today as strong leadership in the private sector was “really very mediocre”.