Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss has delivered a stern rebuke to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders who have not been paying dues to regional organizations, arguing that they were playing fast and loose with the sustainability these vital entities.
Delivering the feature address at the 32nd meeting of the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) at Accra Beach Hotel this morning, Inniss did not mince words, stating that many of those who had been delinquent were often the ones who demanded the most from the very organizations.
“I have been a Cabinet minister for ten years and I have attended many CARICOM meetings and have been involved in some of the most robust debates with other territories only to find out later that the ones keeping the most noise have not paid their dues,” Inniss said.
The minister further accused delinquent member states of having misplaced priorities, complaining that some could be seen spending lavishly on international trips, which sometimes amounted to more than what was owed to the regional institutions.
“I have also travelled extensively outside to meetings and I have to be frank. Sometimes you see cabinet ministers and public officers from delinquent islands, sometimes the fees that they owe is sometimes as low as US$5,000 per year, but yet they fill the front of the aircraft with officers at a rate of almost US$7,000 per seat, then you add to that accommodation cost and per diems and I say to myself that we got wrong priorities,” he stressed.
Inniss warned this trend was simply untenable as it would be difficult for the regional organizations to function effectively without the necessary financial resources.
“I hope many of you take this message back to your ministers and finance ministers or whoever, the region cannot move forward if the institutions that we have established are not adequately financed by member states and it must start with member states paying their dues,” he advised.
“We are making too many excuses because we can find the money to pay dues to extra-regional bodies and to go to meetings – half of which sometimes are not necessary – but yet we find all reasons why we can’t pay $5,000 to regional organizations. That must come to can end. I don’t know if anyone is offended but no apologies from me, just pay your bills.”
Inniss also urged the directors of the Barbados-headquartered CROSQ, which he said was among the regional bodies owed by member states, to find innovative ways to get the private sector to contribute more to the regional quality standards body, as a means of making up for any shortfalls.
“You must get the private sector fully on board because they are the ones who benefit the most from your work and I am very concerned that the private sector in the region is not being asked to pull their weight when it comes to giving financial and other support to the work of CROSQ and other standards bodies. It certainly can be done without compromising the integrity of your work. This is necessary now as more and governments seem challenged to pay their dues,” the minister stressed.