Caribbean Community (CARICOM) officials ended two days of discussions here on Wednesday night confident that the decisions taken would help to lay the groundwork for practical integration.
At the end of the Sixth Special Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Finance and Planning (COFAP) and the Ninth Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), host Prime Minister Mia Mottley reported that agreement was reached on the establishment of a single registration for companies within CARICOM.
“We believe that this is necessary to boost investments and to reduce both the hurdles and the costs that many of our enterprises will face as they seek to do business across multiple jurisdictions,” Mottley said.
The CSME allows for the free movement of skills, labour, goods and services across the 15-member grouping.
Mottley, who has lead responsibility for its creation within CARICOM’s quasi cabinet, said there was also agreement on the principle of mutual recognition with respect to the incorporation of companies.
She said a recommendation was also made to expand the number of categories of workers allowed to work freely within the region.
“Right now there are ten categories and we have agreed to recommend an 11th category of agricultural workers, primarily because we recognize the importance of being able to attain food security across the region, particularly in these difficult and turbulent times and coming as we did last year after the realization of what the climate can do, what hurricanes can do, and now we see earthquakes, to disrupt the whole production and distribution cycle.”
She also said that leaders were conscious and sensitive to the fact “that we have to be able to move the region closer to a level of food security in ways that we have not perhaps been as assiduous about doing in recent times”.
Leaders also agreed to look into the establishment of a center to deal with the shortage of legal draftsmen and “to that extent if we can pool our resources to be able to have model laws and to be able to look at reform of laws in social and economic sectors in a way that at the national level we are constrained to do.
“We also agreed to look at the importance of adhering to the implementation plans for the single market and the single economy and we literally have outlined the measures to be taken for further advancing it in the short medium and long term”.
Mottley, who has lead responsibility for the CSME within the CARICOM-quasi Cabinet, said in that context countries had been asked to provide regular updates “and we have agreed that, as Chair, we will work with heads and countries to be able to see where we can bridge the gap to ensure that progress is made in a seamless way”.
Earlier, Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister Gaston Browne, who chaired the COFAP meeting, told reporters there was a renewed commitment to the integration process.
He said the COFAP meeting discussed the regional framework for a deposit insurance system “which will establish a level of protection for depositors against losses due to the failure of financial institutions.
“The conference urged the urgent implementation by the Council for Finance and Planning for the Caribbean Community and this is especially important considering the failures of BAICO, CLICO and other financial institutions within the region,” Browne said, while stressing that this type of protection was “absolutely important”.
“We also agreed that the finalization of the CARICOM financial services agreement should be expedited. These actions will strengthen the regional financial stability mechanisms,” he said, adding that approval was also given in principle to the objectives of a CARICOM credit reporting policy “’which among other things provides for the regulation of the operations of credit bureaus and cross border exchange of credit information within the Community”.