CASTRIES – Representatives of the regional private sector and labour movement Thursday held “positive” discussions with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on efforts to push forward the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the 15-member grouping.
The meeting is as a result of an initiative that is being pushed by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who has lead responsibility within the CARICOM quasi-cabinet for the CSME to get more of the region’s stakeholders involved in the initiative amid concerns about the implementation deficit regarding the various measures.
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the meeting “went very well” with both the private sector and the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) being represented.
“There was a discussion of them organising the regional private sector organisation which will be constituted in the coming months and once that is constituted the conference will be willing to consider making an associate institution of the Community to allow for greater collaboration and participation in the CSME.
“So we had a very good discussion,” La Rocque said, adding “there’s also a recommendation for the CCL to be identified as an associate institution of the Community“.
Gordon Charles, the chief executive officer of the St Lucia-based J.Q Charles Group of companies, was among the private sector delegation that met with the regional leaders.
He told CMC that “our role today was to put forth to the CARICOM leaders a structure upon which the private sector will engage with the CARICOM heads”.
He said Mottley had challenged the private sector across the region to get together and to form some sort of body “that would allow us to engage and to help them advance the CSME”.
He said what the private sector group did was to formally introduce the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), adding that the organising committee with the assistance of a consultant put together the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the private sector and CARICOM.
He said another MOU has been drafted between the Barbados government and the CPSO “where we intend to house ourselves and the reasons for that is specifically because Barbados is also the seat for CSME.
“We are now relying on the CARICOM heads to adopt us as part of the regular CARICOM Community,” he added.
President of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Warren Smith, told CMC that the region’s premier financial institution regards the private sector as having a major role to play in moving forward the ambitions of the CSME.
“I think the presentation by the private sector group was a good development. We are very pleased about it because we certainly share the view that the development and growth of this region is going to depend in the final analysis on the ability of the private sector to grow and to perform not only competitively in the region, but also internationally.
“From the perspective of the Caribbean Development Bank it is very good news. What is especially pleasing to me is the composition of the grouping that not only includes the large private sector, but also there’s going to be emphasis on the MSME (micro, small and medium sized enterprises) sector and that’s a space the Caribbean Development Bank intends to play a very big role in going forward.
“We at the Caribbean Development Bank are going to be exploring the possibilities of collaborating with that group on the agenda that they have outlined,” Smith said, noting that “there will be a number of things that will have to happen in the region in order to be able to make CSME grow”.
Charles told CMC the idea is to get all the private sector bodies in the region involved in the new initiative, particularly as it relates to the free movement of labour across the region..
“The idea is this forms more of an umbrella body because these institutions would not have the capacity individually to directly impact CSME at this level because they become very specific. So the Trinidadian entities are focusing on what relates to them etcetera and Jamaica and so on.
“So the idea here is that each territory, while members can participate based on the size and strength of the particular entity that they work with. There is a role for participation from the private sector organisations in each territory, so the idea here is the PSOs in each region will have an input into the Caribbean PSO and also in the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States).”
He said in addition the OECS Business Council could also consider representation on the CPSO “so everything should cascade right back down into each individual country and each individual country set up of the different organisations that make up its private sector”. (CMC)