SOURCE: CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Dr. Carla Barnett has called on regional countries to improve intra-regional trade by 25 per cent by 2025 as she urged regional leaders to ensure that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) functions for the benefit of the people of the Caribbean.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the 33rd Inter-Sessional Summit here on Tuesday, Barnett said while “significant obstacles’ lay in the path of the integration process there was need now to move with trust and confidence “into those measures that make the CARICOM Single Market and Economy work for all of us.
“Let us set a target to lift intra-regional trade out of the doldrums of 16 to 8 per cent of our total trade into 25 per cent by 2025.”
She said that this could be fuelled in large measure by the agriculture sector and that the proposals put forward to this summit by the Special Ministerial Task Force on Agriculture are worthy of favourable consideration.
“That work complements the thrust led by the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), the “Twenty-five by 2025 Initiative”, aimed at reducing extra-regional agri-food imports by 25 per cent by 2025, in response to a mandate given by the Heads of Government.”
he CSME is an arrangement among the 15-member CARICOM member states for the creation of a single enlarged economic space through the removal of restrictions resulting in the free movement of goods, services, persons, capital and technology.
The decision, in 1989, to establish the CSME was regarded as a move to deepen the integration movement to better respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by globalisation
Barnett told regional leaders that as the recovery takes hold among the developed countries following the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the time is right for the region to act upon the proposals for joint marketing of the tourism product.
“The Caribbean still remains a preferred destination, and within our member states there is a variety of attractions from the traditional to the niche markets to satisfy a broad spectrum of visitors.
She said two years after the first case of COVID was recorded in the region, “we are learning to live with it, and to conduct our affairs in what can only be described as a new normal.
“This we have to abide by in coming to grips with repairing the health, social and economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, a disaster not of our own making has befallen us.”
But she urged Caribbean people to get vaccinated against the virus that has killed and infected thousands of people in the region, adding that ‘”much too many of our citizens remain unvaccinated; much too many of our children are out of school; much too many of our businesses are floundering with the resultant effect on employment”.
She said that the pandemic has forced regional countries to bring forward the future with respect to the widespread use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
“We can no longer delay implementation of the Regional Digital Development Strategy, including the Roadmap towards the Single ICT Space. E-government and e-commerce are for the here and now. The application of technology is what will underpin all our development efforts.
“There is no doubt that to drive that development we must have the support of international partners, both countries and institutions. We have to continue the strong advocacy for the use of a Multi-Dimensional Vulnerability Index, as the main criterion for access to concessional financing. We must continue the advocacy for the simplification of the procedures to access funds ostensibly designed to assist developing countries.”
Barnett said that Institutional support for advancing those initiatives in all areas is critical and that the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat has commenced its restructuring and retooling to allow for greater focus and efficiency.
“Directorates have been re-engineered and greater emphasis has been put on teamwork and cross-sector collaboration. There is greater use of the IT platforms for our work, and in communicating with our stakeholders. A cultural change, with accountability being paramount, will contribute to more effective service delivery to the Governments and People of our Community.”