Shift gears on CARICOM Single Market and Economy – Prime Minister Gaston Browne
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon, Gaston Browne, has called for a shifting of gears to close implementation gaps associated with the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Prime Minister Browne, the outgoing Chairman of CARICOM, pointed out that a fully functioning CSME was required for the Region’s post-COVID-19 recovery and that the Region could no longer afford the luxury of delaying key instruments.
Prime Minister Browne was at the time addressing the Opening Ceremony of the Thirty-Third Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Belize. The two-day Meeting is being held at Ambergris Caye.
The flagship CSME is a major matter that the Heads will tackle during the Meeting.
The necessity of confronting some of the challenges the Community faced, Prime Minister Browne said, required urgency in CSME implementation.
“We can no longer afford the luxury of delaying approval of key instruments such as the Financial Services Agreement, Investment Policy, Incentive Regimes and the Development and Regulation of a Regional Securities Market.
“The full operationalisation of the CSME is required for the transformation of our economies and to fight for a robust post COVID recovery.
“CARICOM needs to be able to shift gears and close its project implementation gaps, to ensure the full operationalisation of the CSME,” Prime Minister Browne said.
The importance of the flagship CSME was also one of the main themes of opening remarks by the Chair of the Community, the Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize, and Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General of CARICOM.
Centre of regional integration
Prime Minister Briceno positioned the CSME at the “centre of regional integration” and characterised it as indispensable to economic recovery and building resilience. He broached the subject in the context of a new development plan for the region that encompassed creating prosperity for the people of the Region, building sustainability and resilience across development interventions and harnessing resource endowments.
“The CSME is at the centre of our integration. Reflecting on our undertakings in the St Ann Declaration of 2018, we need to re-double our efforts to complete the removal of the remaining barriers to intra-regional trade, empower our private sector and give full effect to the regime for free movement, including by addressing administrative obstacles.
“The CSME is the answer to the questions of how do we reduce the region’s food import bill? Of how do we generate economic growth? How we improve and benefit more from trade with extra regional partners?
“A robust CSME is indispensable to building resilient economies; it is central to our economic recovery,” Prime Minister Briceno said.
Secretary-General Barnett also referenced economic resilience building and improving intra-regional trade as she encouraged the Community to make the CSME “work for all of us.”
“Just as the skills of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) have guided us throughout the pandemic, the operations of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) have been crucial in times of natural disasters, and the structures of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and the Regional Security Systems (RSS) have helped to keep us safe from external security threats, we have in place the tools we can use to build back better from the social and economic damages of the pandemic.
“We must now move that trust and confidence we have in those Institutions into those measures that make the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) work for all of us. Let us set a target to lift intra-regional trade out of the doldrums of 16-18 percent of our total trade into 25 percent by 2025,” Dr. Barnett said at the opening.