THESE may be early days yet to the planned Caricom Heads of Government meeting which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November. However, as the countdown to that meeting continues, recent comments make one wonder whether the drive will be there to breathe new life into the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) regional countries have been trying to promote since the declaration for closer ties at Grand Anse, Grenada in 1989.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley has indicated that his country will be looking to the Caribbean market for trade, even as other countries in the region have their eyes on reaping benefits from the same CSME. He also acknowledged that Trinidad and Tobago is the major beneficiary of Caricom.
However, one point that will make heads turn – although it might be true – is that with Caribbean integration, there may be winners and losers. The reality in our estimation is that no country wants to be a loser in terms of benefits from the regional integration process.
At the Heads of Government Summit last month in Jamaica, the Bahamas made it known that while it supports Caricom and remains a member, it won’t be part of the CSME, and therefore will not allow for the free movement of Caribbean people. Jamaica, for its part, has seen a slow down in the approach to the CSME. Some of the critics of former Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart have charged that he did not do enough to keep the CSME alive and kicking over the last eight years.
This all points to some very interesting developments where the CSME is concerned, and whether it will be able to realise the goals set out from integration.
Dr. Rowley has clearly outlined what Trinidad and Tobago is looking for from Caricom and in particular CSME. As the region’s leading economy, its businesses have been spreading across the region, and products manufactured in that twin island republic are very prevalent on the supermarket shelves and stores across the Caribbean. And as Trinidad experiences a slow down in its economic fortunes, it is looking to the region to rebuild. There are others of
similar mind, even if they do not have the economic template that resides in Port-of-Spain. For them therefore, the forthcoming meeting will be an opportunity to see what agreements can be reached and how they will be able to proceed.
Thursday this week will mark exactly three months since Barbadians went to the polls and elected a new government. The intent of the new Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration is an economic recovery that includes dealing with debt, fiscal deficit and improving the stock of foreign exchange reserves. Measures have been enacted to achieve the first two, in addition to a programme with the International Monetary Fund. In the case of the latter, trade has a role to play. Caricom is Barbados’ second major export market after the United States, accounting for more than $240 million in receipts from trade in goods. We also welcome visitors from that market as well. So, like the others, Barbados has a case to put to get more out of CSME, and certainly does not want to be a loser.