At a time when local private sector bodies are calling for Guyana to review its relationship with CARICOM, former Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller says the regional body has vital benefits.
“CARICOM is a vital regional body. We may be dissatisfied with aspects of supervision and intervention, however, it is an economic and social system that embodies the best hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Caribbean people,” the regional leader said at the ‘Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (GCCI) annual award ceremony held last week.
The former Jamaican leader, who served as the first female Prime Minister of that country, told the private sector that “everything should, therefore, be done to not only protect this institution (CARICOM) but to further the integration process.”
Guyana is heading into the production of oil this month and the private sector believes regional businesses are flooding the local market and Guyanese are not treated fairly in those countries.
Simpson-Miller admitted that several Jamaican companies are seeking opportunities in Guyana. She pointed to Grace Kennedy and Supreme ventures which are already operating here, adding that others have been sending teams to Guyana in recent times with a view of identifying potential business opportunities.
The Senior Vice President of GCCI at a recent press conference, Timothy Tucker explained that over the years, Guyana has received the bitter end of the stick as it relates to trading with other CARICOM countries.
He named Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica.
In the past, Guyanese voiced difficulties faced at the ports of entry of those countries.
However, Simpson –Miller said overcoming these hurdles must include providing greater public education and information about the various processes.
“More work also needs to be done to coordinate labour markets across CARICOM to harmonise scarcity and abundance of skilled labour across member states,” she noted.
Of great concern is the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) which was formulated to integrate CARICOM Member States into a single economic unit. The CSME is in its thirteenth year since implementation in 2006.
Simpson-Miller said urgent action is needed to address the CSME.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Secretary-General CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque in 2018 who said the time taken to get things done is a cost to the private sector and a cost to the credibility of the community at large.
Simpson-Miller said one of the most important benefits of the Caribbean Community is the opportunity for the 15-member nations to bid on the international trading regime in goods and services.
“Such a regional system could provide the experience and practice for our participation in a broader global system of free trade,” she said.
She sought to encourage the private sector to push regional integration instead of stepping away from the organisation.
“I want to encourage regional governments, the private sector, civil society, all stakeholders in the region, to approach the further implementation of regional integration in honest dimensions with a greater sense of urgency,” the former Jamaican leader noted.
“We sometimes got caught up in emotional issue such as trade disputes and cross border movement of people and fail to realise the work being done. The CSME, compared to the global marketplace is imperative to all member states,” she added.
The GCCI said it will make further pronouncements on CARICOM after Simpson-Miller’s address.