By Kurt Campbell
Guyana’s Head of State Dr. Irfaan Ali has decried the efforts by Member States to realise the potential of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), particularly in economics and trade, some 48 years after the regional grouping was formed in a ceremony held in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
Dr. Ali’s comments were made as he addressed the President’s Dinner and Awards Ceremony of T&T’s Manufacturing Association on Tuesday.
He said he would have liked to see more accomplished out of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), an integrated development strategy envisioned since 1989.
Dr. Ali reasoned that individual barriers to trade imposed by Member States and the failure to implement regional decisions at home were hurting the attainment of set goals that are intended to advance the regional bloc.
To make his case, President Ali drew a quote from a recent assessment done by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on regional integration which noted that the ‘absence of a regional body with powers and accountability that can help transform community decisions to binding laws in individual jurisdictions is a key impediment’.
“So it’s not a lack of decisions. The Heads are making decisions. It is the responsibility of individual states to take those decisions seriously and implement them.
“This is of concern and this is what Prime Minister Mottley has been speaking of extensively. We cannot move forward regionally as a people, as a collective if we are not willing to act in a selfless manner,” Dr. Ali said as he delivered a passionate presentation.
He turned his attention to the barriers to intra-regional trade, noting that he was in possession of a document that specified those barriers country by country, addressing both exports and imports.
“Some are nonsensical… some of these barriers imposed can be withdrawn overnight if we are serious about building capacity and opening up opportunities,” the Guyanese Head of State added.
According to President Ali, as it is now, the region is importing three times more than it is exporting. That number is higher for manufactured goods which average at seven times more than what is exported.
“… and [we are] doing so when we have countries in the group with natural resources that can match it and be an alternative. We are doing so when we have energy costs in countries in a region that is as competitive as any other in the world.
“So what is lacking? What is causing this gap? Can’t we do this?” the President quizzed, advising that the answers and opportunities for change are directly in front of our eyes.
Dr. Ali also recalled the offer going back to as early as 2013 where Guyana had opened land to Trinidad farmers but said little use was made of that offer.
He said the issues plaguing CSME can be solved through the opportunities that exist if only Member States are willing to work together, break down barriers and take ownership of the common economic space.
“There is the political will to achieve this.”
Dr. Ali said Guyana takes its responsibility in CARICOM seriously and is framing its future to match the growth promised for the region.