Reflecting on the Bahamas outcomes for CARICOM By Dr Prem Misir
Guyana Chronicle
July 1, 2002

Related Links: Articles on the Caribbean
Letters Menu Archival Menu

ABOUT a year ago, the 22nd Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government was held in the Bahamas. In addition to these Heads in attendance were President of the Dominican Republic His Excellency Hipoliti Mejia, the President of Mexico His Excellency Vicente Fox, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Cuba Hon. Ricardo Cabrisas, Secretaries-General of the Association of Caribbean States, the Organization of American States, and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

But first, letís understand the objectives of CARICOM.

CARICOM objectives
CARICOM Heads agree on three objectives. One, is the establishment of economic cooperation through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME); two, is the harmonization of foreign policy among CARICOM countries; and three, is the provision of common services and cooperation on issues

As health, education, culture, communication, and industrial relations.

The outgoing Chair
The Prime Minister of Barbados the outgoing Chairperson, spoke about CARICOMís achievements during his stewardship. He talked about the historic signing of the Agreement setting up the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ);

Confirming the structure for the Single Market and Economy; the introduction of the Pan Caribbean Partnership for HIV/AIDS; the Agreement to establish the Caribbean

Technical Assistance Center; and the direction provided by CARICOM on the OECD Harmful Tax Initiative.

The Caribbean Single Market and Economy
>The Treaty of Chaguaramas was revised to create the CSME which comprises nine protocols providing for the free movement of persons, capital and services, and the right of establishment. Heads of Government believed that additional protocols could be later introduced to cover e-commerce, government procurement, trading from free zones, free movement of goods and free movement of persons.

The CARICOM Single Market is intended to enable CARICOM goods, services, people, and capital to go through CARICOM without tariffs and restrictions, in order to initiate a common economic and trade policy. The CARICOM Single

Economy is intended to be a structure that brings into line general economic, monetary and fiscal policies and actions throughout CARICOM.

Infrastructures strengthening the CSME saw confirmation of the Agreement for creating a Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ). The >Heads agreed to give urgent attention to creating other CSME infrastructures, such as, a Committee of Officials, the Technical Advisory

>Council comprising civil society, the Caribbean Community Secretariat Single Market and Economy Unit, and a system for the Right of Establishment of the Provision of Services and the Movement of Capital.

HIV/AIDS Pandemic
At the Bahamas Conference, the Heads of Government acknowledged the increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. They talked about its impact on young adults and how this disease, in turn, retards economic growth.

The Heads reached some agreement to collectively negotiate reasonable prices for anti-retroviral drugs, the cost of which could be quite prohibitive.

Agreement also was reached on the need to use a consolidated method to maximize benefits to the Caribbean from the UN Global HIV/AIDS-Health Fund.

One of the conditions establishing eligibility is the presence of a national strategic plan. The Canadian High Commissioner John Robinson announced CIDAís continued support to the Caribbeanís HIV/AIDS Pan Caribbean Partnership in the amount of Cdn$20 million.

President George Bush in Quebec City agreed to give US$20 million for HIV/AIDS funding for the Caribbean for Fiscal 2002.

Security
Heads of Government acknowledged the need for a regional action on crime and security issues, resulting from narcotics-related activities and other serious crimes. They further recognised the threats posed to security Of CARICOM. In this context, the Heads agreed to establish a Special Regional Task Force to research the causes of crime and security threats in CARICOM, and to make recommendations to Attorneys-General and Ministers with National Security portfolios.

Community Agricultural Policy
Heads examined the speed of implementation of the Community Agricultural Policy with the view of transforming CARICOMís agriculture to reach international competitiveness. Insufficient resources slowed down this implementation process. They, however, accepted the initiatives advanced by the Caribbean Development Bank and the CARICOM Secretariat to improve implementation.

External trade negotiations
Heads looked at the status of external economic relations within the Caribbean, and agreed to pursue efforts to make CARICOMís interests and priorities be incorporated in the FTAA deliberations. They were satisfied with the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) and preparatory work by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, for the then imminent phase of discussions with the European Union.

CARICOM Heads wanted a rules-based multilateral trading system for the activities of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a system that would work in the interests of smaller economies. In this context, Heads acknowledged that CARICOM would need the best technical personnel to participate in negotiations in agriculture and services that are part of the WTO agenda.

Such personnel are in limited numbers in the Caribbean.

Health 2001
The Bahamas Conference issued the Nassau Declaration on Health 2001 as result of the Headsí recognition that there is a correlation between health problems and retarded economic development. The Declaration issued seven

Articles.
Article I: Commitment to introduce initiatives and targets aimed at producing an improved health status in the next five years.

∑ Article II: Commitment to have regular consultations of various health networks under the jurisdiction of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), and establishing a Caribbean Technical Regional Task Force on Health and Development under COHSOD.

∑ Article III: Commitment to developing a Regional Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS to enable the Pan Caribbean Partnership benefit from global funds in relation to targets set up by the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

This Regional Strategic Plan has to be inclusive of the OECS Pharmaceutical Purchasing Scheme. Also, there should be a Regional Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases, and a Regional

Strategic Plan on Mental Health.
∑ Article IV: Commitment to assuring that the Pan Caribbean Partnership on HIV/AIDS would facilitate the implementation of the Regional Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS.

∑ Article V: Commitment to Pan Caribbean governance issues, such as, collective representation in the international sector that will promote the Caribbean.

∑ Article VI: Commitment to promotion and prevention, and seeing people as an investment in ensuring the security of the Caribbeanís resources.

∑ Article VII: Commitment to the health of the region via reinforcing the institutions and sustaining labors.

The 23rd CARICOM Heads of Government in Guyana will commence shortly, and this Conference will initiate the encounter with civil society. A reflection on the outcomes of the Bahamas Conference will assure linkage with the impending substance over the next few days, a linked content that will determine the sustainability of Caribbean integration.