Private sector not ready for single market -Arthur
Moots social cohesion funding for poorer states By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 5, 2002

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Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur feels that the private sector in the region is not ready for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) since it was mostly poorly equipped and did not have the thinking capacity to develop policy initiatives.

Responding to presentations made by members of the civil society and non-governmental organisations at a regional `Forward Together Encounter' at the Ocean View Convention Centre on Wednesday, Arthur said, the current issue was the implementation of the design of the CSME, which was integral to regional integration.

Meanwhile, Suriname President Ronald Venetiaan re-emphasised the important role of civil society but said he did not expect it should want to take over the role of government.

And Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas, noted that cost recovery measures must be taken into account in providing health and social services, education and training in human resource development and the migration of skills.

Noting that many of the recommendations put forward by civil society were being looked at by the regional governments, Arthur said that effectively the basic structure to reconfigure the Caribbean economy as a single economy was legally in place. Although, the design of the CSME was very much maligned, he said, it was second only to the European integration approach as the most effective in the world. The issue now was to put in place Protocol Two, which would make it possible for Caribbean nationals to freely move capital, provide services, and establish enterprises within the region.

At issue now was dismantling barriers where they existed and liberalising trade among member countries at a faster rate. In addition to dismantling, there was provision for fusion and harmonisation.

It was with regard to implementation that Arthur questioned the state of readiness of the private sector in the region. "They are poorly equipped. Many of them do not have the thinking capacity to be able to develop policy initiatives." He added that they were not working seriously on the issues that confronted the CSME.

Noting that business enterprises competed and governments did not, he said that there was need for the private sector to concern itself with the devolution of a number of Pan Caribbean companies that could constitute the CSME.

He said that while some might be ready for the CSME, special attention had to be paid to countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and those that were least ready because CSME would bring countries at different levels onto the same level. He noted that Europe had attempted to bring all its members on the same plane by putting in place social cohesion funds for the least developed.

One of the reasons for the social cohesion funds in Europe, he said, was to ensure that labour mobility did not become an issue. He said that if the standards in the least developed countries were not raised then labour mobility became an issue.

Critical, too, to the CSME, were governance and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). He said that a clarion call must go out in support of the CCJ. Civil society, he said, must condemn opposition to it.

Arthur said he felt that the creation of the CSME was likely to be the most ambitious enterprise in the history of the Caribbean. He said it was less to do with mere globalisation, and more with the fact that the CSME was intended to correct 500 years of adverse acculturalisation in the Caribbean. The region's economy, he said, had internalised 500 years of division and a process where the domestic economy was integrated "not with each other but instead with the metropolitan countries."

The original Treaty of Chaguaramas, which created CARICOM, he said, intended to create a blueprint for the current economic integration. But it did not conceive of economic integration as the CSME currently being pursued. It made no provision for the serious harmonisation of economic policies, nor the dismantling of barriers in relation to capital, rights and establishment of enterprise, movement of people; nor the various fundamental things that constitute the building of an economy, he said.

Commenting on the civil society reports, Venetiaan said that the different situations in the respective countries formed a great challenge to move forward as a community. This difference, he said, should be recognised but should not be used to tear up the Caribbean family. The role of education and training, he said, should be to get the people to understand the importance of living together within the Caribbean, which is rich in cultural diversity.