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ROAR leader, Ravi Dev has asked whether Guyana is really ready for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) when other members were not prepared to accept locally produced foods including Guyana’s rice.
He added his support for the motion to ratify the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME at Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly, but stressed the need to focus on economic interests. The time had long gone for the sentimentality of sharing common history, customs and language, he said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rudy Insanally moved the motion which gained the full support of the National Assembly. The ratification of the revised treaty in parliament authorises the government to deposit the relevant instruments of ratification with the Caricom Secretariat.
However, Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh explained that even though the revised treaty and the CSME were ratified, legislation would now have to be enacted to incorporate them into the country’s local laws.
Dev meanwhile noted the loss of rice markets in the region and added that he could not see much hope for the sugar industry as well when countries in the region had opted for rice being imported into the region, thereby destabilising a vital market for Guyana.
He suggested that since the emergence of Caricom, Guyana’s economic benefits had been meagre and if the government expected future rewards it had to come up with a suitable economic strategy.
He recalled suggestions made by two of the country’s leading economists several years ago that recommended the diversification of sugar products and the use of the region’s resources to benefit not only one country’s economy but two or more. This included a partnership in which Guyana’s bauxite would be processed with Trinidad and Tobago providing cheap fuel.
Insanally remarked that the ratification was a formality as the nine protocols establishing the community had already been approved by the National Assembly. He said the revised treaty and CSME would provide the legal framework for free trade and movement of skills, deeper integration and the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice among other initiatives.
PNCR shadow minister of foreign affairs, Clarissa Riehl said the party’s support for Caricom was unquestioned with both Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte unapologetic integrationists.
She said that while Caricom had attracted its fair share of criticism for inertia, people must be cognisant of the protection it would offer the peoples of the region.
She said Guyana had led the way in terms of providing goods and services in the region even before the CSME in spite of the ridicule it had received. She noted the need for regional cohesion given that the United States had signalled its intention to establish the Free Trade Areas of the Americas.
In his speech, Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeow Sawh noted the importance of agriculture and the fact that the region’s food import bill amounted to US$3B. He said the people in the region had to begin to understand that “we must produce what we eat and eat what we produce.”
He spoke of the niche markets available for local produce including organically produced cocoa, sugar and pineapple. He spoke, too, of the certification standards to which Guyana and the region had to adhere to export timber and timber products.
GAP/WPA Member of Parliament, Sheila Holder supported the motion but advised that Guyanese must have the basic right to enjoy free travel and not be subjected to harassment.
Also adding their support were WPA/GAP MP Shirley Melville and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manzoor Nadir. (Miranda La Rose)