Encourage immigration from Caricom, court T&T investment
-single market summit recommends By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
December 3, 2003

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Encouraging immigration here by skilled Caricom nationals and aggressively courting investment from Trinidad were among a raft of recommendations at Mon-day's national summit on the regional single market and economy.

The meeting was of the view that Guyana is implementing the provisions that will lead to the achievement of a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) faster than other Caricom member states.

There was also unanimity in opinion that the Monday summit was informative and educational and some expressed the hope that it was not just another "talk shop".

In remarks at the end of the summit, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee, said that the speedy implementation by Guyana was a matter of grave concern for many stakeholders here and in the region. "People would usually ask [in the region] why Guyana is so enthusiastic about Caricom and the CSME. [They ask] ...why we are moving so fast when others are moving too slow?" he said, adding, "we must now allow the pace those countries are moving at to determine the pace we move at... We cannot be oblivious to the pace at which other countries are moving."

Rohee said that the government ministries that play an active role in the CSME had to take on board the number of relevant recommendations and factor them into their work programmes. The Ministry of Foreign Trade is the lead ministry with responsibility for the CSME while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds the responsibility for Caricom matters. An ambassador to Caricom, in Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Elisabeth Harper, has been accredited.

Meanwhile, coming out of the discussions on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) it was noted there was need for further consultation on the draft rules of the CCJ and on its original and appellate jurisdiction. Towards this end it was suggested that there be consultations with the local bar, the Attorney General's Chambers and the judiciary with respect to inputs needed to finalise the rules of court. Additionally, the Caricom Project Coordinating Unit of the CCJ is willing to act as facilitator for the consultations.

With regard to the CCJ it was noted that the agreements establishing the CCJ had been ratified by Guyana and steps were being taken to include these in domestic legislation. The constitution of Guyana has been amended to make provision for the CCJ to be Guyana's final appellate court.

The summit found that public education throughout Guyana needs to be addressed to further enlighten the populace about the CCJ in both its original and appellate jurisdictions.

With regard to agriculture, mining and manufacturing, it was suggested that the Guyana Government examine the policy framework to target high value-added products for Caricom international markets bearing in mind that the CSME is in place; to encourage joint ventures between manufacturers in other Caricom jurisdictions; that Trinidad and Tobago be targeted to invest in Guyana as it is a major exporter of capital; and to strengthen regional and national standards as well as quality infrastructure.

The summit also urged that the monitoring mechanism which has been put in place by the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to protect the local rice industry be properly implemented. This mechanism would ensure that the Common External Tariff (CET) is utilised effectively to sustain the viability of vital and sensitive agricultural industries in the face of subsidised and dumped and extra-regional imports. It would also ensure that sugar-refining capacity utilising regional production is established to fulfil demands with appropriate tariff mechanisms in place.

For the mining sector it was suggested that joint-venture and other investment linkages be encouraged with the aim of attracting technology to the sector, bearing in mind that only Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica have mining industries.

On the issue of free movement, it was noted that some member countries - Barbados in particular which has a `Guyana bench' and whose actions are contrary to the principles - must get on board and play their part.

It was suggested, too, that a single currency be looked at as well as the harmonisation of labour laws across the region, so that the relevant and concomitant legislation could be enacted. It was noted that Guyana's labour laws were, in some cases, more progressive than others in the region. The need for a public education/awareness campaign with regard to social security benefits was also noted, as the lack of information was impeding the process not only in Guyana but in CARICOM. The seminar workshops also addressed the development and establishment of common exams for doctors, pharmacists and nurses across the region to assist in the accreditation of professionals. The conclusion of discussions and the establishment of a national accreditation board by 2004 in Guyana were also urged. This board should have been established earlier this year.

To attract highly-specialised skills not available in Guyana, it was recommended that a marketing campaign be developed and a policy of immigration by skilled, qualified Caricom nationals to Guyana be encouraged. It was noted that while salaries might be a disincentive, the availability of land, housing and social benefits such as health and education, which are mostly free and cheaper than in Caricom sister countries, could be explored and used in a package to attract specialised skills.

An aggressive marketing campaign to attract investors in agriculture, industry and manufacturing and to highlight what Guyana has to offer in terms of land and other resources which are cheaper in Guyana, than elsewhere in the region, was recommended. To implement this, it was noted that a market analysis of other Caricom countries would have to be conducted to see their sectoral and business strengths.

It was recommended, too, that the age of retirement across the region be standardised. In Guyana, the age of retirement is 55 years, while in the region it stands at 60 and 65. Having regard to economic and demographic factors, including emigration and HIV/AIDS, it was suggested that the age of retirement in Guyana be moved to 60.

There was also a recommendation that the education system in Guyana and the Caribbean be put under constant review to ensure that Guyana is producing persons with the skills that are required in the region under the CSME.

Rohee said that the presentations, recommendations and conclusions will be put into one publication and circulated widely. He said there was now need to move the consultations to different levels and to other parts of the country.