Not much time is left to prepare for CSME ConsumersConcerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
May 16, 2004

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The Federal Flag was pulled down on the roof of Federal House, Port-of-Spain, in 1962. "The song was ended but the melody lingered on." Jamaican federal officers, who planned to celebrate when the results of the referendum were declared, were stunned by the decision to withdraw from the federation. Those of us who had assembled to witness the lowering of the flag there were saddened, but for me there was a commitment to continue the struggle for regional solidarity.

Years passed. It was not until 1973 that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was formed, and not until 1989 that CARICOM agreed on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The CSME is scheduled to come into operation before the year 2005. That does not leave us much time to prepare for the changes that will result.

According to the CARICOM booklet on CSME, the idea was born from the acceptance that there was a need to increase the competitiveness of the goods and services of the region for regional and international markets. Globalisation compels us in the Caribbean to join forces and become 'one people, one destiny.'

What does CSME envisage?

Our best reference is this booklet: It says:

"This naturally necessitated removal of barriers to trade, with free movement of regional services, goods and capital and people. The establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) would ensure CSME integrity and assume custody of the rights of participating states and their nationals."

The legal framework for CSME is the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. It will be the responsibility of the CCJ to ensure that the law is observed in its interpretation and applications.

The booklet goes on to state:

"There is also recognition that to unlock the richness of these initiatives, the business community must clearly understand the CSME process and cross-border issues."

The brochure seeks to inform, advise and guide the CARICOM beneficiaries - producers, traders, service providers - towards the opportunities created by the CSME."

For consumers free movement is of paramount importance. Free movement is not for every person. "Under the CSME the free movement of persons across the Region entails the removal of work permits for University Graduates, Media Workers, Sports Persons, Musicians, Artists, Managers, Supervisors and other service providers."

Citizens will be able to transfer money to another country through bank notes, cheques, electronic transfers, etc, without having to obtain prior authorisation. No new restriction can be added and the restrictions that already exist will be removed.

There will also be the equal right to buy shares in any company in any member state and the right to remove your capital from one member state to another.

Now, this free movement of certain categories of persons and capital, may engender a sense of unity. However, we have always to be conscious that in today's world smart Alecs can be found in every profession. We must protect our sister islands from the concerns that we in Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica face. When there is free movement of money there must also be monitoring to ensure that money laundering does not spread over the entire region. No pussy-footing.

To quote again:

"A wide area of mobility represents opportunities for workers to find a job and for employers to find people with adequate skills. This would enhance employment and economic growth, thereby complementing the development of the Single Market for goods, services and capital."

Much work has to be done before the CSME comes into being. Consumers in every Caribbean territory must understand the new concept. We in Guyana must be prepared to receive those who wish to come and help us develop the lands that lie idle. We must know of the opportunities that lie in other territories for those who wish to change residence.

We who are committed to the development of Guyana must proceed with the harmonisation of laws ensuring that consumers are protected by the most advanced laws that are now present in our territories.