GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — When Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders met here recently for their intersessional summit, one of the major issues on the agenda was a review of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, services, skills, and labour across the 15-member community.
The review had been mandated by the leaders at their previous summit in July 2016, and spoke to the achievements to date, the matters being held up by member states or community organs, work that is in train or still to be done, and the challenges being faced.
According to the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat, the meeting agreed that there was significant progress in the implementation of the CSME, and noted that the areas of achievement include legal and institutional measures, and mechanisms to support free movement of goods, services, skills and the cross border establishment of businesses.
It said that the leaders were, however, concerned that for some areas, decisions taken were not complied with in member states and they agreed that the necessary action will be taken to effect compliance.
“They identified some impediments to further development of the CSME, including capacity constraints at the national level, the need for effective consultative mechanisms, and the necessity for timely meetings of the responsible community’s organs and bodies.
“Some priority areas noted for attention going forward include: the challenges with payments for goods and services traded in the region, and completion of the protocol relating to facilitation of travel,” the secretariat noted.
The CSME, conceived in 1989 and given various priority areas for focused attention over its existence, is intended to better position member states to grow by accessing and using their combined, rather than individual resources. Its successful legal and institutional measures and mechanisms include transforming regional arrangements into domestic law.
There have also been agreements and arrangements to establish and operationalise various community institutions needed for the effective operation of the CSME.
These include the Barbados-based Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, the Caricom Competition Commission headquartered in Suriname, the Caricom Development Fund in Barbados, and the Trinidad and Tobago-based Implementation Agency for Crime and Security.
Under CSME provisions, Caricom nationals have a right to enter a member state and be given a stay of six months. Member states have also moved towards the use of common embarkation/disembarkation forms and the introduction of Caricom/non-Caricom lines at immigration points at ports of entry.
Progress has also been made in the area of movement of skilled nationals. Participating member states have removed work permit requirements and accorded indefinite stay for agreed categories of people with a Certificate of Recognition (skilled certificate).
The first group included university graduates, media workers, sportspersons, artistes, and musicians. Other categories added subsequently are in varying stages of implementation and include nurses, teachers, holders of associate degrees, artisans with Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs), and domestics with CVQs or equivalent. Since the inception in 1996, around 16,000 skilled certificates have been issued.
The secretariat said that work has advanced in shaping regional policies and strategies in the productive sectors to achieve increased production, competitiveness, and exports of goods and services.
In agriculture, the focus has been on addressing the constraints to reducing the region’s high food import bill, increasing exports, and achieving food and nutrition security. In the services sector, strategic plans are being developed for professional, cultural, entertainment and sports, health and wellness, educational, financial, construction, tourism, and ICT services.
The energy sector has benefited from increased attention and funding, particularly in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and has seen the establishment of a new regional institution, the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, based in Barbados.
“A plan of action for small and medium enterprises is to be finalised, and will follow on from the recent adoption of a regional policy. A Regional Transportation Commission is focusing on increased coordination among airlines for a more integrated service to the public; addressing the movement of agricultural products across the region; the possibility of a fast ferry; and completing the multilateral air services agreement. “
A road map for a single ICT space has been developed and was approved by the leaders last week.
“The heads emphasised that the single ICT space would be one of the driving forces for social and economic development of the community, as it would support the digital economy, implementation of the Caricom Strategic Plan, and development of the Digital Agenda 2025,” the secretariat noted.
It said a commission on human resource development is also working towards international competitiveness in the development, production and delivery of goods and services. These areas, however, require additional work and the meeting identified the need for the full commitment of all stakeholders to complete the process.
Progress has been recorded in the technical work required for the development of an enabling macroeconomic environment, including the areas of debt reduction, fiscal sustainability, investment promotion, and export development. It was, however, noted that successful completion depends on increased support from the regional organs and bodies which provide oversight, and the member states.
The secretariat also acknowledged that “other areas which also require further action include some lingering elements of the movement of community nationals such as recognition of the newer categories of skilled persons and recognition of some forms of qualification.
“There are concerns about the lack of harmonised processes and duplication in the implementation of the skilled certificates regime. The need for further training of public officers in the front line of intra-regional travel has also been identified.
It said that areas for pending action and enhancement include an initiative to facilitate the establishment and ease of doing business, including activation of a fully automated and connected regional companies registry. Consumer protection, including a Caricom Rapid Alert System for the exchange of information on (non-food) consumer goods, is also getting attention this year.
Outstanding issues will be addressed when regional leaders meet in July.