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Story Highlights

  • The week-long tour titled, ‘Students Engaging the CARICOM Single Market and Economy Through Field Promotion’ is part of a public education programme by the CARICOM Secretariat aimed at fostering an understanding of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
  • Miss Bartley, who has joined her family’s business, “Bartley’s All in Wood,” noted that the shipment of products and the taxes on imported products could be a deterrent to exporting products overseas. She said that deeper collaboration between the Caribbean states was needed.
  • “There are still challenges as it relates to the interpretation of.... the Treaty with respect to trading goods and the extent to which a particular product may qualify for a duty free treatment under some of the trading arrangements,” he added.

By the end of May 2016, some 300 tertiary students across the region would have benefitted from a total of 13 exchange tours to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states.

The week-long tour titled, ‘Students Engaging the CARICOM Single Market and Economy Through Field Promotion’ is part of a public education programme by the CARICOM Secretariat aimed at fostering an understanding of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The programme is geared towards exposing CARICOM nationals on the opportunities to work, travel and do business in the region. Funding for the trip was provided by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and supporting the integration agendas of Regional Organisations.

Recently, 19 students from the University of the West Indies (UWI) at Cave Hill in Barbados visited Jamaica, where they examined the extent of the implementation of the CSME and how it is working to the benefit of the private sector and individuals.

The students met with business executives and toured government and private sector entities, including the Jamaica Customs Agency, the Kingston Container Terminal, the Passport Immigration and

Citizenship Agency (PICA), Jamaican Teas Limited, Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) and the Jamaica Exporters Association.
Among the group was Olvine Holas of Grenada who told JIS that he is a strong believer of regional integration.

“I believe in CARICOM and the CSME. I believe that this is what the region needs in order to be more globally competitive. With the further success of the CSME, I believe that our region would be taking a step in the right direction in terms of competing with international entities, which would bring greater economic benefits to the region,” he said.

The young CARICOM national, who is pursuing a Masters in International Management, said he has observed some of the best business practices and models at the JMMB, the Financial Service Commission and the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

“I have seen several entities. I have seen the models. They would be very beneficial to other islands, especially the less-developed islands across the region,” he said, adding that he would be sharing the information with his peers and colleagues at the university.

Mr Holas said it is his wish to live and work in another CARICOM member state.

“I always tell my peers and even some of my lecturers, I am not limiting myself to the borders of Grenada, even if I am born there and I love there with all my heart. I am a true CARICOM national and so wherever the opportunity presents itself … I will be there,” he said.

Another student, St Lucian born, Rhyesa Joseph, who is pursuing studies in the field of Political Science and International Relations, said she was impressed with the ease of movement and efficiency at the Norman Manley International Airport.

Additionally, she said that she was pleased with the new initiatives by PICA and the level of security and information sharing systems being implemented by the entity.
“PICA also impresses me with regard to the level of security checks and the fact that there is a system of information that is being shared throughout the region so that the security system could be boosted and bolstered,” she added.

Miss Joseph also noted the steps being taken by Jamaicans to expand their businesses in the Caribbean.

“For example, I visited the JMMB, which was quite interesting in terms of their approach to tackling challenges within particular jurisdictions and really adjusting based on the social context of each territory.”

Miss Joseph said she would like to see the sharing of information between the Government Information Services in the Caribbean and the private media. She noted that this was critical to the development of the region.

“It will be good to see more integration at that level in terms of research sharing and best standard practices so that we can really build the true potential of the region by boosting some of these areas,” she said, adding that one of the barriers to the freedom of movement in the Caribbean is the lack of information and education.

“To be sensitised about your region is very important, because more often we know about the realities of the developed world, but when it comes to our neighbours it is something that is brushed over, all of these things impact our national development as well,” she stated.

Miss Joseph said a report on the strengths and weaknesses of the CSME, along with recommendations to improve the movement will be submitted to the CARICOM Secretariat.
Former UWI student turned Entrepreneur; Jamaican Lacey-Ann Bartley who visited Grenada on a similar exchange tour said she was grateful for the experience.

“Going to Grenada highlighted a couple of things for me. It highlighted a lot of the cultural similarities between the Caribbean islands, a lot of similar history, similar architecture, also, similar socio-economic challenges. I was able to identify opportunities and got to see first-hand some of the trading and transactions that happened in Grenada and saw that Grenada has a booming tourist economy,” she said.

While in Grenada, Miss Bartley said she admired the knowledge and professionalism of the country’s public service, especially personnel at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“They were very informed about their areas of expertise and I asked piercing questions which they were able to answer. I didn’t get any, “I don’t know or I’ll check and get back to you or that’s not my department” They were very knowledgeable,” she added.

Asked whether she would live and work in another CARICOM country, Miss Bartley said, “Most definitely, I have dreams of Grenada. The people there are very warm, very hospitable. I also like Trinidad and St Kitts,” she said with a smile.

Miss Bartley, who has joined her family’s business, “Bartley’s All in Wood,” noted that the shipment of products and the taxes on imported products could be a deterrent to exporting products overseas. She said that deeper collaboration between the Caribbean states was needed.

“If we were truly integrated and brought on the ‘E’ of the CSME, we could be manufacturing in Trinidad,” she said.

“I believe that we should focus on our comparative advantages of each state and work together to build a strong common economy and even with a common central bank we can fight against inflation and other issues regarding the economy and it will also be easier to trade,” she explained.

Miss Bartley stated that the free movement of skills, a component of the CSME, needs to be improved. She recalled an unfortunate experience during her trip to Grenada when a Guyanese student in the group was selected at an airport for questioning by an immigration officer.

“Even though we were travelling with a head of mission who was a diplomat and had a diplomatic passport, she was still pulled out of the line and questioned and I found that very disheartening and unsettling,” Miss Bartley added, noting that the exchange programme had the sanctions of the CARICOM secretariat.
Miss Bartley said that her experience had compelled her to write her Master’s thesis on the CSME.

Technical Advisor, Investment and Private Sector at the CARICOM Secretariat Joel Richards, who accompanied the students to Jamaica said they learnt of some of the challenges being experience by business executives in terms of accessing Caricom markets.

“What we have gotten as well is a sense that persons really support regional integration because we haven’t gotten from anyone any thinking or feeling that this regional integration is a waste of time. We have gotten a lot of support,” he added.

He said the team also saw the need for the improvement of certain aspects of the CSME.

“It is still an imperfect process and I think what the students would have gathered is really a call for us to be a bit more concerted in our efforts to make the union more perfect,” he added.
He said that certain areas of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, signed by the Heads of Government on July 5, 2001 to establish the Caribbean Community, including the CSME remain outstanding, especially as it relates to the harmonisation of standards in the region.

“The harmonisation of standards and technical regulations throughout the region is not at the advanced stage that a lot of persons in the private sector would want to see, so what you have happening is that in terms of labelling and packaging and other requirements, these are not common throughout the region for the same range of products,” he said.

In addition, he stated that more work needs to be done at the regional level to improve the transportation and logistics arrangements between member states.

“There are still challenges as it relates to the interpretation of…. the Treaty with respect to trading goods and the extent to which a particular product may qualify for a duty free treatment under some of the trading arrangements,” he added.

The five regimes of the CSME are: the free movement of goods; the free movement of skills; the free movement of capital; the provision of services; and the right of establishment.