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JIS News

In recent weeks, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and more specifically the CARICOM Single Market (CSM), which was launched in January 2006, has received considerable public attention.
While the single market and economy is not to be seen as a panacea for the region’s challenges in the current market arena, the CSME when fully implemented by December 31, 2008 will offer a protective hedge against the full force of the global market winds.
The free movement of capital, goods, services and skills/labour and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) are two planks of the on-going CSME discourse. On Monday, January 30, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge at the University of the West Indies, six countries signed a declaration recognising the existence of the CSM. They were Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Belize, Suriname and Jamaica. In addition, six Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) signed a declaration of intent and announced that they should be ready to join the CSM by the end of June this year. These states are: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Bahamas, Haiti and Montserrat are the other three CARICOM member states that complete the 15-member Community and have not yet signed on to the CSM.
Sovereignty
Speaking with JIS News, Ivor Carryl, Programme Manager of the CSME Regional Unit in Barbados, explains that the Community’s single market and economy would operate as “a unit of sovereign states, not as a single union as the European Union.” This insistence on sovereignty is part of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which birthed CARICOM.
“The EU model has centralised political institutions such as the European Commission and the European Parliament, but CARICOM is maintaining sovereignty,” clarifies Mr. Carryl.
However, he said that although there is no intended political integration, it is advisable that the Community’s Finance Ministers constituting the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP), consider CARICOM Member States when designing and implementing their respective country’s macro economic policies. Member State Portfolios
Whilst the CSM will maintain individual state sovereignty, Member States will have specific portfolio assignments. Barbados’ portfolio, for example, is the CSME, including the Monetary Union, while Antigua and Barbuda is responsible for Services, including Information Technology and Telecommunications. For Belize, it is Sustainable Development, including Environment and Disaster Management and Water, while Dominica is responsible for Labour, including Intra-Community Movement of Skills.
Grenada has the portfolio of Science and Technology; Guyana, Agriculture and Food Security; Jamaica, External Trade Negotiations; St. Kitts and Nevis, Health, including HIV/AIDS and Human Resource Development; St. Lucia, Justice and Governance; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bananas and Air Transport.
For Suriname, its portfolio responsibility is that of Community Development and Cultural Co-operation, including Culture, Gender, Youth and Sport, and Trinidad and Tobago has Security as this relates to Drugs and Illicit Arms, and Energy.
Geography and Areas of Economic Strengths
Often described as one of the most politically stable regions of the world, the Caribbean area is also located between the North American and South American markets.
With the exception of Suriname, which has a civil law tradition, all the Member States that will be signed on to the CSM by the end of June this year, are democracies.
Aside from regional political stability and prime location, the Caribbean countries participating in the CSM and CSME also have a mix of resources, services and general market strengths to trade among each other. These include: tourism, oil and natural gas, bauxite, marine resources and fertile agricultural land.
Whilst tourism seems to be the strength shared by all, Antigua and Barbuda, for example, is efficient in rum and cotton production and produces light assembly goods and agricultural products. The strengths that Barbados has are tourism and offshore financial services. That country also has small oil, manufacturing, sugar and agricultural industries. For Belize, most of its income come from agricultural crops such as maize, rice, citrus, bananas and sugar. As it relates to tourism, the situation in Dominica is different. The tourism it enjoys is eco-tourism, mainly because of its rain forest and volcanic scenery. The manufacture of soap and coconut oil is second to that country’s eco-tourism offer.
For Grenada, the main industries are agriculture and light manufacturing and for Guyana, it is mining (gold and diamond), and agriculture (sugar, rice, fish and shrimp). Sugar, cotton and coconuts are the popularly exported goods from St. Kitts and Nevis, whilst for Suriname, it is minerals such as bauxite, gold, petroleum and kaolin, rice, palm oil, bananas and prawns. St. Lucia exports goods that are produced through light manufacturing and agriculture. The same goes for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, whose agricultural exports include, arrowroot and ground provisions.
Bauxite mining and agriculture, particularly products such as coffee, spices, hot peppers, cocoa, bananas, citrus and sugar are popular Jamaican exports. The reggae music is also another prized industry in the country.
Aside from manufacturing, the major economic activities of the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are centred around its oil and natural gas resource. They produce and export petroleum and petroleum products, ammonia products, methanol, urea and natural gases.
Passports
It is expected that by 2008 there will be one CARICOM passport. Five Member States have already introduced a passport that identifies its holder as firstly a CARICOM national and secondly a national of the individual state. These are Suriname, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda.
Steven MacAndrew, Free Movement Specialist at the CSME regional Unit tells JIS News that, “Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana have indicated that by July this year, they would have introduced the CARICOM passport”. He also says that Jamaica will institute the passport by 2007, having recently upgraded its passport to a machine-readable state.
With the introduction of the CARICOM passport, the need for a national passport will be eliminated.Interestingly, one of the spin-off benefits of the CSM is that many hotels in Member States are offering CARICOM nationals cheaper rates than international occupants.