PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — CARICOM countries have been tasked with establishing a regional stock exchange and a regional credit bureau within the coming months as they seek to fully implement the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region.
Although the CSME was established in 2006 it had been expected to be fully implemented in 2008 and on Tuesday, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who has led responsibility for the CSME within the quasi CARICOM cabinet, briefed her colleagues on the developments surrounding the CSME to date.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that “we have set some timelines for next July to have a number of critical institutions developed.
“So, for example, having a regional stock exchange, we also have to move quickly to establish a regional credit bureau,” he said, adding that there is also the need for the common registration of companies within the region.
“So you register in one country and the company is recognised in all CARICOM countries. So we’re now seeking to redouble our efforts to try and get those critical institutional arrangements in place so that we can move closer towards establishing this single economy that has been an issue, you know, that we have an issue in terms of currency, conversion, and so on over the years,” he added as the regional leaders enter into the final day of deliberations of their 45th annual summit that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the regional grouping.
But Browne told CMC he does not regard these issues as insurmountable, saying it is only a matter of time “before we get to the single economy” confident that it would occur during the second 50 year period of CARICOM existence.
“And I’m hoping, too, that, you know, you will probably have a grown up movement in which Caribbean people recognise the importance of integration, that is the salvation of our people, and that they will push leaders to come together to form a political union, because I … suspect that a political unit will not necessarily be driven, top down (but), bottom up,” he said.
St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Phillip J Pierre, confirmed that Mottley has “given us some tasks” making reference to the regional stock exchange, the registration of companies so as to have “a serious free movement of capital.
“And we spoke about free movement of labour. But you know … the issue with that is, there are local political issues…that we have to deal with and I’m calling on opposition parties to have the vision of a wider CARICOM, have a vision of a single market and do not play partisan politics.”
Pierre acknowledged that one of the highlights of the CSME is the free movement of people and the problems now being associated with the lack of air and sea transportation especially given the demise of the inter-regional airline, LIAT, which entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its major shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Pierre said that the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had made a presentation to the regional leaders during their caucus meeting saying “I think we …are getting somewhere …
“What the CDB is calling for is that all the islands jointly … to get involved in the transportation,” he said, even as he noted that countries like Trinidad and Tobago already have their own national airlines.
He said for example, the Trinidad-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has bought two new aircraft and “we have to see what’s happening that is a very expensive business for the region. “And not all markets are profitable, not profitable. Not all destinations are profitable.
“Again, it’s going to be give and take because in any single market and economy, some countries will benefit more than others. That’s a fact that’s reality. But there must be mechanisms to allow those who will benefit less and find some ways for these countries or these islands, not to be too disadvantaged.”
Browne said he would be speaking about LIAT “and I can tell you, for example, it was a caucus last evening … the CDB is looking at certain strategies to assist with providing sustainable regional transportation.
”Obviously, it will result in some form of lead participation, because … I think that is an understanding now that regional transportation is quintessential, and that we must collaborate and cooperate as a region in order to resolve that problem as soon as possible,” he told CMC.