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Missing Owen

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is “barely limping” and needs a champion like former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, a top executive of a regional think-tank has said.

“I think a champion has to come forward. We would see that when we had former Prime Minister Owen Arthur – at least you felt some energy around it, you felt that you could understand the relevant decisions around it and we don’t have that anymore,” Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) Shantal Munro-Knight told Barbados TODAY.

Speaking against the background of figures quoted by then acting Prime Minister Richard Sealy that the CSME was currently operating at about a 71 per cent overall level of compliance, Munro-Knight said: “A champion is perhaps one of the things that we need to look at, that can come forward to help propel this thing.”

The CSME, an arrangement among the majority of CARICOM member states, provides for the free movement of goods, people, services, capital and the right to establish businesses in any of the countries with an approved Certificate of Recognition.

The single market component of the initiative was implemented on January 1, 2006. However, following the 2007-08 economic crisis, regional heads of government decided to put the single economy aspect, which was to be implemented this year, on pause.

“For me, it opens up the question of the utility and the relevance of [CSME] in this context and I think this is something that we have to face and address as a region, if it makes sense to be moving forward with this initiative quite honestly,” the CPDC executive said.

She expressed the view that if there was a time that such an initiative would benefit the region, it would be at this juncture.

“Right now, most of the countries within the region are facing economic challenges and it would appear that we do not see moving hastily to commit to the interest of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy as a viable initiative to help us with that and that is . . . extremely telling.

“You have an arrangement that was supposed to expand our economic base, helping our competitiveness and countries don’t necessarily see it as something that is critical to help with their own economic challenges. I think that’s very, very interesting for us to consider, about the relevance of the initiative and the amount of emphasis being placed on it,” she said.

However, the trade specialist is not of the view that the CSME should be scrapped.

“I don’t know that we cannot go ahead. There is so much at stake already and the investment in the process to a certain extent, so I don’t know as a region that we will say we will not go forward.”

What is needed instead, she said, was the “political commitment and will” that were exemplified by Arthur.

Munro-Knight went on: “I think what [regional leaders] have to do is say ‘let’s call a time out or something like that’ . . . Some very critical, honest stocktaking has to be done in terms of where we are and the political commitment to moving forward.  Perhaps this is the time now to have those stocktaking sessions that would allow us to very, very honestly discuss where it is that we intend to go.”

The CSME involves Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.