Government, Opposition see value in Caricom Review Report

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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GOVERNMENT and Opposition MPs yesterday expressed bipartisan positions on the recommendations from the Bruce Golding-led Caricom Review Commission's Report, which was discussed in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness had requested that yesterday's meeting at Gordon House focus solely on the 51-page report, in an effort to create a bipartisan response to the report which was tabled in Parliament on February 6.

Holness noted the report included 33 key recommendations which, according to him, “boldly project a way forward in addressing aspects of our regional relationships that are not fully meeting their intended objectives”.

Opposition Leader Peter Phillips also welcomed the report as an “extensive and representative national effort”, which is based on widespread consultations, not only within Jamaica but across the Caribbean.

However, Dr Phillips said that he didn't think that what is presented in the report or by the prime minister in his statement to the House was sufficient to enable Parliament to define “the essential, critical minimum” which would enable the fundamental transformation of the Caricom (Caribbean Community) experience.

“I think it represents an important and good starting point, and what I would propose is that it becomes the template that we should ask the assembled heads of Government of Caricom to utilise as they collectively embrace the need to move forward and implement the single market and economy, and to review other aspects of the Caricom experience,” Phillips added.

The Opposition leader was referring to the fact that Holness will be chairing next month's meeting of Caricom Heads of Government in Montego Bay.

Holness, in his opening statement in the House yesterday, noted that the report included approaches which could forge strategic partnerships with other CARIFORUM States in the Northern Caribbean “to buttress the Government's measures to achieve economic growth”.

Among the main issues raised in the report, which he addressed, were: performance oversight; financing for development; institutional framework; foreign policy co-ordination; citizenship by investment; and the removal of non tariff barriers, circulation of goods from outside the region and the rules of origin; and what has obviously become the main moot point of the document, the long delayed implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), which Holness referred to as “the chapeau of the commission's report”.

Holness pointed out that the commission recommended that Jamaica seek a clear, definitive commitment from all Caricom member states to “a specific, time-bound, measurable and verifiable programme of action” to fulfil all their obligations and complete other requirements for the CSME to be fully established and operational, within the next five years.

He recalled that the Caricom Heads of Government had approved an implementation plan in July 2007, which mandated member states to implement their outstanding actions on the Caricom Single Market within four years.

“This time frame is notably less than what the commission has recommended. The implementation plan, I should note, failed to address the single economy, so within this context, the commission compels us to finally take the bold move towards addressing the elephant in the room,” he noted.

He said that the commission should be commended for the guidance it provided with respect to feasible options available to Jamaica and other member states, regarding the matter of implementation of the CSME and the trade arrangements.

He added that, with regard to the specific recommendations relating to the CSME, more readily attainable proposals, supported by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and other relevant authorities also included: macroeconomic convergence; harmonisation of laws and regulations governing registration and operation of businesses; removal of restrictions on the provision of services, and on the right of establishment, including ownership of land; modernisation and harmonisation of intellectual property legislation; and the adoption of conventions relating to the registration and administration of patents and trademarks, etcetera.

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