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Jamaica leads regional consultations on new EU-ACP agreement

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver,com

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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The current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement between European states and their former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific comes to an end in 2020.

Signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin's largest city and economic centre, the partnership agreement replaced the Lomé Convention, a trade and aid agreement between the European Economic Community (EEC) and over 70 African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states and was first signed in February 1975 in Lomé, the capital of Togo.

The agreement was concluded for 20 years, which means that by next year the EU and the 70-odd states involved will have to arrive at a new pact to take its place.

However, unlike in the past where the foreign ministers of the developing countries or their representatives had to travel across continents to a single meeting, the EU has decided to have regional consultations this time.

According to the EU's Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, the union is happy with the ACP's decision to endorse a regionalised approach to the consultations, and to use the outcomes as guiding principles for the future of its relationship with the three regions.

Last week the EU's team and representatives from the various Caribbean territories which are involved with the consultations were in Jamaica where Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith hosted and chaired the two-day event at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

The consultations involved a number of wide ranging issues, including: environmental sustainability, notably the Paris Agreement on climate change; biodiversity and ecosystems; tourism; human rights and good governance; crime and citizen security; migration management; human rights and justice; good governance and tax matters; human development and social cohesion; gender equality; and support for Haiti.

But the occasion was not only about consultations on a new agreement to take effect next year, as both bilateral and multilateral agreements were signed prior to the start of the meeting on Monday morning.

Jamaica not only lead the regional team, with Senator Johnson Smith chairing the local consultations, but also benefited to the tune of $2.8 billion in aid from the EU.

Mimica announced two cooperation agreements with Jamaica worth a total of €20 million (J$2.8 billion). The EU has already approved disbursement of the first two tranches of the programmes for a total of €3 million, or over J$410 million.

According to Commissioner Mimica, the cooperation programmes will support Jamaica's development in two areas: under a forestry programme, the EU is supporting the Government's vision to build climate change resilience and protect precious forest resources.

“The programme will support biodiversity, while paying special attention to developing a low-emission and climate resilient economy,” Mimica explained.

“Under the Public Finance Management Programme, we are assisting the Government in building the necessary structures of a modern integrated financial management system, which will further improve public governance, transparency, accountability and delivery of public services,” he added.

The budget support for the programme for climate change and the environment focused on the forestry sector and is valued at €16.55 million or J$2.3 billion. It is the second largest bilateral cooperation agreement between the EU and Jamaica for the period 2013-2020.

The project will strengthen sustainable forest management in Jamaica, by supporting the modernisation of the regulatory framework and the enforcement capacity of the forestry department, to include amending the Forest Act of 1996 and supplying cutting-edge tools.

It will also support actions on the ground to assist forest-dependent communities, including upscaling existing alternative livelihood projects, for example, apiary, eco-tourism related projects and training and strengthening public awareness education regarding issues like forest fires.

This will further the country's social and economic development and help build its climate resilience.

The public finance management programme, which is worth €3.65 million (J$509.1 million), will assist the Government in building the institutional structures and system to facilitate the creation and implementation of a modern integrated financial management system, which will further improve public governance, transparency, accountability and delivery of public services.

Over the decades, Jamaica's public finance management system has not delivered optimally on key goals, and therefore a reform became necessary. The ongoing reform, since 2015, was effected on the recommendation of the Auditor General's Department for identification of: recurring breaches and weaknesses; less than favourable fiscal discipline scores from an international performance assessment; as well as key policy reforms outlined in Jamaica's agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Under the ongoing public finance management transformation, the finance ministry is working to achieve a credible fiscal strategy and budget; accuracy and comprehensiveness in reporting; and transparency and accountability, which should lead to high performance and a sustainable macroeconomic framework.

To achieve this, Senator Johnson Smith says a strategic direction was taken to target areas where weaknesses were recognised and this has led to the transitioning of the Accountant General's Department into a Central Treasury management system.

During his visit to Jamaica, Mimica met with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and discussed the country's commitment to economic reform, priority areas for cooperation, the post-Cotonou process and the fight against crime.


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