Jamaica stands firm against push by other Caricom states

BY PETE SANKEY
Senior associate editor
sankeyp@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 06, 2019

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JAMAICA, despite being pushed by fellow regional states, yesterday stood its ground that it will not participate in the second round of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Development Fund (CDF), based on a decision taken by the previous Administration in 2015.

Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, in a telephone interview, explained that Jamaica, in 2015 indicated that the country would not participate in the second round of the fund, and this decision was approved by heads. Jamaica, she said, had not yet completed its payments when decision was taken because of the fiscal obligations under the International Monetary Fund. Payments to the tune of US$19.96 million was subsequently completed in 2017.

Johnson Smith said Jamaica's position not to participate was approved at the 36th meeting of the regional heads, and this position was again acknowledged in February at a meeting of the Caricom leaders in St Kitts.

She said some members reopened the debate on Jamaica's decision at this week's meeting which ended yesterday in Castries, St Lucia, and insisted that the country participate in the second round of the fund, but said Jamaica held the position taken back in 2015, noting that the country did not take any benefit from the contribution it had made. Jamaica, said the minister, would be made to pay in excess of US$20 million for the second round, which runs from 2015 to 2020.

Minister Johnson Smith said she and Prime Minister Andrew Holness took a break from the meeting, and on their return the meeting managed to get back on track.

“[The discussion] was disingenuous, to say the least, and unfortunate. Prime Minister Holness had to stand firm about the commitment to Jamaica's fiscal programme and the decision not to take part in the second round, based on the 2015 decision,” said the foreign minister.

The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported yesterday that Jamaica had stormed out of the caucus meeting as the issue was being discussed, with Prime Minister Holness apparently disagreeing with his regional colleagues on the position adopted on the contributions to be made by the so-called more developed countries of Caricom.

Johnson Smith said, however, that Jamaica could not continue a discussion where other States wanted to go back on a decision that was already made in 2015 and approved by the heads.

Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell told CMC that while he would not want to comment on the situation, the CDF is a fund “meant to help the less-developed countries to deal with the problem of the unbalance in trade issues.

“Jamaica indicated that it has some financial problems that it has to deal with and I think a decision was made years ago for the second tranche. So there was an issue concerning this and I think Jamaica is in the best position to answer for themselves on that,” Mitchell told CMC.

According to CMC, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said “virtually all Caribbean territories have resource issues. What we have confirmed is that as part of the treaty — by way of treaty clauses — as we operationalise the CSME there is a requirement to look after the needs of the LDCs (least-developed countries) through the clause that says we have to set up this CDF which gives them a benefit.

“So the MDCs (major developed countries – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados) who will be the major beneficiaries of the CSME accessing the markets of the smaller countries that do not have the same capacity to benefit from the CSME. So the treaty makes provision for those countries in the MDCs to fund this CDF,” said Rowley.

According to the Caricom website, the CDF is central to addressing the disparities among the member states of Caricom, which may result from the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of skills, good, services and labour across the 15-member grouping.

– Additional reporting by CMC


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