Testing times for Regional Heads

first_imgHeads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) will meet in Guyana for their 37th Regular Meeting on 4-6 July, 2016, and as expected some of the most pressing issues currently affecting the Region will take centre stage.As stated by Caricom, in the search for opportunities and regional solutions to challenges, the Meeting will advance matters pertaining to regional security – economic and otherwise; and the social wellbeing of the approximately 16 million people who make up the Caribbean Community.Certainly, issues relating to the number of threats the Region continues to face in relation to its financial and economic stability will dominate the discussions; chief among these are the threats posed by international banks limiting or terminating their relationships with regional financial institutions, and the yet to be determined implications of the British decision to leave the European Union (EU), a key partner in the Community’s development.As it relates to Brexit, some experts have already warned of the potential negative effects this latest development could have on the Region’s economies; and stakeholders will be anxiously waiting to see how the regional grouping will tackle the issue. For example, what policy decisions leaders will make that will seek to ensure that the impact on the region’s economies are minimised as far as possible.Already we are seeing concerns being raised, ranging from a potential drop in arrivals in tourist dependent Member States such as Saint Lucia and Barbados where the UK is a major source market, to a decrease in development assistance and possible effects on trade agreements the Region has with the EU.Only a few days ago, at a University of the West Indies (UWI) forum organised to discuss the impact of Brexit, Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles offered some useful recommendations that Carciom leaders could explore during their two-day meeting here. Beckles underscored the need for Caricom to move as a matter of urgency to reinvent the scenario post emancipation, which saw Caribbean indigenous people networking freely across the region. He suggested that a Task Force be set up immediately, with the involvement of UWI, to research, monitor and report on the weekly developments that will take place over the next two years. For him, it is necessary that leaders in government and the private sector have access to factual, detailed information on an ongoing basis in order to guide their thinking and decisions.Additionally, he recommended that Caricom set up a Regional Research and Development Fund in order to facilitate innovation within the private sector that is required to strengthen entrepreneurship. He noted that the regional economy is at a stage where it can only compete at the level of innovation, and it is failing to do so because of inadequate research and development within production.He argued that the region: “Must also strengthen the conversation around and renegotiate the various agreements that can strengthen and expand the CARIFORUM (EU Economic Partnership Agreement), including pacts negotiated by the African Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) which the Caribbean has not taken full advantage of over several years and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).”Another pressing issue that will no doubt engage the leaders relates to the challenges confronting the Region as a result of de-risking. According to Caricom, the de-risking scenario is that it is unfair, and the predictions about its impact on the Region are dire.Experts have concluded that transfers of remittances, cheque payments, international trade and the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients are among the areas that have been affected by de-risking. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) quoted a November World Bank survey as saying that about 75 per cent of international banks have experienced a reduction in correspondent banking services with the Caribbean being the worst affected.While we are fully aware that these are all complex issues and there are certainly no easy fixes, it would be reasonable to expect regional heads to consider seriously the views and recommendations of the various partners and stakeholders and take the bold decisions which are crucial to resolve them.This is certainly a time when the Region’s leadership will be tested.last_img read more