Wednesday 9th June, 2004

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Towards making CSME a reality

In Trinidad last weekend to support his country’s trade show, President Bharrat Jagdeo made an articulate and commonsense assessment of Guyana as the natural resource base of the Caricom Single Market and Economy.

Guyana’s hinterland possesses gold and diamonds, iron ore for the production of bauxite, vast tracts of forestry, millions of hectares of arable agricultural lands, eco-tourism possibilities like nowhere else in the Caribbean save for its neighbour Suriname. And Mr Jagdeo noted that the exploration for petroleum has started, notwithstanding the conflict with Suriname over marine acreage.

The President says his government is seeking to attract investment capital from rich Caricom partners such as T&T. On cue with Prime Minister Manning, the Guyanese president says his government is no longer interested in exporting its raw materials.

Guyana’s industrialisation, says Mr Jagdeo, is to be mounted on the indigenous raw materials base. Specifically, gold is to be turned into a jewelry industry, diamonds are to be cut and polished and lumber can be carved into furniture.

Mr Jagdeo said an enthusiastic “yes” to the proposition of Mr Manning that, with the support of Port-of-Spain, Guyana can partner with the international giant Alcoa to convert bauxite into alumina to be further processed into aluminium at the smelter plant to be constructed at the Union Industrial Estate in La Brea.

He also made the point that annually his country and doubtless other Caricom states import billions of dollars in manufactured food products from the North, while fertile land abounds in Guyana.

The combining of the human, physical, financial and technological resources of the region to produce goods and services for export and to replace imports is the fundamental pillar on which the CSME has been constructed.

Mr Jagdeo is therefore on solid ground in teasing out the possibilities for the CSME, scheduled to become operational in December 2005, with Jamaica, T&T and Barbados having committed to be ready by next January.

The Guyanese President says his government has gone ahead and removed restrictions on the free passage of capital and labour, on exchange controls, on the ownership of land and is inviting businessmen from here and elsewhere to come set up shop in Guyana.

The opportunities and complementarities of the Guyana economy and those too of Suriname with T&T, Barbados, Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean are all too obvious.

The capital from such economies such as this one, the expertise of the Eastern Caribbean in offshore financial services and tourism, a corps of high-level professionals and manufacturing capacity in places such as Jamaica, Barbados and T&T are natural allies with the raw material resources and land in the two Caricom countries on the mainland.

A month ago in Port-of-Spain, the Caricom official at the head of the CSME desk expressed confidence that the technical, legal and administrative framework would be in place for the start-up on schedule.

Guyana has now joined T&T, Jamaica and Barbados in saying that it will be ready. Notwithstanding those assurances, there is understandable scepticism that the CSME and the Caribbean Court of Justice could become functional next year, given the defaults on previous start-up dates.

Perhaps it will assist the psychological and physical process if member states begin to outline with some clarity and precision, as Mr Jagdeo did, the joint-venture projects that are immediately possible. If the possibilities are articulated over the next couple months, the phased start to the CSME in 2005 could become reality.

The natural synergies between T&T, Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados may also create an incentive for greater enthusiasm amongst member states. Demonstrated success will assist in clarifying the vision and developing the structure for the CSME.





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