The CARICOM single market and economy (CSME) and CARICOM is not a fantasy but a concrete situation that is moving forward. This is according to CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary-General in the Directorate for Trade and Economic Integration, Joseph Cox.
Speaking on CNC3’s the Morning Brew, Cox said, “First of all, for those who say that we’re in a dream, I would urge them to wake up, because guess what, it’s a reality and it’s happening.”
Cox continued, “Is it happening at the speed at which you hoped? Of course not.”
An economist by trade, Cox said that the CSME is in a process of negotiation. He noted that all of the countries in the region are not at the same level of development and therefore, a process must be undergone to have the CSME functioning successfully.
Cox said, “CSME is not a goal it’s a process because you are moving towards establishment of a single market and economy.” He noted that along the way to creating a more efficient and effective CSME there would be gains.
According to Cox, gains have already been made including the multi-lateral services agreement, the protocol of contingent rights and “considerable advances in renewable energy.”
Cox expressed that the issues being addressed through the single market and economy initiatives are not dreams, but imperatives. He noted that collaboration is necessary for CARICOM to stand up against issues like unfair treatment by the European Union against the region around the matter of de-risking.
Cox continued to say that a united region, though small in size is powerful on the international level. He said, “Just remember one thing, when you go to international fora, we do have political might.”
Addressing the forex shortage in the country, Cox said, “You have to look at increasing the retention rates of your foreign exchange.” He continued by using the example of tourism, noting that many countries have not retained the forex that has entered its nations.
Cox noted, “I think the highest retention rate I have seen in recent times is 30 cents to the dollar. Most of that doesn’t even stay in the country, and sometimes doesn’t even come in the country.”
In order to rectify this issue, Cox said that a mechanism or framework must be put in place to facilitate greater “utilization or retention of what you would actually earn.”
While Cox mentioned that there is “no one size fits all” mechanism, he gave the example of encouraging hotels to buy from more local suppliers instead of importing goods.
Cox added that there is substantial leakage in the Caribbean. He also called for a revisiting of incentive programs that are used to attract foreign investment. Cox said, “In a lot of cases we are incentivising activity that would have happened anyway.”