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Amidst increasing criticism over delays in the implementation of key policies, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) yesterday insisted that the body remains crucial to regional development.CARICOM’s Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, also admitted that a deadline for the CARICOM Single Market andCARICOM’s Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocqueEconomy (CSME), which was launched in 2006, is not likely to be met by 2015.CARICOM, a 15-member regional body, had been hoping to have a fully functional single economy and a single currency by 2015.He blamed the delay in CARICOM setting itself too many ambitious targets.“That 2015 target will not be met. We made then, as we continue to make now, the same mistake we made in 1989 at Grand Anse. We set ourselves over-ambitious and unrealistic targets; targets, which by their very nature, doom us to apparent failure when they are not met.”The diplomat made the disclosures yesterday during a business luncheon hosted by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association Limited (GMSA) at the Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street.In addition to several business executives, there were diplomats from the major embassies also present.The Secretary-General was at the time updating the gathering on the state of affairs at CARICOM.LaRocque, who took over at the helm from Edwin Carrington, noted that CARICOM is at a crossroad in its integration arrangements.He insisted that the body remains a critical vehicle of intra-regional trade.“In 2010, the last year for which complete trade data is available, Guyana exported US$118.3M worth of goods to the rest of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). This ranked it third in the Community with respect to exports for that year to member states and was $6M more than in 2009.”The principal exports were rice, fish and sugar, in that order. These exports to the CARICOM market amounted to 13 per cent of Guyana’s total exports.“While three products dominate these exports, it nonetheless demonstrates that the CARICOM market is valuable to Guyana; and given Guyana’s vast economic and business potential, I suggest to you that with sustained focused attention, these exports can grow. The CARICOM market continues to be a business opportunity for the Guyana private sector.”It is the same for other states which are part of CARICOM.ExpansionLaRocque admitted that CARICOM’s work on its integration program has come under fire.“Stakeholders across the region all see the hope and promise of CARICOM but are troubled by the seeming inability to bring to fruition the plans, programmes and projects that have been enunciated and announced over the years, and the decisions that wait to be implemented.”Business execs, diplomats and others during GMSA Luncheon yesterday.CSME, with a market of some six million, could begin to expand its horizons to enhance competitiveness to enter the global environment, the official said.“The market will grow to 15 million as soon as Haiti, a member of CARICOM, puts the necessary requirements in place to participate in the CSME.”According to the Ambassador, for CSME to be successful, CARICOM has to do business differently.Referring to a report by independent consultants on the Restructuring of the Secretariat, which had called CARICOM to take a different approach, LaRocque opined that the time may be right for change.“They also contend that we need to be more realistic about the constraints posed by geography, (spread as we are across the Caribbean Sea), lack of size physically and in respect of markets. Importantly, the report, which will be considered by Heads of Government at next week’s Inter-Sessional Meeting in Suriname, also indicates it is essential for the region to decide on what it can and cannot do.”The current mode of trying to get everything done at the same time is inefficient and contributes to gridlock,Cheap NFL Jerseys China, he said.In the initiatives to integrate the region, the CARICOM Secretariat has been at the centre of the process,Cheap Jerseys Free, “But the Secretariat must also acknowledge its part in the failure of the Community to achieve such measures as hassle free travel and free movement of skilled Community nationals. These are issues that tug at the heart of CARICOM’s people and, for many it is the measure of successful integration.”Customs harmonisationThe private sector must play a crucial role, in the CARICOM process, the diplomat insisted and stressed that issues like job creation are critical.“An important element is the ease with which you should be able to conduct your business throughout the Region. A study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) found that CARICOM intra-regional trade can double from its current 16 per cent of total trade if we address issues relating to trade facilitation and transportation.”The Secretary General noted that given the region’s high food import bill, agricultural production for export, an area in which Guyana, Suriname and Belize enjoy certain comparative advantages,Nike NFL Jerseys China, it stands poised to capitalize on opportunities.But the time-consuming bureaucracy and the lack of harmonised procedures with Customs and Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary rules and regulations remain major bug-bears.“I have been told of containers of agricultural products being held up at ports of entry due to Phyto-sanitary Regulations. The absence of such transparent and harmonized procedures not only retards trade, creates distortions in the market and leads to uncertainty, but affects your competitiveness, your profit margins and the final price to the consumer.”CARICOM is now working on a harmonized Customs legislation but “that piece of work is taking much too long,China Jerseys Cheap, but I am told that it is well advanced and will no doubt be a major boost to facilitating trade in the Community,” LaRocque said.Another persistent challenge lies in the transportation sector.“Further,NBA Jerseys China, continued inefficient and costly transportation services could serve to frustrate our efforts at sharing resources for joint production.”CARICOM is now working with regional small-vessel owners and operators and other industry representatives to improve the standard of vessels and the scheduling of their operations.“It is expected that the outcome of this collaboration will lead to some improvement in the Maritime Transportation sector. We must think outside the box. In speaking with some shipping agents, they have said that the problem is larger and a solution rests with all of us.”Costly telecommunications also contribute to high production costs and limit the prospects for business growth and expansion.“Those factors also impinge upon our ability to take full advantage of the on-going revolution in Information and Communications Technologies to improve our products and services and to create new profit centres. Both of these areas need more priority and focused attention.”El Dorado RumDespite the challenges,Cheap NFL Jerseys From China, Ambassador LaRocque told the gathering that the region has been able to be globally competitive in some products and services.“The success of El Dorado Rum is just one such example of the quality that regional products have attained. Guyana furniture is seen in many hotels throughout the Caribbean, and I am told in the United States. I have also been to factories in St Kitts and Nevis which specialise in the production of top quality hi-tech goods for the international market. These factories are taking advantage of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), as well as exporting to the United States of America (USA), Latin America and Asia including China. Exports to the USA alone amounts to almost US$68M.”According to the official, the regional private sector has since gradually clawed its way back.Exports that had declined by 46 per cent in 2009 demonstrated a modest 15 per cent expansion in 2010 and again expanded in 2011.However, CARICOM’s exports are not likely to hit pre-2009 levels in the near future.This situation, he said, could be compounded by the prediction that after expanding over the last two years, global economic growth rates may decline again in 2012, fuelled by the unsustainable fiscal deficit in the USA and the fiscal challenges which have forced the implementation of austerity measures in the EU.“This suggests that the negative effects of the financial crisis will continue to linger for some time.”The GMSA luncheon is part of a series of educational forum organized by the body for the business community.On the last occasion, GMSA had invited Canadian exploration company, Reunion Manganese, to talk about that sector.