Editor’s Note: This is the second article of the series. Part I of this article was published yesterday.
At a recently held two-day capacity-building workshop under the project, the esteemed panelists on a panel I moderated looking at regional integration and industrialization strategy for the Caribbean region, agreed that accelerating the consolidation of the CSME was important for Barbados’ diversification and resilience-building efforts and that national and regional industrial policy initiatives must support each other.
It was also agreed that CARICOM could learn from the experiences of other economic blocs like the Southern African Development Community (SADC) where although intra-regional trade remains small, it is on a positive growth trajectory, unlike intra-CARICOM trade.
A community industrial policy strategy is a necessary ingredient but will not by itself substantially transform the CSME. There must be strategic policy alignment, streamlining, at the very least, the innovation, development, investment, trade, and MSMEs policies to ensure they cohere and support each other. It also requires fixing the perennial and now crisis-level problem of costly intra-regional travel if MSMEs are to see the CSME as a viable source of inputs for goods and services, thereby boosting intra-CARICOM trade, economic growth, and job creation.
Improving the ease of doing business and greater access to statistics and market information is essential for promoting trade and monitoring and evaluating the success of any policies. It also requires putting in place harmonized sustainable and WTO-compatible incentives for encouraging MSME exports and growth and for promoting domestic, regional, diaspora, and foreign investment for sustainable development.
The region’s educational policy must support its industrial policy. In addition to the important Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, continuing to expand foreign language training from the primary school level will also encourage CARICOM children to not just see the English- speaking Caribbean as a place where they could find employment or establish businesses, but the Dutch-speaking Suriname and French-speaking Haiti.
As far as this author is aware, there are no public details as yet on the composition of the technical working group charged with developing and implementing the community industrial policy strategy. It is hoped that the group would be represented in its composition, including persons not just from the public sector and private sector backgrounds, but also from academia and civil society. The community industrial policy should support the priorities of Member States and therefore should complement national industrialization efforts and vice versa. This would require extensive consultation at both the regional and Member State level with government officials (both those in charge and those tasked with implementing the policy), the private sector, and civil society such as labour unions, for example.
Lastly, it is also recommended that there be a youth representative in the technical working group. It is the youth who will have to run the regional integration project and their perspectives will be critical to building a brighter CARICOM for all.
Alicia D. Nicholls is the junior research fellow with the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy & Services of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Learn more about the SRC at www.shridathramphalcentre.com.