Secretary General of the Caribbean Forum (Cariforum) of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque yesterday said that three financing agreements signed with the European Union (EU) at a value of €83.1M must trickle down and meet the needs of ordinary people.
“Signature, today, of these agreements signals a beginning but the end product will have no meaning if the people of the region do not feel the impact of the use of these resources. Impact, results and benefits must be the watchwords at the level of implementation. We must satisfy regional stakeholders that our actions bring them
added value to their lives. That is the bottom line,” LaRocque, who is Caricom Secretary General, said at the signing ceremony at the Caricom Secretariat.
His comments came against the background of criticism that the region has been doing poorly in terms of implementing decisions and projects. Many Caricom nationals also do not feel that the regional movement means anything to them.
LaRocque and the EU’s Head of Delegation to Caricom, Ambassador Robert Kopecky, signed the agreements that would, among other things, help the region implement the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and improve the transfer of social security benefits among member-states. Another agreement, specifically for the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), would help strengthen and enforce laws to improve competition and address the dumping of substandard goods.
LaRocque explained that the first agreement, totaling €8.6M, will be implemented by the OECS Secretariat and will, among other things, assist in further advancing the OECS Economic Union, strengthening the OECS’ capacity to integrate into the wider Caricom arrangements and boosting the competitiveness and export capacity of the OECS private sector. The funds will also provide support for the OECS to improve its institutional capacity as well as improve sectoral policy harmonisation in tourism and agriculture, he said.
LaRocque said €28M will support the further development of the Caricom Integration Process, including activities related to government procurement, labour market information systems, e-commerce, the transferability of social security benefits and capacity in statistics, among others. Belize and Haiti, he noted, both receive specific allocations within the programme.
The third agreement revolves around an EPA Capacity Building Programme, which is valued at €46.5M, is intended to assist in developing capacity in Cariforum to take full advantage of the provisions of the agreement and to honour commitments undertaken under the EPA.
In that regard, LaRocque said the programme will provide support for Fiscal Reform and Adjustment through the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre; for Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures through the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA); for Technical Barriers to Trade through the National Institute of Metrology of Germany; for Services through Caribbean Export; and for the Regional Rum Industry through the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association.
The funds are being drawn from the €165M Regional Programme of the 10th European Development Fund. “They are a testimony of the EU’s continued commitments to support the Caribbean region in the dynamic process of regional integration and signal another milestone in the long-standing relations between the Caribbean Forum of ACP States and the European Union,” Kopecky added.