(Jamaica Gleaner) “Jamaica has been the ATM for Trinidad and Tobago.”
That’s the claim from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which has indicated that it wants Jamaica to use the upcoming Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government Summit to push forcefully for changes that will “rebalance trading relationships” in the 15-member group.
William Mahfood, the PSOJ president who has made the claim, was referencing a comment made by former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who in 2010 at a similar event in Jamaica, controversially declared that her country was not an “ATM machine for the Caribbean”.
“Jamaica, without us even realising it, for many, many years has been the ATM for Trinidad. What exists now in CARICOM is a one-way street. We have an influx of goods coming from Trinidad. Trinidad, at this point in time is the only beneficiary of CARICOM,” he argued.
Mahfood said CARICOM should be moving at a better pace towards integration similar to the European Union (EU), now in crisis over the decision of Britain to exit the union.
The EU citizens and businesses can travel freely throughout member states with little restrictions. “If CARICOM were to operate in the same way, what that would mean is that where there are competitive advantages, like in Trinidad, for oil, gas and energy, manufacturers could have a base there, but it could be staffed by Jamaican or Guyanese labourers,” Mahfood argued.
“If that doesn’t happen, then there is a lot of the CSME intention [that is] really not worthwhile,” he said.
The issue of trade, especially by Jamaican businesses, has put a strain over the years on relationships between Kingston and Port-of-Spain. There has also been the long-running matter relating to immigration.