Caribbean private sector must unite now - P.B. Scott
Regional Private sector leaders from across the Caribbean were urged by Chairman of Jamaica- based conglomerate Musson Limited, P.B. Scott, to move now at uniting forces into one single block in order to effectively address a wide range of serious trade and economic issues across CARICOM.
“There are some fundamental issues to all private sector players in all of CARICOM and these are issues that our governments signed with the Chaguaramas Treaty and we all agreed to all implement, and some of these issues are more beneficial to some countries than other countries, but to all members of the private sector in this region they are very important, and as a private sector we have (in many respects) disregarded them. When we look at things like free movement of labour, that is an incredibly important process in order to develop a regional trade bloc,” Scott pointed out.
He was speaking at a Regional Private Sector Engagement Meeting attended by Business Association leaders, private sector leaders and several government and diplomatic officials from across the region arranged by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Friday.
“There are a lot of common issues that exist and we are not holding CARICOM, we are not holding our governments accountable… Here lays the fundamental problem that I see, we need to coordinate across the region the fundamental things that we want as a private sector, that have already been agreed to some extent in the Chaguaramas Treaty, and we need to hold people accountable in the implementation of that, because those things affect us and they determine what our domestic marketplace is…at the end of the day we just don’t know where our domestic market place is, we are disjointed, we don’t have a funnel for which to take these issues and work with CARICOM in addressing them”, Scott elaborated.
Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who delivered an address to the gathering, noted that they the Private Sector must engage effectively with respective governments from across the region otherwise the, “Government will get in your way and frustrate the hell out of you, so it may be necessary to drag them kicking and screaming, but I urge you don’t try do it without the governments there,” Golding noted.
Golding added that private sector interests, including Manufacturers and other business groupings, must also be united under one umbrella and speak authoritatively, as a fragmentated approach will undermine efforts with Governments across the region. “If you get to that stage (of unity) Governments will pay attention to you, I was there, we are very sensitive to points of power and influence, where we get a free ride is when we see private sector fragmented.” Golding said.
The grouping met as efforts solidify for the development of a regional business grouping to be called the Caribbean Business Council, which will among other things provide a focused point of entry at the interface between the regional public and private sectors; direct private sector inputs into the discussions and deliberations of all regional public sector decision makers at all levels and provide a conduit to allow regional Private Sector groups, both national and sectoral, to be heard.
Scott, the former President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), long championed the development of the organization as an effective means to address regional private sector issues.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the CEDA, Pamella Coke Hamilton, noted that, “over the years, one thing remains clear, that is, despite designing and implementing programmes to strengthen firms, build their capacity or to facilitate access to markets, the Region is still not fully capitalizing on the private sector’s strengths and insights as long as they are not seated at the table when policies and trade related matters are being discussed.”
European Union Head of Delegation, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska; Assistant Secretary General, Trade and Economic Integration, CARICOM, Joseph Cox; President of the PSOJ, Howard Mitchell; Executive Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association, Ramesh Ramdeen; Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry; President of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce and several other business association leaders across the region were present at the gathering.