Barbados Minister savages failure to implement EPA

 16 March 2016

Volume 39, Number 11

Barbados Minister of Industry, Donville Inniss, has severely criticised the private sector and CARICOM leaders for “making excuses” instead of doing more to access opportunities in European markets through the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which has been in place since October 2008.

“We have reached a point where we really have to do a thorough assessment of the Partnership Agreement and whether we have taken full advantage of the opportunities or not,” the minister told those attending an event to launch the second edition of Caribbean Export Outlook, a magazine published by the EU-financed Caribbean Export Development Agency.

Mr Inniss observed that Europe had provided millions of Euros over the years to help the Caribbean to put necessary systems in place to do business under the deal.

“The Europeans do not have to give us any money but once they made that decision to continue to partner with us and invest their taxpayers’ money down here in the region, the duty falls to each and every one of us to stop making excuses, get up, take advantage of not just the money but the systems that they are building in the region,” the Minister said.

He went on: “I am very disappointed that we have not yet grabbed hold of that opportunity and my my disappointment, quite frankly, lies in some of the regional organisations [and] some of the regional

leaders who are quick to find reasons why we can’t do things. “They seek to maintain their longevity

and keep positions in regional organisations. It becomes somewhat of an old boy’s network of individuals who recycle themselves through the systems, many who have never sold lemonade, so they never know what it is like to run a business in this region”.

“The time has come for us to be very frank about these kinds of characters and systems and the way in which they inhibit the growth and development of this region,” Mr Innes said.

He said that a recent investigation by his ministry into the perceived challenges in relation to the EPA had revealed that there was a lack of international competitiveness or export readiness among some local firms, a need for Barbados to put in place a modern sanitary and phytosanitary regime, as well as complaints from both the private and public sector about an information deficit.

“The truth of the matter is that we cannot sit back in this region anymore and make excuses. We really have to do better at delivering,” he said.

The Minister dismissed suggestions that there was a lack of information, pointing out that since the signing of the EPA some seven-and-a-half years ago, there has been publications, meetings, seminars and workshops held across the region to promote awareness and understanding of the agreement.

“It really tells me that we have a sense of intellectual laziness in the region when it comes to these matters. Nobody in this region should be saying they don’t know much about EPA,” he said, pointing out that the Barbados Government alone had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on EPA related consultancies, seminars and training.

Mr Innis also noted other shortcomings including a lack of motivation among the business community to be proactive; the inability or unwillingness among business operators to prepare project proposals to seek support from development cooperation partners; and the inability of the business community to motivate itself to take advantage of the trade agreements that have been negotiated.

“People open their markets to our goods and services and then we sit back here in this region, ask for a higher level of protection of our domestic space and domestic activities and do not grab hold of the opportunities that avail themselves to get into other people’s market,” Mr Inniss said.

 

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s leading weekly editorially independent publication, Caribbean Insight, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in the Caribbean and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in the Caribbean find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region.

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