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ON THE RIGHT: Harmonious regional growth is possible

Paul Scott

ON THE RIGHT: Harmonious regional growth is possible

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Is a regional economic model the answer for Caribbean countries?

We come from different places in terms of natural resources, in some cases language, religion, legal frameworks and political philosophies. Therefore, is it naive to believe we can get harmonious growth?

In my view it is not. It is essential. Economic growth cannot be created in a vacuum.

There needs to be a framework. It needs to be coordinated. If we wish regional growth we need regional organisation.

Either we address the deficiencies in CARICOM or we need to look for growth from elsewhere. Either we have a domestic market called CARICOM or we don’t.

We cannot be half pregnant. Either we respect and build regional institutions with capability or we spend our time on something else.

It is all or nothing if we want results. We have to be coordinated and we have to care. For example, if we are a free trade bloc then we should sign trade agreements as such and not individually.

One party within the bloc should not be able to enter into agreements with third party countries that devalues the value of the entire market to those who are in the bloc.

If we agree it is a common market then each individual market does not just belong to its inhabitants but to all in the region.

If Trinidad wishes to have free trade with Costa Rica, that is interesting.

But the act of having free trade degrades the value of the Trinidad market to those who do not have a free trade agreement with Cost Rica.

While I respect the sovereign rights of individual countries we have to work out what our own identity and what our own relationships in the region really are.

Harmonious growth also requires a level playing field within the region. We need to look towards working on regional rules for financial regulation that will allow the free movement of services.

Take general insurance, for example. Every single country has a different regulator a different set of capital requirements yet we are all selling the same products.

Is it fair that we have free movement of physical products which favour those in manufacturing yet we do not have free movement of services to the same extent where other countries may have some excellent firms that could grow in the regional markets?

At the very least, we should standardise our regulations and work towards allowing free movement of services.

A true regional free market will allow for services and labour in the same way it allows today for free movement of goods.

As a Caribbean businessman, I am fully committed to this region. But if we want to accelerate the growth of economies we need to accelerate the growth of our human capital, we must allow human capital to flow where it gets the best return and remove the impediments.

When the region is organised to allow for this I truly believe harmonious growth will be possible.

Failure to seriously address this will ultimately lead to alternative paths being taken in the pursuit of much needed growth.

This cannot be allowed to happen as individually we are vulnerable and together we can be formidable.

Paul Scott is the chairman of Musson Jamaica Limited.

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