KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Tuesday February 25, 2014, CMC – The Commonwealth is seeking to establish a trade facility that would benefit Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, has said.
Sharma, who held talks with CARICOM chairman and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Monday, said that the facility would provide to small states a facility which larger economies enjoy.
Sharma said his talks with Gonsalves, focused on economic issues, trade, the environment and disaster response and had been planned to coincide with the CARICOM inter-sessional summit that has been postponed to March 10-12.
He said the discussions also included solvency, liquidity, and debt-sustainability.
“The entire money issue, if you like, because if that is not solved, it has a huge effect on the social agenda, the budgetary pressure on health and education and this has to be prevented,” he told a news conference.
Sharma said while the question of poverty is extremely important, sustainability resilience and vulnerability must also be emphasised.
“No country should be allowed to be in free fall, and we need supportive systems to arrest their fall,” he said, adding that the issue of trade has two components: market and productive capacity.
“We have to find a solution because the small states don’t have those instruments and those agencies which are required to facilitate and enable their own traders to produce these goods and services.”
Sharma said the Commonwealth wants the idea of capacity building to be expanded substantially as regards the environment.
“Capacity is what constrains small states and hits you everywhere. We are told there are 19 or 20 environment-related conventions and programme, but which is the first telephone number you dial to get at them, which is the form you fill? And when you have done it, because of your capacity constraints, who follows it up for you?” he said.
He said that the Commonwealth was also examining the area of natural disaster management, adding “this is a full field; it may not be a crowded field, but there is the United Nations, there is the World Bank, there are other agencies working in it.
“What is it that the Commonwealth can do is very important for us to consider,” Sharma said, noting that the organization of former British colonies recently created a high-level working group headed by former Guyana president, Bharat Jagdeo, to look into the advocacy needs of member states as they relate to the environment and the impact of climate change.
“We want to be practical in the sense of advocating greater support systems,” Sharma said, adding that the Commonwealth still doesn’t have a global environmental agency.
“There is a lot of intellectual advocacy work to be done. But, at the same time, there is money in various environment-related conventions that can be accessed. But how? We want to be of assistance to be able to access the finances for adaptation programmes and environment programmes for small countries as well,” Sharma said.
The Indian national also announced that his country will donate US$500,000 each to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, and US$300,000 to aid in the recover from the Christmas 2013 floods.
“And I want to thank India for this kind of assistance and the show of solidarity in the Commonwealth,” Sharma said.