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Sunday, January 22, 2006 

Increased trade, investment needed in the Caribbean

published: Sunday January 22, 2006

Claudine Housen, Staff Reporter



THE PRESIDENT of the Caribbean Central American Action (CCAA), Federico Sacasa, says that the Caribbean region needs to bring about a paradigm shift in order to facilitate increased trade and investment flows.

"The private sector needs to take the lead in changing our way of life," Mr. Sacasa said. "While we are arguing about our little petty anti-discussions, the other countries are moving at breakneck speed to modernise their societies and compete in the global economy and they are going to have our lunch."

A banker by profession, Mr. Sacasa, who was addressing delegates at the inaugural Regional Conference on Investments and Capital Markets in Montego Bay, noted that the decline in the traditional sources of finance for economic development has resulted in countries substituting remittances as an alternative finance source. This, he says will not be enough if the region expects to make an impact on the global market.

"We are exporting people with heart and soul who go out and earn money and send it back. That provides stability and liquidity but is still insufficient for take-off," he said. "We need to attract foreign investment now."

FOUR KEY ISSUES

According to Mr. Sacasa, there are four key issues ­ skills, scale, bureaucracy and corruption ­ which are hindering the investment growth in the region. Until these concerns are resolved, he said, the region would never be able to effectively treat issues such as poverty and compete in the global economy.

"Our markets are small, our workforce is not sufficiently trained or educated, it is difficult to do things due to the culture of 'the seal' and the lack of an impartial and predictable application of the law," he said. "We cannot overcome poverty and compete in the global economy under this old model."

CIVIL SOCIETY

He argued that "the private sector has to reach out to civil society and be advocates of change to transform and modernise our society."

He continued, "Every time the private sector has reached out to civil society, it is to take advantage of it. We need to recognise that we are in the same boat and that to succeed in this world, we have got to do it together."

Citing that it is the habit of the region to be always asking for help, Mr. Sacasa called on the key stakeholders to become more creative in their outlook and to see the opportunities that already exist in the market.

"One of the laments that I hear in the small economy is 'We are small, please help'," Mr. Sacasa said. "Nobody cares (the super power saying). If you want some help, go help yourself and then I will help you."

"Are we doing everything we can so that we can with good conscience, look at our partners and ask for help? I think we are saying we are doing everything we can but there is a difference between the words and action," he continued.

Pointing to the post 9/11 security measure in the United States, Mr. Sacasa said that while security issues puts additional burden on the region to finance the implementation of the new security measures, the stakeholders need to see it also as an opportunity to create a unique relationship with the super power.

"It is a tremendous opportunity because we are tied at the hip to the largest market in the world and that is our great advantage. It is time to market for goods and services and importantly, people," he said. "You can fly here easily, move goods and provide services easily. We are in the same time zone. We need to turn it to our advantage."


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