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Monday, June 26, 2006 

26th June
Region Forges Ahead With CSME
By Darrin Culmer
Although The Bahamas remains outside of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), with Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell announcing last year that the government will not be signing on to the agreement in its first term in office, the majority of the rest of the region is continuing to make strides toward implementing all of the elements of that arrangement.

The CARICOM Secretariat announced last week that regional ministers of finance concluded an important step in the process of creating a CARICOM-wide Development Fund.

Article 158 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas explains that the purpose of the Development Fund is to provide financial or technical assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors.

Article 1 of the Revised Treaty defines disadvantaged countries as "member states that may require special support measures of a transitional or temporary nature by reason of: impairment of resources resulting from natural disasters, the adverse impact of the operation of the CSME on their economies, temporary low levels of economic development, or being a Highly-Indebted Poor Country designated as such by the competent inter-governmental organisation."

"The establishment of the regional Development Fund has now been assured with the general acceptance by participating Member States of a contribution formula put forward by the Caribbean Development Bank and endorsed by CARICOM ministers of finance," a statement from the CARICOM Secretariat said.

The statement reported that on Tuesday June 20 CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary General for Regional Trade and Economic Integration, Irwin La Rocque, indicated that the formula had been finalised by the CARICOM Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) at a recent meeting held in Jamaica.

Mr. La Rocque reportedly stated that the finance ministers also decided that the Development Fund would be a separate legal entity with its own personality.

The Fund is expected to be capitalised at US$250 million of which US$100 million would be contributed by CARICOM Member States. Twenty million dollars is to be derived from the Petroleum Fund which is operated by Trinidad and Tobago, and the remainder is to come from donor contributions.

"The CARICOM assistant secretary general noted too that the ministers of finance have also recommended to heads (of government) the setting up of two task forces, one of which will be looking at the implementation of the Development Fund with a view to getting it implemented as quickly as possible, while the other will look at mobilising additional resources from the donor community," the statement said.

The CARICOM Secretariat statement indicated that the CARICOM secretary general along with the lead head of government with responsibility for the CSME, Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados, have already approached a number of donors and received "encouraging" responses.

The Bahama Journal - Bahamas News Online Edition
Copyright Jones Communications Ltd. ©2005 - Nassau, Bahamas.

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