More Private Sector Trust and Information Sharing Needed

 

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The Caribbean needs to strengthen business ties within the region, in addition to developing private and public sector partnerships.

The findings of a survey of 200 private sector firms by consultant and well-known business executive James Moss-Solomon included the view that there was a lack of trust between the public and private sectors in the region.

Moss-Solomon announced the findings of the study, financed by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), on the opening day Tuesday November 11, 2014 of the second annual Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium 2014 at the Hilton Barbados resort.

Making a case for stronger collaboration among regional businesses as well as the private and public sectors, Moss-Solomon, Executive in Residence, Mona School of Business and Management in Jamaica, argued there was no “We” in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). “Without ‘We’ we can go no further,” he contended during a panel discussion on the role of the private sector in economic development.

More than 200 business executives, representatives from academia, technical experts and politicians have gathered for two days for a dialogue, organised by Caribbean Export, and funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) on “Building Economic Resilience in the Caribbean”.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency survey noted that business leaders were familiar with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and recognised its continuing role and value.

But Moss-Solomon said one conclusion was the Secretariat was not empowered. There was also limited access to information on markets and access. The survey suggested a lack of trust existed between the private and public sectors. “The private sectors reverted to insularity and protection, or worse, ignored CARICOM and the CARICOM Single Market,” Moss-Solomon, a long-standing Grace Kennedy executive and former head of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CARIC) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), added.

A recent study, CARICOM-CARIFORUM Public-Private Sector dialogue : A Roadmap for Re-engagement” emphasised the essential role the private sector has in achieving economic growth and development goals at a time when poor growth rates have persisted in the Caribbean.

During Tuesday’s sessions of panel discussions and presentations the participants heard and applauded the economic progress being made by Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Moss-Solomon said the way forward for economic growth required a commitment to private sector dialogue and “We” as well as sharing of information.

Minister responsible for Foreign Relations and Foreign Trade in Barbados Senator Maxine McClean underscored the value of private sector partnerships working with Governments to identify critical initiatives. She said the two roles for the private sector in contributing to regional economic development were advocacy and taking action.

Managing Director of Viking Trading Ltd. Nicholas Zephirin issued a plea for support from the region for Caribbean farmers, saying the Agro-processing industry with support could reduce the import bills of countries and improve their balance of payments. “If we do not support what is within CARICOM then our growth will always be limited,” he argued. While noting supporting initiatives from Caribbean Export and the German development agency GIZ in opening doors for exports to Europe Zephirin suggested that free trade in the Caribbean should benefit the farmers.

The Agro-processing sector and the cultural industries were identified during a presentation by Caribbean Export’s Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton as bright prospects for economic diversification.

by Hallam Hope