Prime Minister Andrew Holness has proposed a five-year ultimatum for all CARICOM countries to fully implement the single market initiative, adding that Jamaica would be forced to review its relations with the regional bloc if the requested ultimatum is not met.
He, in response to concerns expressed by Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, later clarified that his challenge to CARICOM countries should not be interpreted as a threat.
Mr Holness explained that the proposed ‘single market’ requires harmonization of trade-related policies and institutions, while a ‘single economy’ would require coordination of monetary and fiscal policies.
“We don’t think it is realistic especially at this time to pursue a single economy. I want that to be clearly understood,” he declared.
Mr Holness is instead pushing for a single market.
“All member states must make a clear and definitive commitment to establish the CARICOM single market with a specific time-bout, measurable and verifiable programme of action to fulfill obligations,” he said.
“A period of five years should be proposed to meet objectives under a programme of action for full implementation of the single market, taking into account the CARICOM secretariat’s implementation plan, as well as the capacity of individual member states to meet the requirements,” the prime minister further said.
He vowed that Jamaica will take action in its best interest if the proposed ultimatum is not met. “Jamaica will further evaluate its terms of engagement with CARICOM if stated and agreed commitments towards advancing the single market are not implemented by all member states within the agreed time frame.”
Mr Holness noted that, 10 years ago, CARICOM heads approved a plan to implement the single market within a four-year period.
He however stated that the plan has been stymied by ‘selfishness’ and attempts by countries to protect their local markets for natives.
Mr Holness declared: “The strategy of the government is not to pull out of the common market. We are going to plant our stake in the common market, defend it, and seek to ensure that it is effective and [to] improve it.”
He urged CARICOM member states to respect Jamaica’s position.
The prime minister also noted a concern Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips yesterday expressed regarding the proposed ultimatum.
“I listened carefully to the Leader of the Opposition’s position that we shouldn’t go to the bargaining table with threats. I agree, the nature of our relationship with CARICOM, we should not have to depend on threats. So I don’t want this statement to be interpreted as a threat,” Mr Holness said.
He continued: “What it (the statement) is, is that Jamaica has to have a pathway towards seeing the realization of its own interest. Our own interest is to see CARICOM work. There is no question about that… We have set ourselves a pathway. We want other member states to respect that pathway [and] come on board because, at the end of the day, it would be in everyone’s benefit.”
Prime Minister Holness was speaking yesterday (June 19) during a debate on a resolution for parliament to adopt some recommendations made in a report, which was produced by a Bruce Golding-led review commission appointed in 2016. The commission reviewed Jamaica’s position in CARICOM and made several recommendations regarding the way forward.
By Horace Mills