Today, the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME met and yesterday the Council of Finance ministers (COFAP) met. Prime Minister Browne chaired the COFAP meeting.
With respect to the Single Market and Single Economy consultations at the sub-committee [level], we took some decisions today to recommend to the full conference of Heads [of Government] because our committee is a body that recommends a number of things that I think will have significant value.
First and foremost is the establishment of a single jurisdiction, a single registration for companies across the region and we believe that this is necessary to boost investment and to reduce both the hurdles and the cost that many of our enterprises will face as they seek to do business across multiple jurisdictions.
We agreed on the principle of mutual recognition with respect to companies incorporated in one Member State being recognized in other member states and this of course, will help significantly in reducing those hurdles and costs.
The second major item that we agreed to date to recommend to Heads of Government and the Chair of Council is here, Prime Minister Holness, is the question of expanding the categories of workers who may travel freely within the region.
Right now there are 10 categories and we have agreed to recommend an eleventh category of agricultural workers, primarily because we recognize the importance of being able to obtain food security across the region, particularly in these difficult and turbulent times, and coming as we did last year after the realization of what the climate can do and hurricanes can do and now we see earthquakes disrupt the whole production and distribution cycle and we are conscious and sensitive to the fact that we have to be able to move the region closer to a level of food security in ways that [we were] not perhaps as assiduous about doing in recent times.
We also looked at a recommendation to go forward to Heads for the establishment of a Law Reform Centre, because we recognize that there is a shortage of legal draughts men in the region and to that extent, if we can pool our resources to be able to have model laws and to be able to look at reform of laws in social and economic sectors in a way that at the national level we are constrained to do, then we can improve significantly the environment and landscape that our citizens will have to function in.
We also agreed to look at the adherence of the implementation plan for the Single Market and Single Economy and we literally have outlined the measures to be taken to further advance it, in the short, medium and long-term and in that context, we have asked Member States to provide regular updates. We have agreed that as Chair I would work with Heads [of Government] and countries to see where we can bridge the gap to ensure that progress is made in a seamless way.
I think all Heads are sensitive to the fact that now that we have started back working and I really want to take the opportunity to thank and congratulate colleague Heads, in particular, Prime Minister Browne has been modest. He has chaired both in Montego Bay and here, and has done so in a manner that has allowed us to move significantly within the targets that have been set.
But Prime Minister Holness has also been anchoring the Montego Bay meeting and I think that those who write will look at Montego Bay as that meeting that had a catalytic effect again upon the regional integration plan and in circumstances where others were as doubtful as there are it is of great notice to us that Prime Minister Holness has given the leadership necessary to move forward the integration movement at the pace at which it is moving.
I also want to say that ‘Thank you’, because it is alright to call a meeting, but if you don’t have a quorum [then] there can be no progress. And to that extent, therefore, it is of significance to me that this meeting was able to have six Heads of Government attend as a subcommittee which reflects the political will that there is for this regional integration project to move forward at the pace it is moving again.
Against that background we have agreed that it is also critical that we involve the private sector and labour and civil society and indeed, previously institutions had agreed to the establishment of business and labour advisory councils, which are a bit of a misnomer because it also includes civil society representation but what we recognize is that even as we do that at the national level, it is critical that in our meetings that we recommend to Heads that the encounters with them be a permanent feature of our own meetings whether before or during because we recognize that making a success of the regional integration project is not about governments alone but it is fundamentally about our people.
And if our people can be reflected in the areas in which they operate whether in the private [sector] as labour/ as workers, or in the civil society organisations which they populate then it makes the work of government easier or, as I like to say here, ‘Many hands make light work’, in making this a reality.
In addition, to address the issue of non-compliance with the Revised Treaty, which, of course, affects the timely and effective implementation of the decisions and agreed actions. It is no sense us agreeing to things and then not implementing them. And to that extent, Prime Minister Holness and his minister of Foreign Affairs caused us to realise that we must underpin and that we should only agree to that which can become reality in real terms.
And to that extent, I believe that there is a greater appreciation that it is necessary for persons to come to meetings with the appropriate mandate and to allow us, therefore, to move forward with certainty and assuredness.
Similarly, we agreed that Member States in the Community Council should complete considerations of the proposal for the settlement of disputes arising from non-compliance as expeditiously as possible and to submit the necessary recommendations and considerations to [the] Conference.
The Protocol on Government Procurement which has been under the consideration of the Heads since 2004 (the technical work). And what does this mean to ordinary citizens of the region? That our citizens may now, over certain thresholds, be assured that opportunities to bid for contracts in other territories will be advertised and that there, therefore, is a larger and more level playing field for all of our citizens, recognizing that we are creating those opportunities for them particularly where governments are issuing contracts for services or for major works.
I’d like to thank the Secretary General, you and your staff for allowing us to be in this position. We take it for granted that we just turn up at these meetings and that we make decisions. But were it not for the work of the Secretariat literally putting us in this position, we could not be here. And to those who are not present, we wish you to communicate our sincere gratitude.
To my own staff, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General, the Minister of Home Affairs, and all others who contributed. To the permanent secretaries in those relevant ministries, my own Permanent Secretary and the Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs and all of their officers, because once again, this did not happen by accident and I believe that we need to say, ‘Thank you’, in recognition that we have had a smooth and seamless entry into things and now we can go onto our other business, some of it is pleasant and some of it is not so pleasant with the assurance, as I said today, that we have claimed ground and we are now moving to newer ground to claim that. Thank you.