Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler (FP)

Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler, wants regional states to have a common customs and immigration border security authority that manages the entire region as one jurisdiction.

He made this suggestion while addressing the Caribbean Customs Sports Tournament held last Thursday at the Concord Experience, Christ Church.

Mr. Sinckler told customs officers it was inexcusable "…that to date, we have not been able to build a common customs platform for the region. And frankly, I can think of no better area for this high level of cooperation to be evinced and infused than in our border security".

He observed: "The development of a modernised paradigm and advanced public service, in each of our countries, is of critical importance. It is even just as important that we work intensively to ensure that we build an integrated public services administration across the Caribbean. To this extent, I also believe it is necessary for public servants in individual territories to see themselves not just as public servants in a particular territory, but public servants of the Caribbean."

The Finance Minister added that that since customs and immigration authorities worldwide generally performed the same role, and used the same technology, then it would be feasible to engage in employee exchanges and job attachment programmes. He said this would strengthen regional commitment, while, at the same time allowing knowledge to be shared and transferred.

"In other words, Barbadian customs authorities should be populated with Jamaican customs officers, just as Antiguan customs officers should be populated with Barbadian customs officers and vice versa," Mr. Sinckler?? noted.

The Finance Minister lamented the very slow pace of acceptance and implementation of a new harmonised regional customs legislation, inspite of the fact that all the technical work had been completed and a draft bill submitted to all Caribbean territories. He expressed concern that "…bureaucratic inertia and political lethargy appear to have laid siege to this very important process."

In light of this, Minister Sinckler said he hoped that the matter would be placed on the agenda of the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference "as a matter of extreme urgency".

Stressing that "the level of cooperation between regional customs authorities was needed "now more than ever", Mr. Sinckler empathised with the customs officers due to the challenges faced by what he termed "the almost six-fold increase in the volume of global trade across national borders."

He pointed out that the region was hampered by outdated customs laws and procedures and stressed that Caribbean states could "fall very far behind many other countries in the world against whom we compete and with whom we collaborate and do business" if changes were not introduced.

As a result, Mr. Sinckler contended that the region could also lose business and revenue, and "economies and societies could be compromised" causing "immeasurable damage to our economies and societies… We must act now."


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