Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Focus on opportunities

Should we congratulate St. Kitts and Nevis for being the most recent Caribbean nation to become a “high-income country, as defined by the World Bank?

Recently, the President of the United States of America Barack Obama pointed out that it was his intention to terminate the designation of the twin-state as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme in accordance with the provisions of the 1974 Trade Act. He remarked that his reasons for doing so was that the country had become a high-income country and accordingly, its “eligibility for trade benefits under the GSP programme will end on January 1, 2014”.

The move, which sees St. Kitts now joining a list of high-income nations as at July 2012 – including Barbados, Cayman Islands, Saint Martin, Sint Maarteen, Trinidad and Tobago, US Virgin Islands and the Bahamas – has provoked panic among some citizens who see it as a ploy for America to stop or reduce what they perceive to be badly needed aid.

Of course, this could add sparks to the ongoing debate of what developing countries need more: trade or aid. Of interest was the Kittitian Prime Minister’s call on the Caribbean Community to help the twin-island state deal with its new status by assisting in negotiations with the Obama administration. It was reported in the media that these proposed negotiations would be to ensure that despite the new status, the trading privileges afforded to other CARICOM countries would be preserved.

It is his focus on the opportunities for advancement that, in our opinion, should be echoed across the region. The fact is, we cannot on one hand be wanting others to see that we are a united voice to be heard in the international arena (CARICOM that is), and yet still expect to be treated and give out treatment associated with those countries who find themselves at the lower end of development.

Prime Minister Douglas noted that the promotion to high-income economic status brought with it greater responsibility – for example, the expectation of an increased quality of service and improvement in the quality of goods it trades to other countries. Gone are the days when this region’s trade bloc can be cushioned warmly in trade preferences with our major trading partners. It’s now brand competing against brand and we cannot continue to operate as if we do not have the capacity, intellectual, financial or otherwise to be able to be a significant trade player, if not in quantity, in quality.

Barbados is certainly a benchmark nation in the region with respect to its level of service. That said, who can deny that this country still has a long way to go, particularly alongside heavier-weight emerging countries bolstering their services industries and attracting increasing foreign investment? From tourism and financial services to other professional services in information technology, marketing, building and construction and manufacturing services, they too need to be mentally and professionally prepared to handle the changing global trends which threaten to cripple them if they are not – to borrow a phrase from Prime Minister Douglas – “in a state of readiness for it”.

In case some of us did not recognise it, the majority of countries around the world – and certainly in the Caribbean – received an ungraded status. That is, the status of now being called upon to operate at a more responsible level which begs us all to get our houses in order. Economic constraints have a funny way of doing just that.

No comments:

Post a Comment