President still adamant EPA bad for the region, Barbados PM stresses importance of development financing-at 13th GM&SA Award ceremony Georgetown, GINA, November 1, 2008 Speaking at the 13th annual Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GM&SA) Awards ceremony at Thirst Park, Ruimveldt last evening, President Bharrat Jagdeo reminded business persons at the forum about the possible dire effects the global financial crisis could have on the Caribbean Region and the need for more focus and debate on the issue, as well as the need for development financing for the Region. “We have to, as a collective, start thinking through the problems and that is what I don’t get, the sense that that is happening enough,” he lamented. He noted that academicians have not been generating enough thoughts on the matter. “Our academics should be thinking this through, our policy institutions should be debating this every single day. This should be the topic of debate of all private sector organizations because it’s not only a major problem now and will hit us in the near future, but it is an environment that you’d have to contend with throughout your business life, so you should do this and at the political level and the regional level I feel we’re not acting enough in concert at this point in time,” he stressed. According to the Guyanese Leader, if all of the above suggestions are taken into consideration, firewalls could be built to cushion the impact of the crisis. “It would not stop every impact of the crisis but it would be made up of well thought out, appropriate responses.” Prime Minister of Barbados, David Thompson who was the guest speaker at the event and who had addressed the forum prior to the President, had cited the need for collaboration in the region. “The collaboration of the regional development agent with links in the Caribbean Development Fund as well as the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat should build the cadre of specialists in our region who are dedicated to building a regional capacity for greater domestic production of goods and services,” he emphasized. On this note, the Prime Minister pointed to the recently signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM countries and the European Union (EU) which he said is founded on deepening regional integration. “Among the commitments agreed to by the signatories in the pursuit of greater levels of cooperation across the region, a regional development fund has also been agreed on to finance programmes under the provisions of the EPA for further economic development in the Caribbean region,” the Barbadian Prime Minister added. He pointed to the priority areas of the fund which include business development and enterprise competitiveness in investment promotion and mobilization. “The EU member States, the EU investment Bank, other investment partners and the international financial institutions are expected to contribute to the fund. Essentially, these funds are directed to the building of regional capacity for the export of goods and services beyond the region,” he said, noting that regional development financing is an imperative if the region is to charter its own development plan. However, President Jagdeo, while agreeing with the Barbadian Prime Minister on the importance of development financing said he still believes that the EPA, which Guyana reluctantly signed onto, is not good for the region and the Region could have done better in its negotiations on the Agreement. “I’m prepared to contest that in so many ways…from the perspective of the provision of development financing, from the opportunity that it creates to how asymmetric it has been, to how much we have given up that we didn’t need to give up because they didn’t have to be WTO (World Trade Organisation) compatible…so even the services area, what we have done effectively, we don’t have services to export, we have given the Europeans access to our markets,” he stressed. He noted though that he was at least satisfied that through his efforts, two safeguard clauses were included in the Agreement. Last evening’s ceremony saw a number of reputable manufacturing agencies being given awards for their work. The Beharry Group of Companies received the President’s Award for export achievements.