Greenlight for Regional Development Fund

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, October 25, 2006 – The CSME Regional Development Fund is to take effect July 2007.

Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves said the date was set by Bureau of Heads of Government meeting held last week in St Kitts-Nevis.

Gonsalves is one of three prime ministers who presently constitute the bureau.

He said that the fund was expected to start with initial capitalisation of US$130 million while another US$120 million would be raised from donors and other funding sources.

CARICOM member states were expected to jointly contribute $100 million and the Petroleum Export Fund, operated by Trinidad and Tobago to contribute $30 million.

The purpose of the fund is to provide financial or technical assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors.

Gonsalves told journalists in Kingstown yesterday that a formula had been devised to set the contributions of each member state and in the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines it was US$1.64 million.

In any given year, a state was allowed an amount up to its maximum contribution.

Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago had agreed not to use the fund while Jamaica had agreed not to use it for the first four years.

The fund was developed under Article 158 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

It is one of 14 measures devised to assist disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors as the Community moved towards a single market and economy.

Gonsalves also said that the bureau had agreed to establish a sub-committee to review an application made by the Dominican Republic some years ago for membership in CARICOM.

He said that at the time of the application CARICOM was grappling with other survival and self-organisation issues and was unable to consider the application but the time is ripe now.

Gonsalves said there was tremendous benefits to be had, especially in the area of trade, spinning off from the 1998 agreement on the establishment of a Free Trade Area between CARICOM and the Dominican Republic which has not yet been fully exploited.