Taskforce to find regional approach to financial crisis

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, January 30, 2009 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) has established a task force to recommend policies, programmes and approaches to lessen the effects of the global recession on member states of the 15-member grouping.

The establishment of the task force was announced yesterday, following the 13th Meeting of COFAP in Barbados.

Suriname’s Finance Minister Humphrey Hildenburg, who is COFAP’s Chairman, said that in light of the ongoing economic and financial crisis in the world, it was of great importance for officials to reach a decision to establish the task force to look into the effects of the crisis for CARICOM as a whole “and to come up with suggestions for the countries to deal with and handle the crisis”.

“Due to the fact that it is very important for us and for the people in the region, we (should) act in a speedy way,” he said.

According to a CARICOM release issued after the meeting, the task force will “identify the critical challenges facing CARICOM as a result of the global financial crisis and global recession; identify the areas and sectors which call for priority treatment; outline possible measures which could mitigate the effects of the global recession; and highlight those remedies which are feasible and emphasise those responses which should be avoided”.

The group will also establish a system of continuous tracking and monitoring of the effects of the global recession on CARICOM member states and identify areas of commonality and areas of regional collaboration, including support mechanisms and strategies for approaching International Financial Institutions.

The taskforce is expected to report its findings, recommendations and strategies to COFAP at a special meeting of the Council which will be held in late March or early April.

The Task Force with the Caribbean Development Bank in the Chair, will comprise representatives of the Ministry of Finance of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, the Committee of Central Bank Governors, the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce, the Caribbean Congress of Labour, the CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariats, the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance and the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery.

During yesterday’s meeting, officials agreed that the greater convergence of CARICOM economies was a means of combating global financial and economic crises.
Barbados’ Minister of Economic Affairs, David Estwick, said that the global economic situation highlighted why the regional integration process must move forward.

“We have a responsibility and a duty to ensure that the process is moved forward, not as an affront but as a lesson to possible future difficulties worldwide. We must therefore integrate and move our economies together as a means of staving off these types of challenges,” he said.

Hildenburg also contended that while the crisis may slow down the pace of the integration process, Ministers of Finance and Planning should make all efforts to alleviate the negative effects of the crisis on their economies, so it would not delay the pace of the integration process.

CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington, for his part, stated that the region’s small economies had “virtually no option but to come together as a Community to take decisive and collective actions to address not only their individual challenges but also to create an effective framework for joint economic decision-making”.

“This is the only way in which they could effectively treat with what seems set to be a long and deep global economic downturn,” he said.

Carrington pointed out that the crisis was already having an adverse effect on the Community’s major economic activity, tourism, and it was expected that remittances, foreign direct investment and exports would be similarly affected with the resultant effect on employment.