STATEMENT BY CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT ON POVERTY AND THE RISING COST OF LIVING IN MEMBER STATES, ISSUED ON THE OCCASION OF THE TWELFTH SPECIAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY, 7 DECEMBER 2007, GEORGETOWN, GUYANA
Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings | 08 December 2008 | Release Ref #: 289/2007 | 778
We, the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, meeting in Georgetown, Guyana at the Twelfth Special Meeting of the Conference on Friday, 7 December 2007, with a view to finding solutions, at both the national and regional levels, to the critical issue of poverty and the rising cost of living, took note of the research which highlights a number of factors impacting this issue in the Caribbean Community.
These factors include persistently high and rising prices in the global economy that are impacting negatively on the open economies of our countries. These are in turn fuelled by unprecedented high and rising oil prices; climate change which has disrupted food supplies from the main producer countries that have suffered droughts and other natural disasters; increasing demand by some emerging economies as a result of massive urbanisation and industrialisation; the shift in agricultural production from food to bio-fuels; increased cost in ocean freight resulting from higher oil prices; and more recently the sharp depreciation of the US dollar.
These foregoing factors are beyond the control of our countries. There are however some measures within the reach of the Community or national Governments which could be taken without doing injury to our economies.
In this respect, we, the Heads of Government, agreed to the following measures that will be undertaken immediately and in the short- to medium- and long-term.
We agreed that the Common External Tariff (CET) is the most appropriate instrument for an intervention at the Community level to address the issue of the rising cost of living.
We have therefore agreed to immediately establish a Technical Team which will review a set of commodities which have a significant weight in the Consumer Price Index, are not significantly produced or have a close substitute in the Region, and which attract a CET.
The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will then make a decision on the reduction or removal of the CET from these commodities as early as 31 January 2008.
In order to ensure the adequate supply and distribution of food intra-regionally, an Expert CARICOM Team on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures (SPS) will be established immediately to undertake a rapid assessment of the readiness of Member States to export selected food items and the preparedness of Member States to import those items from within the Region.
While these Community measures are being put into place, Member States will continue to implement national measures with a view to containing prices without compromising macroeconomic stability. In this regard, information sharing among Member States is crucial to the process.
Member States will also intensify social interventions targeting the most vulnerable groups, including children, as a feasible short-term measure to mitigate the negative impact of high food prices.
With respect to food production, we the Heads of Government recognise the challenge of meeting the requirements for land to expand agriculture production.
We, therefore, express appreciation for the generous offer by the Government of Guyana to Member States, of access to land for the pursuit of agricultural production, including agro-processing, and encourage Member States to take advantage of this offer. In this regard, we note that Trinidad and Tobago is already pursuing this offer in the context of a CARICOM Food Security Facility.
We recommend that efforts be made to increase the regional content in food consumption. In this regard, we emphasise the importance of branding and marketing Caribbean products.
We draw attention to the even greater importance of the CARICOM Agriculture Investment Forum scheduled for the first quarter of 2008. This Forum is critical for meeting the objectives of increased food production in the Region.
The Region pledges to proceed urgently with the transformation of agriculture, particularly the Jagdeo Initiative;
With respect to energy, we, the Heads of Government, recognise the rising cost of energy impacts on all aspects of the cost of living and production, and note that the cost of energy is significantly influenced by the world price of oil.
Work is already being undertaken in the Region in the area of renewable energy and this will be intensified.
The cost of transportation is significantly influenced by energy costs with a resulting impact on the price of goods and services. Inadequate transportation links also impact on the availability and price of goods and services.
Significant work has already been mandated in the area of regional transportation and will be accelerated.
Any initiative can only be successful with the inclusion and engagement of our populations and particularly our stakeholders. Important in this regard is the involvement of the private sector and other social partners in the process of curtailing inflationary pressures.
We have mandated further research and analysis on the issue of the rising cost of living and poverty in Member States on which to base further decisions and implementation of recommendations.
This will be accompanied by a major consumer public education campaign to be undertaken in order to remind our population to “shop smart, buy regional, eat healthy, conserve energy and save”.