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EPA and CSME Standby Facilities launched

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) (The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Standby Facility represents a new paradigm for collaboration between Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) States and the European Union (EU), as does the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) Standby Facility with respect to collaboration between CARICOM States and the EU.

The Director-General of the CARIFORUM Directorate in the CARICOM Secretariat, Mr Ivan Ogando Lora, made this point in an address at the launching of the EPA and CSME Standby Facilities for Capacity Building on 22 March in Barbados.

Mr Ogando noted, “the EU-funded Facilities provide frameworks for pooling resources from funding partners to assist CARIFORUM and CARICOM States, respectively, in their attempts to deal with common challenges and underpin national institutional capacities.”

The EPA Standby Facility is a €3.5m fund administered by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), with support from the National Authoring Officers (NAOs). The CSME Standby Facility is also administered by the CDB, with support from NAOs. It is a €3.45m fund.

On hand at the launching ceremony were EU representatives, including Mrs Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and Caribbean, EuropeAid and Mr Mikael Barfod, Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. The President of the CDB, Dr Warren Smith, was also in attendance, and in his address he noted that the record of EPA implementation in the Region has, to date, been “uneven”. He linked this trend “in large part, to the limited human, financial and technical capacities in many CARIFORUM countries to implement commitments under the Agreement.” Dr Smith further observed, “Similar constraints have stymied the advancement of the CSME.”

He opined, “By focusing directly on building capacity at the national level, the two new product offerings can position the countries to take advantage of the opportunities for export development and expansion available through the EPA. The EPA and CSME standby facilities, therefore, represent a major milestone in our ongoing effort to secure the beneficial integration of CARICOM Member States into the global economy.”

In the case of the respective EU-financed Facilities, they are each to be managed by Steering Committees comprising representatives of the European Commission and the CARICOM Secretariat. The Steering Committees are responsible for approving proposals to be funded under the Facility, and overseeing the overall strategic direction and operation of the respective Facilities. All applications are to be channeled to the NAOs, via National EPA Focal Points. Applications are screened, according to criteria. Those applications selected are in turn submitted to the CDB, for additional screening.

With respect to the EPA Standby Facility, the resources of the Facility will be provided to CARIFORUM States in the form of grants and will be used to finance activities/projects to build the capacity of national administrations/agencies involved in EPA implementation. Similarly, the resources of the CSME Standby Facility will be provided by way of grants to CARICOM States to be used to finance customized projects that are aimed at building the capacity of national administrations/agencies involved in CSME implementation. The duration of both Facilities is three years. (For an enumeration of the intervention areas of the respective Facilities and a detailed description of how each Facility will operate, please visit the CDB’s website

Also in attendance at the launch of the EPA and CSME Standby Facilities were regional policy makers, officials from CARICOM States and the Dominican Republic, officials from regional institutions and representatives of development financing institutions, who had also participated in the Regional Launch of the Caribbean Investment Facility (CIF) which preceded the launch of the Standby Facilities. Senator The Hon. Darcy Boyce, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, of Barbados who was the feature speaker at the launching ceremony of the CIF hailed the Facility as an “innovative financing mechanism” for Caribbean development.

Mr Ogando, who also attended and delivered remarks at the launching of the CIF, called attention to the innovative loan/grant blending principle of the Facility, which he said “aims to close funding gaps that inhibit productive investment in vital regional infrastructure by blending European Development Fund (EDF) resources with the lending capacity of financing institutions and private sector capital, with a view to supporting Caribbean countries in financing key infrastructure.”

In addition to the interventions foreseen mostly in Transport, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Energy infrastructure, the Facility is also expected to contribute to EU cross-cutting themes, i.e. environmental sustainability. The Facility will also include a Climate Change Window to support the implementation of projects helping partner countries to tackle climate change through mitigation and/or adaptation measures.

Mr Ogando added, “While the various EU-funded projects with respect to EPA implementation address regional deficiencies in economic competitiveness, the CIF will be complementary in so far as it will seek to close the numerous funding gaps that inhibit productive investment in vital regional infrastructure.”

For the period 2012-2015, the European Commission through the EDF has reserved a minimum amount of €40 million for the CIF. This contribution does not have a predefined allocation per country or sectors.

CIF contributions will support investments located in the 15 Caribbean countries signatory to the Cotonou ACP-EC Partnership Agreement.

“The CIF is all about the realization on the part of Caribbean governments, the regional private sector and our principal development partner, the EU, that additional and sustained investment in economic and social infrastructure are pivotal and indispensable to the present and future viability of the Caribbean’s economies,” Mr Ogando said.

Mr Ogando expressed CARIFORUM’s gratitude for the unstinting support of the EU to the Region’s development.

The fifteen signatory Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific (CARIFORUM) States to the EPA are the independent CARICOM Member States and the Dominican Republic.

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