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Guyana to participate in Caricom consumer protection drive

Guyana is participating in the timely move by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as it moves towards the promotion of a rapid consumer protection alert system throughout Caricom member states.
During an in-country promotion and sensitisation session on Tuesday stakeholders were informed that the move was timely and much needed throughout the Region. The Caricom Rapid Alert System on the Exchange of Information on Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods, CARREX, is a major initiative aimed at protecting consumers via quick and efficient information-sharing on harmful products in the market.

At today’s session, Executive Director of the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) Evadnie Innis focused on the issue which she described as critical for the Region. Innis, speaking on behalf of the Tourism, Industry and Commerce Ministry, as well as the GNBS, pointed out that standardisation would play a critical role in the process, since this is the benchmark against which quality and safety of goods will be measured.

“The timeliness of this initiative cannot be overemphasised,” she noted, pointing to the period of globalisation and free market which currently exists around the world. Innis observed that with the wide trade of goods, it is the onus of the country into which these goods are traded to ensure that the goods are good.

She noted that the free-market and conventions to which countries are signatory, prevent countries from setting up technical barriers to trade. As a result, justifiable reasons have to be found to prevent certain products from entering countries, as such, standards have to be used. “When you are going to make judgment, standards must play a role, because that is the benchmark against which those goods will be measured,” she declared.
Regarding the testing of goods, a verifiable means should be found through which proof could be provided of bad products. Innis pointed to a proposal by the Tourism, Industry and Commerce Ministry for a national state of the art laboratory for this purpose. She stated that a consultant is currently working to determine whether Guyana needs such a laboratory accredited to ISO 17025 to conduct testing. She is hopeful that such a laboratory would be put in place to conduct tests for which results would not be questioned since the laboratory would be accredited to international standards. This she noted would help Guyana to protect consumers against bad products which have entered the international market.

Innis also observed that consumer education would be needed and noted that this would be done in part through social media to make the system effective. She cautioned about dumping which is conducted by some companies and products end up in the Region. Innis also expressed concern about Guyana’s open borders which could allow unsafe products into the country. CARREX focuses on the development of a comprehensive framework, including a computer based platform for the administration of a regional information exchange and response system. It is aimed at strengthening Member States’ market surveillance capabilities in the respect of non-food, non pharmaceuticals which pose a serious risk to consumers’ health and safety.

The clearing house for information will be the Caricom Secretariat and is designed as a web-based portal for information sharing among national consumer protection agencies and other related bodies. National contact points from respective member states are expected to use the system and interface with their counterparts as they send and receive alerts regarding unsafe items that may be in the market.

Meanwhile, Consumer Health and Safety Officer, Hilda Kelshall of the CSME in Barbados pointed to the importance of today’s seminar. She noted that it is aimed to operationalise and activate the CARREX system in the Caricom member states by providing national contact points and national authorities full access to the network. It would also raise public awareness through national consultations with all stakeholders and sharing information through the media so that Caricom nationals would become fully sensitised and better informed about the CARREX. (GINA)

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