The Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government of the CARICOM Community met in St. John’s, Antigua on Saturday. Matters discussed included the global financial crisis and its impact on tourism and foreign direct investment in the region.
Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham participated in the 24th Bureau Meeting, along with other Bureau members, the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Chairman of the Conference, and the Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize.
The Bureau received a report from the Committee of Central Bank Governors on the implications of the global financial crisis for the region. The Committee recommended to Heads that CARICOM Governments continue appropriate prudential measures regarding foreign exchange reserves, deposit insurance, capitalization ratios, local asset ratios, cross boarder supervision and supervision of non-banks such as insurance companies and pension funds.
The Committee also urged Governments, where appropriate, to encourage a change in the composition of bank lending toward more productive and export-related activities, to streamline contingency planning with respect to financial and non-financial sectors and to undertake public investment programmes that create jobs and facilitate production of tradable/export goods.
It was noted that the CARICOM banking sector had been spared somewhat because it does not hold mortgage-backed securities and holds very limited forms of other types of exposure.
During the meeting, the Bureau urged multilateral financial institutions (IFI) to show greater sensitivity toward small vulnerable economies in this period of turmoil. In particular, the IFIs were urged to reverse the practice of graduation based solely on GDP per capita. It also reiterated the call for increased democratization of the international financial architecture and encouraged the Committee of Central Bank Governors to continue its work with respect to contingency planning in the financial and non-financial sectors.
**Tourism and Foreign Direct Investment**
The Bureau took note of the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) report indicating that tourism worldwide had grown by 7% in 2007 but is expected to grow by only 2% in 2008. It is projected that Caribbean tourism will experience negative growth next year. Heads discussed measures being taken by some resorts in the region to attract guests including price slashing exercises.
The Bureau also took note that a number of development projects, particularly tourism and hotel related projects, have been deferred or postponed as a result of the international financial crisis, and expressed support for the efforts of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and CARICOM Tourism Ministers in mounting an enhanced marketing programme for regional tourism.
As for trade, Heads discussed the implementation of the EU-CARICOM EPA, indicating that Heads expect to endorse the negotiating mandate that will guide CARICOM negotiators in discussions leading to a Canada-CARICOM trade and Development Agreement.
Other matters discussed at the 24th meeting included the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season and assistance to Haiti, and the recent presidential election in the United States. On the latter, the Bureau identified priority issues for engagement with the new administration.
Upcoming regional meetings include a Summit between the Heads of Government of CARICOM and the president of Cuba on December 8; a Summit of Latin American and Caribbean Presidents and Heads of Government to take place in Bahia, Brazil December 16-17 and the 5th Summit of the Americas scheduled for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in April, 2009.
Prime Minister Ingraham completes his Bureau term on December 31.