Exports from Jamaica to Europe trending upwards, regional NGO attests: By Carmen Patterson

Exports from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica to the markets of Europe are trending up, but the Caribbean region, as a whole, has earned a less than stellar report card from the Caribbean Export Development Agency, (CEDA)

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of CEDA assigned grades ranging from a B- to an F in giving the report card on various areas of export-related performance in the region at the Caribbean Exporters' Colloquium 2014 being held in Bridgetown, Barbados, under the theme "Building Economic Resilience in the Caribbean". PHOTO: Mrs  Coke-Hamilton (2nd from right) with trade delegation from Dominican Republic

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of CEDA assigned grades ranging from a B- to an F in giving the report card on various areas of export-related performance in the region at the Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium 2014 being held in Bridgetown, Barbados, under the theme “Building Economic Resilience in the Caribbean“. PHOTO: Mrs Coke-Hamilton (2nd from right) with trade delegation from Dominican Republic

Mrs Coke-Hamilton was incisive in her presentation to the event’s first session titled “Making the Grade: An Examination of the Region’s Export Performance”, held on Tuesday, November 11.

For overall economic performance, the region earned a B- grade with economic growth offset by high fiscal and external debt.

Economic growth for the region is projected at 2.5 per cent for 2014, down from three per cent in 2013, Coke-Hamilton said. Regional GDP for the area was US$132 billion, with the Dominican Republic having the largest share, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados.

Total exports for the region is US$51 billion, with services representing 62 per cent.

Other grades included a B- for conformity to international standards and a sub-par D grade for innovation.

Export diversification is another concern. "We still rely on what we did 50 years ago, and we have to get beyond that," Coke-Hamilton said. PHOTO:  (L to R) Commerce Minister of Barbados – Donville Inniss; Caribbean Export's Executive Director – Pamela Coke-Hamilton; Head of EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean – Mikael Barfod plus an invited guest

Export diversification is another concern. “We still rely on what we did 50 years ago, and we have to get beyond that,” Coke-Hamilton said. PHOTO: (L to R) Commerce Minister of Barbados – Donville Inniss; Caribbean Export’s Executive Director – Pamela Coke-Hamilton; Head of EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean – Mikael Barfod plus an invited guest

The role of the private sector in the region’s economic development earned a C grade. Branding and intellectual property rights, as well as access to finance, performed less well, both earning C- grades.

Our banks tend not to ascribe value to an idea,” Coke-Hamilton said, with businesses needing to look at non-traditional providers for capital and investment.

For global logistics and shipping, the region performed at a satisfactory level with a grade of C+ with easy accessibility from the region to locations like Miami, New York and London.

But the worst performing area was for intra-regional logistics and shipping, which received a failing grade of F.

If we don’t address it, everything else becomes, frankly, theoretical,” Coke- Hamilton said.

But despite the mediocre report card, the region may have a brighter future, according to panellist Ashish Shah, director of the division of country programmes at the International Trade Centre.

I stand convinced that the turning point has come,” Shah said.

“The report card is a very good C in my view,” and could soon improve to a B+, Shah said. “To succeed in trade you have to be able to compete and be able to out compete your competitors,” Shah added. “The focus on small and medium businesses (SMBs) is most important,” he continued.

Professor Victor Bulmer Thomas, honorary professor at University College, London and professor emeritus of London University noted the danger of looking at region-wide statistics, as they are heavily influenced by the performance of one country.

Everything is about Trinidad and Tobago,” Bulmer-Thomas said.

Bulmer-Thomas analysed 27 individual territories in the region by looking at their individual economic performance. Using his analysis, the top-rated country for the region was Cuba which received a top score of 5, followed by Haiti at 4.

Cuba benefitted from having access to all sorts of special arrangements, Thomas said. He said one example was that the country gets Chinese tourists “in numbers that other countries can only dream of”.

The export-led growth message had been received “loud and clear,” across the region, Bulmer Thomas said. But there has to be a “much greater effort” put into the measurement or metrics.

Other participants in the session included Ambassador Mikael Barfod, head of delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, who moderated the discussion and Vassell Stewart, president of the Caribbean Agricultural Business Association, a panellist.The day had a total of four sessions. The second session was “Clearing the Hurdles: Key Issues Affecting Caribbean Private Sector Competitiveness“, while the third session was “The Role of the Private Sector in Regional Economic Development” and the fourth session was “Branding and Intellectual Property Rights – The Counterweight to Volume“.

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