By Linda Straker
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada CMC – A two-day Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) stakeholders consultation with the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) on the future of the 78-member grouping ended here late Saturday with Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell expressing concern over new European Union policies towards its former colonies.
Mitchell said that the new EU external aid policy of “differentiation and graduation from access to grant resources” would negatively affect the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the wider CARIFORUM member states.
As of January 2014 all CARIFORUM countries (The 15-member CARICOM grouping and the Dominican Republic) with the exclusion of Haiti will not qualify for budgetary support from the European Union because their gross national income (GNI) per capita is listed as beyond US$1,000 resulting in their graduation from lower middle to upper middle income countries. Two CARIFORUM countries are listed as high income earners.
“This mean that only technical support and other non budgetary proposal will be provided but no direct budgetary assistance will be forthcoming from the EU to any of the CARIFORUM members and that will be a great loss to this region,” said Percival Marie, CARIFORUM Director General.
He said most of the funds would now be channeled to African countries whose GNI per capita is below US$1,000.
The GNI per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens.
According to World Bank – the body which develop the indicator, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are categorized as upper middle income earners with the average per citizen listed for 2012 as US$7,110, US$6,460, US$6,530 and US$6,380 respectively.
St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda have been deemed to be high income earners with the average per citizen listed as US$13,330 and US$12,670 respectively. Haiti’s average income per citizens is US$760.
The World Bank said that knowing a country’s GNI per capita is a good first step toward understanding the country’s economic strengths and needs, as well as the general standard of living enjoyed by the average citizen.
But Prime Minister Mitchell said that per capita income does not address levels of poverty, distribution of income, levels of indebtedness, vulnerability and the capacity to self general sustainable economic and social development.
“This is an area in which we need to dialogue with our European partners, particularly within the context of Small Island Developing States and the Post 2015 Development Agenda,” he said.
The main objective of the consultation with the Group of Eminent Persons that include former Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo co-Vice Chair, and former Executive Director of the International Trade Centre Patricia Francis of Jamaica, is to gather the region’s views on “re-inventing” ACP group as a global player, and the future orientations of ACP-European Union relations beyond 2020 when the Cotonou Agreement expires.
The 12-member ACP Eminent Persons Group is chaired by the former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Chef de Cabinet of the ACP Secretariat, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia said that EPG consultation with CARIFORUM was the second of six and the consensus so far is that there is a need for the ACP reinvent itself into an institution that will meet the need of the one billion people it serve.
“We are still in the early days, this is second consultation and to date we are pleasantly surprised at what we are reading from the consultations, each area will have its own issues and challenges but what we strongly gathered from this consultation in Grenada is that the body needs to be preserved,” he added.
There was also the suggestion that the ACP needs to take full control of its operations.
“At present the Secretariat is seen more as a convener and a catalyst but it need to reach to the point where the membership have control of it and they can direct the institution to better suit their needs,” Francis said.
“Relationship building should not only be with Europe but Europe Plus others because we have to and need to create an environment that will encourage strong partnership for all the membership,” Francis said, adding that in moving forward, there would be the need to put structures in place for members to “have ownership so that it can deliver to them what is expected from it.
“We have to make sure we don’t give the organization a basket to carry water,” she said.
Mailafia said that the common challenges and issues to date were that of sustainable development especially for the Caribbean and Pacific whose territories stand to be negatively impact by climate change.
“Marine and sea level rise is definitely a concern and challenge for the Caribbean and the Pacific regions where as for Africa it’s the issues of peace and security due to our natural mineral, which is the source of many conflicts,” he said.
Francis said that the common challenges for all of the ACP were food security, energy, climate change, peace and security, while Marie noted that for example, “peace and security for the Caribbean region is in the area of drugs trafficking but in African it’s one based on mineral and this is resulting in conflict.
“What we felt is that, we as the ACP membership should face those challenges together as the ACP is a good vehicle towards coming up and identifying solutions to these challenges,” the CARIFORUM Director General added.