Arthur: Integration important to Bahamas economy
Former prime minister and current leader of the opposition in Barbados Owen Arthur recently expressed his sentiments about regional integration and its importance to the growth of the Bahamian economy.
“Removal of trade barriers is essential for the development and advancement of the Bahamian economy if we intend to be more involved in the global economy,” Arthur said. “The Bahamas can play an integral role in the development of the Caribbean region and the economies of its member states if they understand and maximize their full potential in the ways they can contribute to regional development.”
Arthur made his comments during a meeting in Barbados with Tyson Mckenzie, president of the Bahamas National Youth Council (BNYC), on March 31st, 2011. During the meeting, the ways in which the Bahamian youth and citizenry at large should prepare themselves for regional integration was discussed.
It was further noted by Arthur that the Bahamian people do have legitimate concerns, such as fiscal issues, labor mobility and social dislocation, with regards to the reservations of the involvement into the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). He noted that when he was the prime minister of Barbados and a guest speaker at a town hall forum in The Bahamas, Bahamians expressed a fear of the influx of Caribbean nationals into their country.
However, he urged that if The Bahamas intends to increase its presence in international organizations and/or agreements it must first allow itself to see if its economy is prepared to handle the demands of other economies when it liberalizes its barriers for open trade.
“The Bahamas is moving backwards with reference to signing onto these international arrangements and agreements,” Arthur said. “It should work the other way around, The Bahamas should first explore the means of liberalizing its economy with its own brothers and sisters who have their true interest at heart.
“By doing this, The Bahamas is preparing itself for the international integration with other countries and better and more substantial involvement in international organizations such as the WTO, EPA and others.”
Arthur also mentioned that the Bahamian economy can also benefit from the rights of establishment. It was mentioned that the Bahamian economy has a struggling agriculture industry and it should be moving towards diversification. Noting that The Bahamas depends heavily on the tourism industry and customs as its main sources of revenue, when integrated into certain international trading agreements this would result in the removal of tariffs and barriers related to the free movement of goods and services.