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EDITO
Saturday, 01 August 2015

Former director of the Government Analyst Food and Drugs Department, Marilyn Collins warned that Guyana must raise the standards of research and testing facilities, which is commensurate with ensuring high quality for odor export and consumption. This is a prerequisite if Guyana is to successfully increase its global market share in agricultural products. Collins notes that agriculture already accounts “for approximately 32% of GDP, 30% of employment, and 40% of export earnings.” Collins predicts that with more rigorous standards, agriculture can contribute to an estimated 50% of the GDP alone, due to the comparative advantage Guyana enjoys.

The OECS Council of Ministers of Tourism,  one of the five new organs outlined by the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union, held their second meeting on the subject of ‘OECS Economic Union: Pushing the Tourism Envelope.’ Debates focused on how to keep a competitive edge in a changing tourism landscape. Delegations from  Tourism ministers from member states, representatives from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and the hotel and tourism industry addressed issues including ease of travel within the region; the World Bank Tourism Competitiveness Project; and opportunities for collaboration between the OECS and Martinique, as well as Cuba.

Civil society and government representatives from Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states met in Saint Lucia to discuss “Climate change matters to me and to you”. They shared their issues regarding climate change as well as discuss ways of strengthening support for OECS negotiators at the global climate change process in Paris 2015 later this year. Presentations highlighted the outcomes of efforts undertaken in OECS countries to support stakeholder engagement in the Working Partnership of Climate Change (WPPC) 2015 work programme, in collaboration with partners including fisherfolk organisations, tourism groups and youth networks.

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Business Council met for the first time, under the theme: “Converging the development agenda together.” President of the OECS Business Council Gorden Charles highlighted the key interventions - (i) the high cost of transportation; (ii) the cost of energy across the region; (iii) access to financing – which all impact the ease of doing business in the OECS. The Business Counil also announced the establishment of national private sector councils, which shall regroup business entities such as chambers of commerce, manufacturers associations, coalition of services, as well as hotel and tourism associations. Each private sector council shall have one member in the OECS Business Council. Dr Didacus Jules, director general of the OECS, notsd that the only way the region can truly achieve the objective of a single economic space is if the private sector is able to act in a unified manner.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) opened the two-day sub-regional workshop on branding and the use of geographical indications (GIs) in the development of management strategies for origin-linked products. GIs are a form of intellectual property rights (IPR) attributes to goods with a specific geographical origin, qualities, or characteristics that are essentially linked to that place of origin.  Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of Caribbean Export, noted the importance of GIs to contribute to the recognition of a ‘Brand Caribbean, ’ as well as attracting higher premium prices (up to 40% more) e.g. the Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Coke-Hamilton outlined the way forward: (i) need for IP capacity building, of firms and the BSOs at the local level; (ii)  a structured, specialised programme for training firms in IP.