Caricom’s oil, gold and bauxite producers must industrialise to withstand impact of shaky commodity prices

Last Updated on Monday, 4 July 2016, 19:35 by Denis Chabrol

Suriname’s President, Desi Bouterse on Monday urged Caribbean Community (Caricom) member states that are involved in mining and oil to  unite towards industrialisation rather than continue to be vulnerable to global commodity prices.

“Those member-states of Caricom and the wider Caribbean, which have been dependent on the extractive sectors, need to get together to discuss meaningful ways to shift from the export of commodities of the industrial products. We have to join hands both nationally and regionally to consider effective ways of industrializing our economies and seriously improve our service sector by linking productivity with connectivity,” he said.

Bouterse’s call at the official opening of the 37th Regular Caricom Summit being held in Guyana from July 4 to 6, 2016 came less than one week after two major developments- the June 30,2016 announcement by American oil giant, Exxon-Mobil, of the discovery of 1.4 billion barrels of oil offshore Guyana and bilateral discussions between Bouterse and Guyana’s President, David Granger one day after.

Guyana has long harboured ambitions of resuscitating the production of alumina which requires large amounts of electricity.

Bouterse said that due to the “battle of the currencies” countries that sell gold, oil and other extracted commodities are confronted with the reality of ever decreasing  and unstable prices. With the likelihood of commodity prices unlikely to peak to what they had been in recent years, the Surinamese leader called on those producing nations to diversify their economies. “We have to industrialise and develop our service industries to the point where they become solid foreign currency earners, characerised by sustainability,” he said.

Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Suriname produce oil in commercial quantities.  Suriname and Guyana are also large producers-exporters of gold and bauxite.

The Surinamese President also urged fellow Caricom leaders to explore the possibility of teaming up with the Caribbean Forum- that’s Caricom and the Dominican Republic- and the wider of Association of Caribbean States (ACS) to craft new tourism marketing strategies. “We could use the meeting of the Heads of State of Caricom to urge the Secretariat of our Community to establish the connection with the ACS Secretariat to nominate experts who would advise us on innovative ways of creating new packages offering international tourists both our white beaches and eco-tourism,” he said.

He made the call against the background of the economic downturn in Europe and the United States (US) that has adversely impacted on the tourism dependent nations of Caricom.