Caribbean Private Sector Organisation begins preparations for CARICOM’s challenge to solve transportation problem

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 October 2023, 13:30 by Denis Chabrol

The Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) has almost immediately taken up a call by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments to solve transportation woes by finding a blend between public sector incentives and private sector investments with financing by the African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), CPSO Chief Executive Officer Dr Patrick Antoine said Tuesday.

He said CPSO representatives on Tuesday held talks with a number of partners in the Caribbean that are involved in shipping and logistics, AFREXIMBANK and the African Business Council that focused broadly on the scope of the challenge by Guyana’s President, Irfaan Ali to hammer out a mechanism to resolve the transportation problem. “There are many dimensions to this because the President, in his remarks, did speak about South-South trade but a key dimension for us is how we fix the intra-regional space first and so, in discussing that, what we have decided to do is to pull together a private sect0r working team,” Dr Antoine told reporters.

That working party has been tasked with determining demand for agriculture food products and manufacturing and industrial products as well as the creation of corridors a number of which might not be lucrative. After the groundwork is laid, Dr Antoine added that a Request For Proposals would be issued for businesses to approach financial institutions.

Touching on the issue of viability, the CPSO Executive Director said the private sector would also ascertain the policies and incentives that governments would be expected to provide to collectively make the venture work to move products and produce cheaply rather than passing on charges from one of the most expensive ports in the region. “Now, there’s a recognition that there needs to concessions on all sides- on port costs, on tariffs. In some ports, agricultural products and produce are second priorities compared to t0urism…,” he said.

Dr Ali Monday told the opening of the 3rd African-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF) that “I would consider the regional private sector to be lagging behind” if by the end of the forum, they fail to develop a plan with financing from AFREXIMBANK “to end the regional transportation problem that we have.” He recommended the establishment of a regional consortium with the private sector in Africa.

“The government has made it clear, and I want all of CARICOM to hear this: All the governments of the region, we have made it clear, that we will facilitate such a consortium and investment through incentives, through promotion, through doing what we can do for facilitating the investment. The private sector must get up and get, put that consortium in place, partner with the EXIMBANK and end this problem, bring this solution. That is their role is to ensure the business opportunity is there. We’ve already said we will facilitate it,” he said.

Dr Antoine said since Dr Ali’s announcement there have been “lots of interest” from the Caribbean and Africa.

For his part, the CPSO official said CARICOM governments’ latest position on solving the transportation problem was unprecedented. These are new elements that would help to make these proposals a lot more attractive, so I think what we have with the ann0uncement- it sounds simple- but it’s a complex interaction of a number of moving parts. What is different today is the political commitment behind it. I don’t think we have ever seen in CARICOM the level of political commitment backed up by proactiveness, certainly by the President of Guyana and the Minister of Agriculture who leads the ministerial task force supported by his colleagues in CARICOM,” he added.

CPSO has identified the need to fix the long-standing key binding constraint of transportation among six issues that need to be resolved to reduce CARICOM’s food imports by 25 percent by 2025.

The CPSO is an Associate Institution of CARICOM as of October 2020.