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SIDS conference side event discusses the future of economic integration in the Caribbean
Published on September 5, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

APIA, Samoa (ILO) -- On Monday, the International Labour Organization (ILO), hosted a side event to the United Nations Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September 2014 to discuss the future of economic integration in the Caribbean, its likely impact on the labour market, and how improved partnerships between government, private sector and the labour movement can contribute to better labour market outcomes for the region.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran
Winston Dookeran, minister of foreign affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, called for financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to review the way economic shocks and major issues facing the Caribbean are dealt with. He stated that these shocks are not a “temporary phenomenon” and the remedy should not be of a temporary nature.

Dookeran also raised the issue of a mismatch between public deficits and private surpluses, particularly in the financial sector. To address this issue, he called for banking and financial organizations to develop a more development-oriented approach and to facilitate greater involvement of civil society and the private sector.

Each of the speakers, Dookeran, Wayne Chen, president of Caribbean Employers' Confederation and David Massiah, president, Caribbean Congress of Labour, highlighted the need for tripartism -- the partnership between government, private sector and the labour movement.

Massiah noted the importance not only of national tripartite social dialogue but also the importance of regional tripartite social dialogue.

Chen explained that there is no longer a fraught relationship between private sector and labour movement and that between these sectors, as well as government, there is now a vested interest in sustainable and sustained enterprises, which are the growth engine of all Caribbean economies.

He noted that to produce an even more effective partnership, the speed and quality of policy decision-making needs to be improved for the region if it is to positively react to the changes in the regional and global economy.

He called for new responses and evidence-based long-term policy making, rather than policy-making based on political agendas.

Chen also noted that while it is not possible to predict exogenous shocks to the economy, by creating workers and enterprises that are adaptable to shocks and changes in the global economy, the region could be more stable and prosperous.

He further stated that communication, language, numeracy and technological skills are critical to this goal. Building a knowledge economy is a stated objective of all Caribbean countries but he stressed that education systems are out of sync with the needs of a modern economy.

Dookeran argued that integration in the Caribbean could have reached its limits and therefore it is necessary to reassess whether economic convergence should still serve as a model for the future.

Min Zhu, deputy managing director, IMF, suggested the next stage of integration should be integration of labour markets and the movement of people, particularly skilled workers, noting that economic development does not always result in an increase in jobs.

He called for a renewed partnership with the social partners to face the challenges of the labour market and made a special reference to social dialogue and other industrial relations tools.

Chen noted the importance of a certification framework for on-the-job training. He referred positively to the 'HEART Trust NTA' initiative in the Caribbean, while recognizing that learning occurs not only in an institutional setting, but also through the transfer of knowledge in a workplace.

Dookeran highlighted the importance of the ILO in moving beyond technical and analytical work to political advocacy. He proposed that the ILO creates a module on labour diplomacy with the recently launched Diplomatic Academy of the Caribbean at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago, to enable greater engagement of social partners in political processes.
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