The forum to facilitate this dialogue was held last week Wednesday, (31st August, 2011), and had the participation of a wide cross section of youth, some of whom were involved in the 2009 CSME exchange programme dubbed, “Students Engaging the CSME through Field Promotion”.
Members of the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Programme were also engaged in the discussions.
During the meeting, Secretary General LaRocque assured the young people of the commitment of the CARICOM Secretariat to support youth development as well as opportunities available to young people under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
The discussions were described by one CARICOM official as productive.
The Senior Youth Officer at the Secretariat, Kennedy Pemberton, who sat in on the discussion, noted that the interaction between the Secretariat staff and the local youth was productive.
The Secretary General “really wanted to find out from young people what was the feeling about CSME on the ground and how much did the normal man on the street know about it?” Pemberton told the Government Information Service in an interview.
Challenges highlighted included the disparity of benefits for larger countries such as Trinidad and Jamaica which are more industrialized, versus smaller countries like St. Kitts and Nevis, which possesses no natural resources.
Additional issues cited a lack of knowledge among the population base, immigration disputes at various ports of entry regarding the free movement of persons with a skills certificate, competitive disadvantages for small and medium companies under trade rules, as well as limited access to educational services provided at the main campuses of the University of the West Indies.
Secretary General LaRocque admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done regarding the education and implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and the execution of the economic aspects.
He provided advice on some of the ways youth can become more empowered via CSME and promised to encourage member states to do more to sensitize personnel in the relevant local institutions and the public about the procedures of the landmark arrangement.