July 16, 2010
Trinidad must still make its contribution to CDF – PM

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said there should be no confusion between the two funds being administered by CARICOM.{{more}}

While Trinidad and Tobago is not the Caribbean’s automated teller machine (ATM) card, it cannot disregard its obligations to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on Monday that Trinidad and Tobago must still make its contribution to the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).

He was addressing the “perceived perspective of the new Trinidad and Tobago government in relation to the CARICOM Development Fund and the CARICOM Petroleum Facility.”

He said contributions to the CDF were a Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas obligation and while Port of Spain had set up and finances the CARICOM Petroleum Facility, the former Patrick Manning administration “decided to put it within the CARICOM context”, subjecting it to “CARICOM rules”.

It seems that Port of Spain, under the Persad-Bissessar administration, which came to office in May, is reexamining its contributions to regional development.

“T and T is an ATM card as one of my officers has said to me. T and T is seen as an ATM card. You put in the card and it comes back out with cash. It just cannot happen anymore,” Kamla Persad-Bissessar told CARICOM leaders meeting in Jamaica last week.

But Gonsalves said Trinidad and Tobago was benefitting from advantages in manufacturing and financial services and that a Common External Tariff made non-CARICOM goods more expensive.

He further said while British American Insurance Company is headquartered in Bahamas, it is owned by Trinidadian entities.

“And we know that they were not properly regulated in Trinidad and in other places and we saw what happened and we have suffered immensely,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas” contains a series of bargains nations negotiated to reduce inequity.

“So, if any government treats the CARICOM Development Fund, which is established under Article 158 [of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas], as if it were an option, they would be derogating from the bargain,” Gonsalves said, adding that he was not saying this was the case with Trinidad and Tobago.

He said St. Vincent and the Grenadines was assessed and has paid its contribution to the CDF, which was capitalized at US$250 million, half of which was to be sourced from non-CARICOM nations.

“You can’t access us in the same way as Trinidad and Tobago, because, embedded in the agreement for the proportionality in respect of the funding for the CARICOM Development Fund is an old Aristotelian principle: ‘Equity among equals; proportionality among unequals’.” Gonsalves said.

He said while some CARICOM countries have not made their agreed contribution to the fund, that is no excuse for others to stop paying.

“Anyone who speaks, any head of government who speaks in relation to the CARICOM Development Fund in a manner to suggest that they have no obligation to be participating in such a fund, or that they are tired or that they are weary, such comments would be entirely out of order,” he said, adding that he was not speaking of Trinidad and Tobago, but noting that contributions are “part and parcel of legal architecture of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas”.

He said that there are rules and reportage for the CARICOM Petroleum Facility but it was “fine” and he had “no problem” if Persad-Bissessar “is saying that they should look at those rules, they should look at those reportage requirements.”

Gonsalves said Trinidadian press reports suggest “a confusion about these two funds”.

“And there may be among some people in government, in some governments, who have a confusion about these two funds. One of them, the CARICOM Development Fund is a treaty obligation. The second one, the CARICOM petroleum facility is funded by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, but it has decided to put it within the CARICOM context. Once it comes to the CARICOM context, it has to be subject to the CARICOM rules,” Gonsalves said.

The Patrick Manning administration, which preceded the Persad-Bissessar government, set up the CARICOM Petroleum Facility in May 2005.

It was a quick disbursing grant facility established to provide relief to CARICOM member states that were net importers of petroleum products and which were affected by increasing energy costs.(KXC)