ST. GEORGE’S: Following a Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) stakeholders consultation last week with the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) on the future of the 78-member grouping, Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has expressed concern over new European Union (EU) policies towards its former colonies.
Mitchell said the new EU external aid policy of “differentiation and graduation from access to grant resources” would negatively affect the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the wider CARIFORUM member states.
As of January 2014, all CARIFORUM countries (the 15-member CARICOM grouping and the Dominican Republic) with the exclusion of Haiti will not qualify for budgetary support from the EU because their gross national income (GNI) per capita is listed as beyond US$1,000, resulting in their reclassification from lower middle to upper middle income countries. Two CARIFORUM countries are listed as high income earners.
“This means that only technical support and other non-budgetary proposals will be provided but no direct budgetary assistance will be forthcoming from the EU to any of the CARIFORUM members and that will be a great loss to this region,” said Percival Marie, CARIFORUM Director General.
He said most of the funds would now be channeled to African countries, whose GNI per capita is below US$1,000.
The GNI per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens.
According to the World Bank – the body which developed the indicator – Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia and St.
Vincent & the Grenadines are categorized as upper middle income earners with the average per citizen listed for 2012 as US$7,110, US$6,460, US$6,530 and US$6,380 respectively.
St. Kitts & Nevis and Antigua & Barbuda are classified as high income earners, with the average per citizen listed as US$13,330 and US$12,670, respectively. Haiti’s average income per citizens is US$760.
The World Bank said that knowing a country’s GNI per capita is a good first step toward understanding the country’s economic strengths and needs, as well as the general standard of living enjoyed by the average citizen.
However, Dr. Mitchell said that per capita income does not address levels of poverty, distribution of income, levels of indebtedness, vulnerability and the capacity to self-generate sustainable economic and social development.
“This is an area in which we need to dialogue with our European partners, particularly within the context of Small Island Developing States and the Post 2015 Development Agenda,” he said.
The main objective of the consultation with the Group of Eminent Persons that include former Guyana president, Bharrat Jagdeo and former executive director of the International Trade Centre, Patricia Francis of Jamaica, was to gather the region’s views on “re-inventing” the ACP group as a global player and the future orientations of ACP-European Union relations beyond 2020 when the Cotonou Agreement expires.
The 12-member ACP Eminent Persons Group is chaired by the former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Chef de Cabinet of the ACP Secretariat, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, said the EPG consultation with CARIFORUM was the second of six and the consensus so far is that there is a need for the ACP to reinvent itself into an institution that will meet the needs of the one billion people it serves.
“We are still in the early days; this is the second consultation and to date we are pleasantly surprised at what we are reading from the consultations. Each area will have its own issues and challenges but what we strongly gathered from this consultation in Grenada is that the body needs to be preserved,” she said.