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Caribbean Region Fact Sheet

AREA

The Caribbean is the 2,500,000-sq. km (965,000 sq. miles) of the Caribbean Sea and the countries in it. The nations making up the region have a surface area of 90,000 square miles. This region is bounded by the Greater Antilles (larger Caribbean islands) in the north, by the Lesser Antilles (smaller islands) in the east, by the coasts of Venezuela, Columbia and Panama in the south and by the eastern coasts of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Mexican Yucatan peninsula in the west. By this definition, countries such as the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands are not in the Caribbean as they are in the Atlantic . They are, however, considered part of the Caribbean for reasons of similar history and culture.  

POPULATION

The Caribbean region consists of 26 islands, with a total population of approximately 38 million people.  

LANGUAGES

Four main languages are spoken: English, Spanish, French and Dutch. Currently, University of the West Indies is conducting an initiative to have Creole included as one of the regionís main languages.  

ECONOMY

Although Caribbean countries have made progress in diversifying their economies, the economies of most Caribbean nations depend on favorable receipts from tourism and trade in agricultural produce. Exceptions to this are Trinidad whose main exports are petroleum, bauxite and natural gas, and the Cayman Islands , which is a popular location for offshore banking. The principal destinations for the regionís exports include the United States (25.65%), the United Kingdom (22.97%), CARICOM (20.93%), and other countries, which may include Canada , other European countries and Asia (30.42%).  

In recent years, many of the countries have managed to curb the rate of inflation by committing to a fixed rate of exchange. There has been a trend in the appreciation of the US dollar vis-ŗ-vis other currencies.  

Caribbean countries have embarked on a process of economic integration toward to formation of a common market. Thus far, the most progress has been made in trade liberalization. However, progress towards adoption of a common currency has been slower. Moreover, since most countries in the region trade with countries outside the region, the gains from forming a common market will be small until intra-regional trade expands.  

Some statistics:

Nominal GDP per Capita (in thousands of US dollars)                                     3,684

Nominal GDP (in millions of US dollars)                                                       24,020

GDP Growth Rate                                                                                      2.6   %

Average Rate of Inflation                                                                             4.53 %

 

The Caribbean Community and Common Market - (CARICOM)  

The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was ratified by Barbados , Jamaica , Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, and came into effect on August 1, 1973.

The establishment of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was the result of a 15-year effort to fulfill the hope of regional economic and political integration, which was born with the establishment of the British West Indies Federation in 1958. It was a Federal Government drawn from 10 member islands. Hence CARICOM can be viewed as the beginning of more serious efforts on the part of the political leaders in the Caribbean to strengthen the ties between the islands and mainland by providing for the continuance and strengthening of the areas of cooperation that existed during the Federation.  

The CARICOM member states are: Antigua and Barbuda , The Bahamas, Barbados , Belize , Dominica , Grenada , Guyana , Haiti , Jamaica , Montserrat , Saint Lucia , St. Kitts and Nevis , St. Vincent and the Grenadines , Suriname , and Trinidad and Tobago .  

CARICOM Structure  

Membership

1.       Members of the Community consist of:

Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago

Associate Members (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands )

CARICOM Observers (Aruba, Bermuda, Mexico, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Netherlands Antilles)  

Membership of the Community shall be open to any other State or Territory of the Caribbean Region that is, in the opinion of the Conference, able and willing to exercise the rights and assume the obligations of membership.  

2. Objectives

The Community has the following objectives:

improved standards of living and work;

full employment of labor and other factors of production;

accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development and convergence;

expansion of trade and economic relations;

enhanced levels of international competitiveness;

organization for increased production and productivity.  

Principal CARICOM Organs

(a) The Conference of Heads of Government

The Conference is the Supreme Organ of the Community. It consists of the Heads of Government of the member states and is the final authority of the Community.

The primary responsibility of the Conference is to determine and to provide the policy direction for the Community. It is the final authority for the conclusion of treaties on behalf of the Community and for entering into relationships between the Community and international organizations and states. The Conference is also responsible for making the financial arrangements to meet the expenses of the Community but has delegated this function to the Community Council. Decisions of the Conference are generally made unanimously.

(b) The Community Council of Ministers (The Council)

The Council is the second highest organ. It consists of Ministers responsible for Community Affairs and any other Minister designated by Member States in their absolute discretion. It is responsible for the development of Community strategic planning and coordination in the areas of economic integration, functional cooperation and external relations.  

Main CARICOM Issues

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Formation of the Caribbean Stock Market

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Regional Anti-Crime Strategy

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Caribbean Court of Justice

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Establishment of a Caribbean Single Market and Economy

The CARICOM Single Economy is an arrangement, which harmonizes economic, monetary and fiscal policies and measures across all Member States of the Caribbean Community. This would mean the coordination of foreign exchange and interest rate policies, the harmonization of tax regimes and of laws and the convergence of economic performance among other measures.  

The CARICOM Single Market is an arrangement which allows CARICOM goods, services, people and capital to move throughout the Caribbean Community without tariffs and without restrictions to achieve a single large economic space, and to provide for a common Economic and Trade Policy. Some benefits of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy are as follows:

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Increased production and trade in goods and services in a combined market of over 6 million persons and for the world beyond;

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Competitive products of better quality and prices;

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Improved services provided by enterprises and individuals, including transportation and communication;

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Greater opportunity for travel;

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Opportunities for nationals to study and work in CARICOM countries of their choice;

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Increased employment and improved standards of living.

       Major Issues on the Regional Agenda:

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restructuring of regional organs and institutions;

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analysis of the impact of NAFTA on existing arrangements such as the

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Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement, and the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI); 

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resolution of the Haitian crisis;

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strengthening of relations with the wider Caribbean through the establishment of trade and economic agreements with Venezuela , Colombia and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS); and deepening the integration process in the Community through the formation of a single market and economy.

 Additional Caribbean Intergovernmental Organizations  

Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Trading bloc composed of 25 nations of the Caribbean basin. Responding to a proposal by President Clinton for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), existing Caribbean-area trading blocs joined forces in 1995 to strengthen their economic position and ease future integration into the FTAA. Prominent in the ACS are the CARICOM nations (14 English-speaking countries and Suriname ), which have been working toward a single market and economy along the lines of the European Union. The ACS has addressed such issues as unifying responses to natural disasters, ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba , and ending shipments of nuclear materials through the Panama Canal .   The Caribbean Development Bank (CBD) The CDB is a regional financial institution, which was established by in Kingston , Jamaica , on 18th October 1969, and entered into force on 26th January 1970. The CDB was established after the demise of the West Indies Federation in 1962 and the subsequent independence of Jamaica (August 6) and Trinidad and Tobago (August 31) that year. Members of the CDB are: Antigua and Barbuda , The Bahamas, Barbados , Belize , British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica , Grenada , Guyana , Jamaica , Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis/Anguilla, St. Lucia , St. Vincent and the Grenadines , Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos Islands . Non-regional members are Canada , the United Kingdom , Venezuela , Colombia , Anguilla , Mexico , Italy , Germany , and the People's Republic of China . The Regional Members can borrow from CDB while non-Regional Members cannot borrow. CDB has a Board of Governors, a Board of Directors, a President, two Vice-Presidents and other Officers and Staff. (a) Board of Governors - The Board of Governors is the highest policy-making body of CDB. Each Member Country nominates one Governor and one Alternate Governor. Each Governor casts the votes of the Member Territory or Territories, which he/she represents. (b) Board of Directors - The Board of Directors comprises eighteen Directors, twelve representing the Regional Members of CDB and six representing the non-Regional Members. The Board of Directors is responsible for the general policy and direction of the operations of CDB. (c) President - The President, under the direction of the Board of Directors of which he is Chairman, is responsible for the organization and operation of CDB, including appointment of Staff and investigation of loan proposals. The President serves for a five-year term and may be re-elected. (d) Vice-Presidents - There are two Vice-Presidents, Vice-President (Operations) and Vice-President (Finance). (e) Staff - CDB has a Staff of 99 Professionals drawn from 11 countries, and 102 Support Staff, mainly from Barbados .   The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is the principal source of multilateral financing for economic, social and institutional development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean . These include policy and sector reform programs and support for public and private investment. The Bank provides loans and technical assistance using capital provided by its member countries. In its four decades of operations, the Bank has helped to transform Latin America and the Caribbean . Although much remains to be done, the region's social and economic indicators have improved significantly in such areas as literacy, nutrition and life expectancy. The Bank has 46 Member countries: Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela   The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (0ECS) came into being on June 18th 1981. The organizationís mission is to be a major regional institution contributing to the sustainable development of the OECS Member States by assisting them to maximize the benefits from their collective space, by facilitating their intelligent integration with the global economy; by contributing to policy and program formulation and execution in respect of regional and international issues, and by facilitation of bilateral and multilateral co-operation. Member states include: Anguilla , Dominica , Antigua & Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada , Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis , St. Lucia and St. Vincent & The Grenadines. The functions of the Organization are set out in the Treaty of Basseterre and are co-coordinated by the Secretariat under the direction and management of the Director General.