Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 1, 2009
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Seek solution to crisis from within say financial experts

Marlene Street-Forrest, general manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, addressing the JSE Investments and Capital Markets Conference at the Rose Hall Resort and Country Club, Montego Bay, Wednesday. The conference ran from January 27-30.- photos by Adrian Frater

Individually, Caribbean countries, in reaction to the financial crisis, have been adjusting budgets to cut spending and pumping up social programmes as a cushion for job cuts; but Barbados is now saying it is time to act together - to be proactive and not reactive.

Countries in the region, said Barbados senator and management consultant Maxine McClean, must forge closer partnerships in trade and cooperation.

"We cannot, as resilient people, become mere observers to this world crisis and willing victims of the international meltdown," she said.

"We need to look inwards to ourselves to face this crisis," she said Tuesday night at the opening of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) fourth annual capital markets and investment conference in Montego Bay.

competitive cooperation

McClean, who is also a director of the Barbados Stock Exchange, was speaking on behalf of her prime minister, David Thompson.

"We need to engage in what I term competitive cooperation," added McClean, reflecting on the conference's theme, 'competition or collaboration'. "This is not a contradiction. It is an approach which recognises the uniqueness of each country while at the same time acknowledging the fact that we cannot go it alone."

JSE general manager, Marlene Street-Forrest continued on the theme Wednesday when she addressed the conference, saying that as the region faces its worst crisis in 50 years, Caribbean countries should form an alliance to tackle the economic downturn.

"Large developed markets understand the benefits of alliances and so should we," said Street-Forrest.

"While it is possible and necessary to pursue our goals at a domestic level, the potential gains from doing so with a regional mindset and at a regional level are significantly greater."

Putting the current financial situation into a global perspective, Carl Ross, managing director of investments at the United States-based Oppenheimer & Company Inc, who spoke as a panellist on Wednesday, described the global meltdown as, "a black hole beyond human comprehension".

seek leverage

McClean, in strengthening her call for a unified approach to the crisis by regional governments, said the region should seek leverage from the resources it has.

"We all know that we are small, vulnerable, open economies, which depend heavily on more developed countries for foreign exchange," she said.

"However, so far, we have not taken full advantage of our regional resources to include people, commodities and markets."

McClean's suggestions include:

Examining agricultural policies in a collective way to address food security.

Common tax incentives to encourage investment in new technologies.

Privately held companies tapping the stock market for indigenous capital.

Reforming investment policies at the national and regional levels.

Finalising the CARICOM Investment code, which is still in draft, to facilitate a harmonised investment-incentive scheme.

Marlon Yarde, general manager of the Barbados Stock Exchange, who spoke on Wednesday, said collaboration should also extend to capital markets.

"The regional capital markets should be collaborating so that we can better compete in the global capital market," said Yarde.

"We must adopt strategic alliances, as this is no longer an option but a necessity."

The three-day conference ended Friday.

Senator Maxine McClean, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Barbados, represented Prime Minister David Thompson at the opening of the JSE Investments and Capital Markets Conference.


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