The following is the services sector's position on the revised draft Regional Policy (Framework) on the Provision of Professional Services in the Caricom Single Market Economy (CSME). TTCSI hosted a forum on May 17 in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade for stakeholders in the services sector to discuss their views on the policy.
Several stakeholders within the services sector say they are not in support of the current draft Regional Policy (Framework) on the Provision of Professional Services in the CSME.Their main concern with the draft policy is that all professionals in the services sector do not require regulation, only those that pose public interest risk.
The stakeholders expressed their concerns during a forum hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI). The consultation took place on May 17 and was held at TTCSI's head office, Woodbrook.More than 30 services sector professionals met with Jacqueline Charles, the Trade Ministry's market access manager to discuss and flesh out the draft policy document.
The objective of the consultation was to:
�2 Educate stakeholders on the contents and implications of the draft policy
�2 Highlight and clarify the concerns stakeholders have with the policy
�2 Reach an agreement with respect to the draft policy that will adequately address the concerns of stakeholders
This issue is also currently before the Caricom Council for Trade & Economic Development.The aim of the policy is to facilitate free movement of Caricom professionals within the CSME and the provision of professional services by third country nationals in the CSME, through a harmonised framework for registration and licencing.
However, the stakeholders noted that if all professionals are regulated and licenced, the draft policy document could negatively impact the services sector and hinder the free movement of professionals within the region.Charles sought to explain to the stakeholders the contents and rationale of the existing draft regional policy.
Challenges with the policy
Charles stated that currently there is no harmonisation policy framework for the provision of professional services in the CSME and one is urgently needed.A harmonised policy framework is proving to be a challenge, as stakeholders pointed out that not all professional services required regulation, for example media practitioners and academics among others.
Elaborating on this point was Afra Raymond, president of the Joint Consultative Council, who explained that he has been very skeptical about certain professions being licenced."Only services where there is a public interest risk should be licenced and regulated," Raymond said."We run the risk of putting the entire public administration in further ridicule by bringing more laws/legislation whereby we do not have the appetite or willingness to enforce."
Hollis Charles, former president of the T&T Group of Professional Association agreed. He said it will be quite challenging to regulate all professionals because it is not the same for every profession.The second concern raised was the issue of professional services being self-regulated."Self-regulations have limits in how we can protect the public interest, therefore we need to look at a formula that would have civilian membership in those regulatory committees," Raymond suggested.
He said professionals must strike a balance between self-regulation and self-serving behaviour, in order to act in the best interest of the public.Rabindra Jaggernauth, president of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants, who is alo president of the TTCSI, also cautioned about overregulating.Jaggernauth said overregulating may run the risk of hindering the very thing they want to achieve, which is free movement of professionals.
Tewarie agrees with stakeholders
Chief executive officer of TTCSI Nirad Tewarie agreed with the stakeholders, stating that TTCSI is not in support of overregulation.He said TTCSI was also against the inclusion of all service providers being regulated."We do believe there should be a system of recognition of qualification as to allow professionals in the services sector that require regulation to sell their services more easily around the world," Tewarie recommended.He said regulations should not make it harder to do business.
The third issue which needed addressing was the mechanism for the free movement of people.Despite the slow process of this harmonisation policy framework, TTCSI is working with other regional coalitions on an intra-regional mutual recognition agreement for architects.TTCSI hopes that this arrangement would then lead to a mutual recognition agreement with Europe to facilitate the movement of local architects into the European markets.
TTCSI remains committed to the overall process as its mandate is to provide business support, facilitate and to assist the local services sector to become increasingly competitive internationally and to contribute to the development and growth of the national economy.The Trade Ministry's Charles asked the stakeholders who disapproved of being licenced to submit in a week's time a definitive rationale why they should not be and benchmark it against similar professions globally.
Among those present were representatives from T&T Contractors Association, Institute of Chartered Accountants, Association of Real Estates, T&T Association of Midwives, T&T Green Council, National Association of Technical Tertiary & Professional Educators of T&T, Human Resource Management Association of T&T, Information & Communication Technology Society, Association of Professional Engineers, PMI Southern Caribbean Chapter, Private Hospital Association, T&T Optometrists Association and T&T Society of Planners Institute of Architects.
Background to policy
Caricom member states have committed to develop their services markets, including the market for professional services, through a two-prong approach of intra-Caricom market integration and liberalisation with third states.
Market integration for services is to be achieved through the creation of a single space for services. The agreement between Caricom member states sets out the broad policy framework for the provision of services in the CSME and gives community nationals the right to provide services anywhere in the CSME.
In addition, member states also commit themselves to the goal of free movement of community nationals. The opening up of the internal market to third states is to be achieved through the progressive liberalisation of the single space for services to the nationals of third states through Free Trade agreements.
Notwithstanding the above approaches, there is still no regional policy on the provision of professional services to ensure that the benefits, effectiveness and positive impact are realised. Member states are in the process of preparing a Regional Strategic Plan for Services and have identified professional services as one of the priority sectors. To this end therefore, it is being proposed that a regional policy on the provision of professional services be enunciated.