Cox Calls on Member States to Capitalize on Opportunities from the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

Cox Calls on Member States to Capitalize on Opportunities from the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Mr. Joseph Cox, says the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was not only causing upheavals in health and social spheres, but was also having serious deleterious effects on economic life by causing a re-ordering of processes, changing operational ethos, and strategic pivoting at both the national and regional levels.

Mr. Cox alluded to the peculiar challenges facing the Region of small developing states fighting a pandemic including supply chain disruptions, high freight charges, and inflation.

The CARICOM Assistant Secretary General was speaking in an interview following the 53rd Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), where The Region’s emergence from the widespread impact of the pandemic underpinned the discussions of the CARICOM Trade Ministers.

The two-day Ministerial addressed several matters that focused on the continued safe reopening of economies in a COVID-19 environment, re-configuring business processes and digitalization, and consolidating the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Mr. Cox said freight charges were moving in some instances by 400 per cent or more, and that it was “absolutely critical” for ministers to be apprised of the full impact of increased freight charges.

High maritime costs could mean the loss of comparative advantage in specific products for regional exporters.

Fill That Void
“If we are not careful, we could end up losing those markets just on the basis of costs and differentials in terms of maritime charges,” Cox said, adding that the charges would also have the domino effect of hiking prices which the consumer would have to bear.

But he pointed out that the freight scenario in particular, and the other pandemic impacts generally, create the opportunity for change and for regional producers to “step up and seek to fill that void” by manufacturing some of the items that people required.

“You are likely to see further disruptions in terms of the supply chain (but) there are obvious solutions. What this really points to is that as a Region, we have to move from what you call ‘just in time’ production mode to ‘just in case’. You have to buy a little more; you have to keep your inventory higher. We also have to look at near-shoring opportunities. You have to use data analytics to start to determine how is it that you’re treating with shipping and the timelines associated with your shippers. Of course, you have to look at how you procure your shipments…

“It is disruptive, but you have to plan for it,” ASG Cox reiterated. He noted the peculiar scenario of demand pull and cost push factors driving inflation in Member States.

—WiredJA News Team

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