A team of consultants from the University of Technology, Jamaica, ended a two-day visit to Antigua on Monday during which they sought to determine the country’s needs where a steady supply of cement was concerned.
The consultants had been previously furnished with information via e-mail but conducted face to face interviews with various retailers, suppliers, and importers to get a clearer picture of the market situation.
The team consisted of Project Manager Margaret Christian and Andrew Mighty. They are part of a four-person team of consultants that won the bid put out by Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to audit the supply and demand of cement in the region.
Due to the demand for cement in the region a year ago, Caricom instituted a two-year waiver on the 15 per cent tariff laid against those that purchase cement from outside the region. The study, which was required before the end of the two-year period, would determine whether the waiver should continue.
Christian said, “The study is to inform Caricom on the true situation regarding cement.” The OECS countries that have petitioned COTED, led by Antigua and Barbuda, are saying that the producers cannot supply the required amounts. Their proposed solution is to either remove the tariff or have it suspended for a while so that they can bring in cement from outside the region without being penalised.
“The evidence will show that there continues to be a shortage of cement and the regional producers cannot supply the demand of us in the region. We are at a disadvantage when we cannot obtain cement and it is creating a significant negative impact on the economy. That’s why the COTED agreed with us,” Dr. Henry stated.
He said the OECS construction sector is important to the economies of the region and should not be placed at a disadvantage.
Christian said they have to take into account that regional plants do have expansion plans in place, which may reveal that the problem with supply is only short-term rather than the long-term problem that it is believed to be.
The project manager said that she and her partner are visiting the member states within Caricom that import cement and use it on a large scale. They are Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.
The other members of the team, Dr. Wayne Wesley and Junior Gordon are visiting the exporting countries, namely Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname.
Christian said they are getting the idea that a consensus is hard to come by, but the general feeling is that there is a problem with the regional plants meeting the demands.
They expect the fact finding mission will be completed in the next two and half weeks, thereafter a report will be completed to be presented to Caricom by January 2008.