ABOUT THE METRICATION PROCESS
The CARICOM Region had taken the decision from as far back as 1969 to move as a group to the metric system and significant work had begun. This process slowed when most Member States sometime thereafter decided not to proceed. Certain critical CARICOM instruments however, such as the Common External Tariff (CET) have essentially been constructed on the metric system.
The records indicate that in 1974 the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda decided to officially commence proceedings leading to conversion from the imperial to the Standard International (S.I.) System of measurements. While the majority of the larger CARICOM Countries had enacted the necessary legislation and organized institutional arrangements for implementing the changeover to the metric system in the case of most of the OECS Countries even though having taken the decision to convert little progress had been made towards implementation.
It was under these circumstances that the CARICOM Secretariat, with the approval of the OECS Member States, sought and obtained in 1983 the services of a CFTC Metrication Consultant to advise and assist the OECS Member States in furthering their metrication programmes. The Consultant was based at the CARICOM Secretariat for one year and, to increase his accessibility to the Sub-region, was - with the necessary approvals from all sides- was relocated to Antigua and Barbuda for a second year. On the basis of his study, the Consultant had drafted model weights and measures legislation for consideration by the relevant authorities in the OECS. Efforts were also made to reactivate National Metrication Boards and Steering Committees which, in some cases, had virtually ceased operations. That consultancy was ended in 1985 and a number of Countries in the OECS have still not implemented the programme.
Most Countries worldwide have adopted the International System of weights and measures which is simple and coherent and based on the easy to understand decimal system. This development, internationally, holds significant implications for all CARICOM Countries with respect to trade with their major trading partners, including those within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The CSME will permit entrepreneurs to trade freely without hindrance, establish and service markets and clients in other Member States, attract capital or invest or use funds in another State and hire from or work in another State.
The fifteen (15) Caribbean economies involved in the exercise have agreed to implement provisions to create the CSME by the end of December 2005.
Within the context of a vibrant and dynamic CSME there are at least four areas of social and economic activities that will be broadly influenced by a harmonized system of Metrication throughout the Caribbean Community.
Firstly, the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) has the primary role for engendering international competitiveness in the production and trade of goods and services within the CSME by way of developing and implementing a regime of harmonized CARICOM Standards and developing the StandardsInfrastructure in all Member States. To this, end the field of Metrology and by extension Metrication is critical. Metrology is the science of measurements which forms the basis for trusted and accepted criteria for measurement equivalence and comparison which can greatly facilitate trade and development within the CSME. For this to be effective a programme of developing Metrication in all States is essential.
Secondly, it is also essential that that the information and statistics compiled within the Region be based on a common system of data collection and reporting in order to be able to accurately and effectively facilitate an integrated system for reporting national and regional performances within specified timeframes. For example, in the area of imports and exports of goods and services by Customs authorities. The adoption and implementation of the metric system by all States of the Caribbean Community would greatly facilitate this process.
Thirdly, the regulatory and administrative framework must be the same throughout the Region to ensure the orderly operation of the CSME in addition to a common customs policy which is binding on all contracting parties since customs officials have a critical role to play in ensuring that the marketing of goods and services and the establishment of an integrated commercial operation be assured.
In this regard, the operation of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to the creation of the CSME is crucial. This is particularly so with regard to the wide range of Disputes Settlement Mechanisms, obligations to enter into consultations, conciliation proceedings and arbitration. The adoption of the metric system by all States of the Community would greatly facilitate smooth and efficient operation of the CCJ.
Fourthly, in the most critical area of education, and training and development of citizens of the Community the adoption of a harmonized curricula, certification and accreditation system based essentially on the metric system would ensure that the citizens of the Community are educated under a universally tried and tested educational system which will not only facilitate free flow of persons and resources within the CSME, but also throughout the international Community.
In closing, it should be noted that the issue of whether the CSME would be subsumed or made irrelevant by other integration processes in which CARICOM is engaged, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) has often been raised. The facts are that the main provisions for the CSME are to be in place by the end of December 2005. Those relating to the FTAA, if agreement can be reached, will be phased in over a decade or more beginning in 2005. As long as the CSME provides its participating territories with faster, broader, and deeper liberalization in every sphere and all disciplines and continue to be a major driving force in social and economic development, regionally we can feel assured of our continued survival.
There is an old saying which says " the race is not won until it is run" which is undisputedly true.
Finally, it is high time to proceed with all expedition with that final burst of glory to win the Metrication race, as true world champions in all areas of the international arena and quickly finish what we have started a long time ago in the field of Metrication and strengthen our resolve to provide the best quality of life that can be found anywhere in the world for the citizens of the Caribbean Community.
Ladies and gentlemen, please accept the assurances of the highest regard from our Secretary-General and his best wishes for a successful programme of Metrication in Antigua and Barbuda and in the Caribbean Community, as a whole.