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CSME – the balls in our court


For many ordinary citizens in our midst, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is but a slogan sporadically heard. But there are already amongst us businesses that have begun to experience what can occur when the CSME really does come into being in full.

The example comes with the entrance of a growing entity, which has been providing a service here for the past two years to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the security firm Guardsman. {{more}}

A report in the Jamaica Observer notes that the Kenny Benjamin led Guardsman Group has been “accelerating its multimillion dollar expansion into Caribbean markets” with what the Observer dubbed “the security mogul” attributing the success to his company’s foray into the wider region.

One lesson to be learnt here from this example is that Guardsman entered the local market, not just on their own, but in conjunction with local investors. Benjamin told the Observer that his firm was already making a profit and employing between 150 and 200 guards.

However while Guardsman has been growing, it does on the surface seem that other security firms, which existed here prior to that company’s entry, have been struggling. Is it that Guardsman is taking away market share? Or it is that their quality of service has been so much better that the customers have been gravitating toward them?

This example shows what can happen if the latter question is answered in the affirmative.

As the CSME comes into existence there will be the challenge for local businesses to improve on the quality of the service and products they offer in order to stave off competitors which would now be able to move more freely across markets.

The CSME, at the same time, presents tremendous opportunities for Vincentians to move their businesses across other borders and for professionals and skilled technicians to offer their services across the region. It could mean the chance for small companies to merge with similar entities in sister territories in the region to enable the larger entity to provide a more efficient and effective level of service on the expanded market.

Back to our main example. Guardsman made St. Vincent and the Grenadines a testing ground of sorts and having made a profit of this venture have moved over to St. Lucia with the acquisition of Brinks’ operations there.

Benjamin was reported as saying that the positive response to his company’s presence in both SVG and St. Lucia suggested that the concept of the CSME was now being embraced across the region.

Will our businesses and professionals here be content to be passive participants in a process that is soon to accelerate, or will they prepare themselves to take advantage of the opportunities this forward march presents?

The ball is in our court.