Former Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding. (FILE)
GEORGETOWN – Former Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding Friday called for a “serious to face” consultation on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) to ensure its survival even as he acknowledged that within the region “most, if not all of CARICOM” there are “deep misgivings of some of the CSME requirements”.
“The CSME is stuck on a hill, we can’t afford for it to stay there,” he said, adding “we have to decide whether we can push it up the hill or allow it roll back down”.
Golding was participating in a two-day regional stakeholder consultation on the CSME that is being hosted by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque and attended by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
He said in the present circumstances “we are much further away from the fulfilment of the single market and economy than we are from the Common Market which it was supposed to replace.
The CSME, the highlight of the so-called 1989 Grand Anse Declaration, allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the 15-member regional integration grouping and Golding, said the latest report provided to him ahead of the consultation here, once again raised the issue of implementation and the progress that had been made.
“In spite of all of this, and I deliberately want to say this credit must be given to the (CARICOM) Secretariat for the considerable efforts it has made to push the implementation process and to assist member states in fulfilling their obligations”.
He said the Secretariat is so often made “the scapegoat” for CARICOM failures, adding “it is unfair.
He told the consultation that “the mission on which we embark is now almost 30 years old. We have been here before, many times before”.
He said there are a plethora of reports on the implementation of the single market and economy as well as on successive action plans developed in response to those reports, and that “we tend to forgive ourselves by saying that progress has been made.
“This is a journey and along the journey we have made progress. Some progress has indeed been made in terms of putting in place the legislative and institutional framework for the CSME.
“But you know like in building a house, you can’t live in it if the roof is not on. You can’t function effectively in it if the plumbing and electrical are not yet installed, you can’t feel secure in it, if it has no doors and windows” he added.
Golding said the issue of implementation is one for the national governments, noting “the Secretariat dare not even appear to be inserting itself in the policy making or decision making process of national governments”
He said he knows from private discussions he has had that multi-lateral agencies who fund many of the implementation efforts of the secretariat are also frustrated.
“I would even say exasperated. I think one has to acknowledge as well that the implementation actions that are required by member states are not been all cases simple matters. Some of them are very complex. They require far reaching policy changes, they require legislative processes, they require executive action”.
Golding, who led a commission to review Jamaica’s relations with the rest of CARICOM and CARIFORUM, the report of which was published in February this year, said that stakeholders needed to be sensitised in terms of what the CSME is all about.
“They have to be persuaded to buy into the process. Member states are also confronted with resource and capacity constraint,” he said, adding that the matters on which the region has floundered for decades “are less challenging than the matters to which we have not yet turn our attention.
“The heavy lifting, the question of macro-economic convergence, the question of free movement of people, the question of free circulation of goods, matters that are central to the existence and function of a single market and economy, a single economic space. Those matters have not yet been placed on the table for decisions and actions”.
Golding questioned the primary cause of the delay, saying some regional governments believe that “the CSME in its full implementation is likely to do them more harm than good.
“It’s an issue we have to confront. It is an issue I believe Prime Minister Gonsalves is helping us to get to the point where we will not be able to avoid confronting,” he said, noting that the approach taken by some organs of CARICOM to their work suggests “that they are simply reflecting a level of scepticism that exist from among those whom they take their directions.
“Is it that the CSME was over ambitious? Is it that we bit off more than we can chew? Did we take into account all of its implications and the net effect it would have and the benefits it would provide, not just to the region as a whole but also for every single member state?
“Have the circumstances that informed its conceptualisation changed so significantly as to call the very idea of a single market and economy into question?
Golding said that “with due respect to the stated purpose of the consultation….I believe we need to shift the conversation to these fundamental issues.
“I believe we will not get much further unless we confront those basic issues that Ralph has put on the table and to confront them in a frank dispassionate way, bereft of the emotionalism that any talk of regional integration normally evokes, bereft of the finger pointing and blame gaming”.
Golding reiterated that the economic environment in which the CSME was conceived “many decades ago has changed dramatically.
“In spite of those changes though, I would dare say because of those changes to the environment I believe that single market and economy is the way to go and I believe it could provide the countries of the region a better chance to contend with the ferociousness of the global market.
“But I also believe that the impact of the CSME in its full implementation on each member country…needs to be carefully analysed, to identify the benefits, the opportunities, the risks and the downsides. That would lead us to informed conclusions whether to get on with it with the urgency and enthusiasm that it requires or whether to say to the Caribbean people “look we gave it our best shot, it’s not going to work and therefore we will revert …to pursuing the goals resident in the other pillars of CARICOM design,” Golding said.
He also urged that the region’s private sector to be afforded a greater role within the CSME. (Reuters)