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    December 16

  • 12:48 PM

THE ISSUE: Innovative solutions

Natasha Beckles,

Added 27 July 2011

When Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads ended their Regular Meeting in St Kitts this month they reiterated their commitment to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). They also appealed to the region’s private sector, tertiary institutions and other stakeholders to provide “innovative solutions” so as to encourage competition within the grouping. The CSME provides for the free movement of goods, skills, services and labour across the Caribbean, but in recent times there has been much criticism about the slow pace of implementation of a number of initiatives geared to making CSME truly functional. This especially relates to the notion of a single economic space. According to the communiqué issued at the end of the summit, "While reiterating their intention to review the schedule towards full implementation of the Single Economy, putting a pause on specific elements, such as the creation of a Single Currency, Heads of Government highlighted the critical importance of advancing implementation of those elements of the Single Economy which would create an environment more conducive to investment and job creation.” Addressing the opening of the meeting, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart cautioned his colleagues to avoid setting “another tenuous deadline” for the implementation of the Single Economy, describing it “as a work in progress”. According to the July 2, 2011 SATURDAY SUN, he said Caribbean leaders were partly at fault for not spreading the success story of regional integration to their people who are at the centre of efforts to build a community geared to improving their daily lives. Reassuring colleagues that Barbados “remains unequivocally committed” to the pursuit of Caribbean integration, Stuart, who is also lead Prime Minister for the CSME, said: “Despite insurmountable odds, we can be satisfied that we have also made significant headway on the most complex, painstaking and perhaps the most misunderstood part of the integration project, the Single Market and Economy.” “While recent negative events have revealed the high degree of financial interdependence that already exists in our region, we cannot pretend that our efforts at macroeconomic convergence have reached the point that would allow us to create and, more importantly, to sustain a Single Economy. The current turmoil in the Eurozone and elsewhere has injected a dose of sober realism into our discussions. “Ultimately, we have come to accept that the existing timetable is not achievable. For heads of Government to set yet another tenuous deadline in so volatile an environment would be highly irresponsible and an insult to the intelligence of our people. But by no stretch of the imagination should this decision to postpone be interpreted as an abandonment of the ultimate goal,” the Prime Minister said. Rather, Stuart said, he expected that the renewed and highly commendable efforts of OECS States towards economic union will contribute significantly to our wider effort within the CSME. Back in May following a two-day retreat in Guyana, CARICOM leaders said they would await a restructuring of the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat before establishing an overarching decision-implementation arm to ensure regional policies are adhered to. “As regards the Single Economy, they recognised that the process towards full implementation would take longer than anticipated and agreed it may be best to pause and consolidate the gains of the Single Market before taking any further action on certain specific elements of the Single Economy, such as the creation of a single currency,” their statement said. With this critical aspect on pause and slow progress in other areas, many have suggested that CSME is dead or dying. In the October 5, 2009 BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY economist Dr Brian Francis charged that “since the departure of Prime Minister Owen Arthur from office, enthusiasm for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) has diminished so rapidly that the regional integration initiative has virtually entered a state of paralysis”. “The apparent loss of interest in advancing the CSME is perplexing, given the state of economic decline of most of the economies in the region and their continuing struggles to survive in an increasingly globalised environment,” he said. Francis noted that re-energising the CSME is the best available option for addressing the region’s problems. “Former Prime Minister Arthur has demonstrated that strong leadership and passion are essential requirements for moving the CSME forward. No one expects the process to be painless. Indeed, our experience to date confirms that assertion. “Nonetheless, verbal commitment to the CSME alone will not cut it. To re-energise the CSME, regional leaders must all dedicate themselves to this critical integration initiative through decisive action,” he said. The economics lecturer noted that the task of combating the present global financial and economic crisis would be an extremely difficult one for small countries acting alone. Hence, he said failure to advance the integration process in a meaningful way will be accompanied by diminishing hope for future growth and development. In the March 23, 2011 DAILY NATION Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said there was an absence of political will that was retarding the pace of regional integration, especially faster movement towards full implementation of the CSME. A major stumbling block, said Thomas, was that far too many members of the “political directorate” in CARICOM were keeping their eyes firmly focused on how to win the next election instead of pushing the regional agenda.  “We need to get an integration organisation that would drive the integration movement, one that is not preoccupied with re-election,” said Thomas. “The political directorate in the respective territories is so taken up with re-election that sometimes they sacrifice; they forget the integration movement and think about their re-election.” Thomas complained that decisions were often made by the prime ministers and presidents and then nothing was done to implement them, forcing the regional process almost to a standstill.

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