“ EDITORIAL: Non-functioning of Caricom's quasi-cabinet? ”

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When leaders of the Caribbean Community meet next weekend in Basseterre for this year’s annual summit, we hope they would review the relevance and functioning of the quasi-cabinet mechanism through which lead portfolio responsibilities are allocated. The quasi-cabinet and the CARICOM Bureau (comprising current, immediate past and and incoming Heads of Government, along with the secretary general), are part of the governance system instituted in accordance with the “Consensus of Chaguaramas” in October 1999. Its aim was to “spearhead action in sectors critical to the region’s integration and its vision of development into the 21st century”. We today recall this development of almost 11 years because of recurring lapses and dissatisfaction over adherence to the letter and spirit of the functioning of the quasi-cabinet across the 14 independent member states (Montserrat is the exception). The distribution of portfolios is done on the basis of country and responsibility held by whoever is that state’s Head of Government. All of the leaders are collectively responsible to the Heads of Government conference which is the primary organ of the Community. Portfolios cover external negotiations; Single Market and Economy (CSME); health (including HIV/AIDS and human resource development); agriculture and food security; security (illegal drugs and arms); transport (maritime and aviation); labour (including intra-Community movement of skills); sustainable development; community development and cultural cooperation and justice and governance. A few days ago, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, who has lead responsibility for regional transport, revealed his own disappointment over lack of even informal consultation on REDjet airline’s quest to operate commercial flights into Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and implications as a competitor to LIAT of which Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent are the shareholders. It is difficult to appreciate why efforts were not made, at any level, to ensure even informal consultation in view of previous unfortunate experiences in other areas of regional portfolio responsibilities, including trade and movement of labour, consistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the rationale for the quasi-cabinet. Now, in view of ongoing concerns being expressed in both the public and private sectors on the REDjet licensing issues as well as related circumstances that would have influenced, first, the sudden resignation of Dr Jean Holder as chairman of LIAT, then Gonsalves’ subsequent signal of discontent, it seems all the more urgent that a critical review be undertaken of the functioning of the quasi-cabinet.