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Caricom moving on with hope

Rickey Singh

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TODAY’S communiqué from the 31st annual Caribbean Community Summit that concluded last night in Montego Bay is expected to at least offer a glimmer of hope for a plan to introduce a new system of management in the governance of Caricom’s affairs.Following a caucus session to address a plan of action on governance, there appeared to be consensus that the leaders have finally concurred to arrest the widening cynicism and disenchantment over failures to achieve goals they themselves have initiated.Having postponed, or rather avoided, addressing the challenge of a new governance system relevant to today’s needs of the regional economic integration movement, the decision to consider a new management structure is expected to also involve the search for a new Secretary General of the now 37-year-old Community.National honours
As the community’s longest chief public servant Carrington, a former Sectretary General of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations, has been functioning in his present post since 1992. His faithful services have won him national honours from various CARICOM governments.It, however, now appears that the community’s leaders can no longer ignore the reality that the fundamental changes required for a new architecture of governance would also make necessary a successor to Carrington. The choice of a new Secretary General could well coincide with the 32nd CARICOM Summit in July next year, if not earlier. The communiqué is likely to provide the rationale for the new governance system, with hopes of generating a positive mood for realisation of a single economy, via the CSME.It is not, however, expected to shed much light on some other sensitive issues discussed – such as new approaches in regional security or in a possible readjustment in the operations of the CARICOM Petroleum Fund.Financial resourcesBoth of these matters involve Trinidad and Tobago. Its prime minister normally shoulders lead responsibility among Heads of Government for “crime and security”. It is also the member state whose financial resources, from oil and natural gas, have made possible the creation of the CARICOM Petroleum Fund.Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had been openly speaking about her new government’s reservations in the operations of this fund, as well as against a commitment to any form of political integration with the subregion of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as had been signalled by her predecessor Patrick Manning.However, the new People’s Partnership coalition government she heads, would do itself and Caricom in general a service by avoiding language that are increasingly conveying the impression that the rest of the Community, and the Eastern Caribbean in particular, are one-way beneficiaries of Trinidad and Tobago’s financial generosity.Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has come near to even casting Trinidad and Tobago as a sort of “godfather” in alluding to the help extended to CARICOMpartners, particularly in realtion to the operations of the Petroleum Fund.She and Finance Minister Winston Dookeran – who has noticeably been keeping his silence while other cabinet colleagues shoot from the hip on sensitive national issues – need to seriously acquaint themselves about the history and operational modalities of the Petroleum Fund. Both the governor of the Trinidad and Tobago Central Bank, Ewart Williams, and Caricom’s Secretary General Carrington, are well placed to provide valuable infornmation that could help correct some of the current misrepresentations about the Petroleum Fund.Objectively speaking, the fund’s establishment was also an investment initiative that gave distinct advantages to Trinidad and Tobago’s enterprising and well developed manufacturing and financial services sectors in the goods and services provided, much to the benefit of the national economy of that partner state.In the process of a more careful examination of the operations of the Petroleum Fund, Prime Minister Persad-Bissedssar may come to realise that it stands as a classic example of “partnership” for regional development.