GUEST COLUMN: Governance paths
AS ARRANGEMENTS are being finalised for next Tuesday’s special meeting in Grenada of seven Caribbean Community Heads of Government to discuss the critical matter of “governance”, the big question remains: How seriously committed are the leaders of this region’s 37-year-old economic integration movement to grappling with the elusive but very vital issue of governance on which they have been doing the ritual political merry-go-round ever since the 1992 “Time for Action” report by The West Indian Commission?.After all, a new governance system, relevant to the challenges of our time, have been on and off Caricom leaders’ work agenda for at least fourteen (14) years, dating back to the West Indian Commission’s 1992 report and a subsequent report in 2006 from a Technical Working Group (TWG) on “matured regional governance”. A litany of deferred decisions on “governance” has been the norm.This prickly topic surfaced again at last month’s 31st regular annual conference of Caricom leaders in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It occurred against the backdrop of spreading discontent and cynicism over the evident lack of progress in completion of the Single Market arrangements – not to mention the related major project of inauguration of the much-touted common regional economic space.In the process two significant developments occurred behind closed doors in Montego Bay.Conceding that there can no longer be a “business-as-usual” approach in the face of declining faith in effective governance of the community’s wide-ranging policies and programmes, there was a caucus session that focused both on Edwin Carrington’s future with Caricom as well as the way forward for the community in all major areas of operations.By the time the July 4-7 Montego Bay summit concluded, we were learning that consensus had emerged to treat with urgency the business of “governance” of the community and particularly in relation to its flagship CSME project. It was agreed that a special meeting of the Caricom Bureau, plus some other leaders of the 15-member community, would take place in Grenada, (as scheduled for August 17), and that they would be assisted by members of the Technical Working Group on “matured regional governance” that was chaired by Dr Vaughn Lewis.It is of relevance to note here that Caricom leaders have been sitting on their hands on the TWG’s recommendations for more than three years. The centre-piece of recommendations submitted was the creation of a high-level commission, or similar mechanism, with executive authority and functioning under the direct supervision of Heads of Government. This specific recommendation was to serve as a reminder of the idea that had originated with the 1992 West Indian Commission, under Shridath Ramphal’s chairmanship, for an empowered three-member Caricom Commission to help deal with the challenges of effective governance.The intention now is for the outcome of next Tuesday’s meeting to be forwarded for decision at a special meeting of Caricom leaders late next month in Jamaica whose Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, is current chairman of the community.It was while the committee of Caricom leaders was preparing for the coming meeting in St. George’s, that there came breaking news from Secretary General Carrington that he had informed Heads of Government of his decision to retire from his post, effective December 31, 2010.Consequently, a core feature of next week’s meeting in Grenada would be the focus on finding a new Secretary General to be on board from January 1, 2011.Whatever his detractors m ay now say, Carrington has been – warts and all – a strong, regular public voice, via the region’s media, in support and defence of Caricom as head of the secretariat in Georgetown. There have undoubtedly been progress over the years to applaud, particularly in areas of functional co-operation, trade and external relations. But there is also blame to share between the secretariat’s management and the political directorate of Caricom, in terms of implementation of approved major policies and programmes. Think, for example, the mounting frustration to realise the full CSME.Now that Caricom leaders appear willing to move in the direction of a new management structure, in the context of “governance for the 21st century”, it is to be hoped that the recommendations to emerge from next Tuesday’s meeting in St George’s will prove helpful for hard decisions at a special meeting of all Caricom leaders when they meet late next month in Jamaica.• Ricky Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.