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OUR CARIBBEAN: More doubts on Caricom’s ‘governance’

Rickey Singh

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AFTER TUESDAY’S one-day special meeting in Grenada by a committee of five heads and two foreign ministers of five Caribbean Community countries to consider proposals for improved governance, there seems to be no good reason to keep hope alive for any significant departure, in the foreseeable future, from the prevailing administrative structure and decision-making processes. Already some are cynically saying “they got to be joking”.Participating heads were the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, current CARICOM chairman; Grenada, Tilman Thomas; St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves; St Kitts and Nevis, Denzil Douglas; and Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit.We were officially informed that the Montego Bay Summit had “deliberated at length on the criticial issue of Community governance” before deciding on the special committee meeting in Grenada. With the subsequent surprised announced retirement of Secretary General Edwin Carrington, the Grenada meeting took on the additional significance in the quest for a new head of the Secretariat. Speaking as CARICOM chairman before returning home Wednesday, Golding made two surprising announcements: The first was the disclosure that a nine-member “search committee” – (yes, nine) – headed by Barbados’ Foreign Minister Maxine McClean, would begin the process of pre-selecting candidates to succeed Carrington. The committee’s terms of reference will be determined by the heads when they meet on the periphery of next month’s start of the annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York.The second surprise was even more interesting and baffling, in the sense that it offered neither anything new – in terms of a fundamental restructuring of the Community Secretariat – nor any new intiative for improved decision-making and implementation processes that could check the snail pace at which the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) project is proceeding. It was the announcement about the creation of a Council of Community Ambassadors that would operate from the respective capitals of the ambassadors’ countries to hopefully remove barriers at the national level that frustrate the implementation of regional decisions and strengthen cooperation.If, after all the research materials and range of proposals on alternative systems for improved governance of the Community, now in its 37th year, CARICOM leaders now offer the proposed Council of Ambassadors as a mechanism for improving governance, then they should not be surprised by the coming manifestations of cynicism and disenchantment across the region as we move into the second decade of the 21st century in just over three months, which also coincides with the start of Carrington’s retirement.The proposed new mechanism should not be confused with what obtains, for example, as the Council of Ambassadors at the Organisation of American States (OAS), or the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group. For a start, they are located in one place – Washington (for OAS) and Brussels (for ACP).For now, we are aware of examples of how senior cabinet ministers have encountered difficulties in resolving bilateral problems. A Council of Community Ambassadors with layers of accountability could therefore be viewed as “joking around” on the crucial issue of effective governance for CARICOM.