GUEST COLUMN: Another band-aid
An abundance of informed opinion and advice continues to urge Caricom Heads of Government to move in the direction of appointing a Caribbean Commission with executive authority, to oversee the implementation of decisions made by conference.
The spectrum of regional opinion extends from the ranks of Caricom statesmen to the citizens of the 15 member states who believe it is the best way to restart Caricom’s forward momentum towards a single market and economy.
The quoted objection remains the consequential concession of national sovereignty implied in such an arrangement, which should be no greater than that yielded to the WTO [World Trade Organisation] which oversees compliance with the multilateral rules and regulations, and no more than conceded to the IMF when implementing their financial assistance programmes.
Alas, another political “band-aid” has been devised at the August meeting of Heads in Grenada dubbed a “Council of Ambassadors”. The ambassadors would “follow up, to make sure that domestic action is taken to give effect to the decisions of the Heads.” This mandate is to be carried out without executive authority.
In David Jessop’s column of September 12, he observes that: “Caribbean Heads meeting in Grenada in August to discuss improved governance, indicated a reluctance to provide any such remit when they chose to establish one more layer of non-executive bureaucracy in the form of a committee of ambassadors able only to review the implementation of their decisions.”
This latest vacillation would involve more officials – at least 15 if each territory provides one overseer, instead of three or four recommended for a Caribbean Commission. How these domestic officials would interface with the community organs that reside in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas – COTED, COFAP, COSHOD, and so on – remains to be seen, as these organs also have a role to play in implementing decisions of conference.
A surfeit of organs, agencies, councils, institutions and committees already exist, and need to be reviewed by the new Caricom Secretary General and reorganised where necessary, creating synergies and streamlining the monumental web of existing bureaucracies.
Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has said: “Mature regionalism will remain a pipe dream unless authority is vested in an executive mechanism which is charged with full-time responsibility for ensuring the implementation within a specific time frame of the critical decisions taken by Heads.”
A time frame for review should be allowed to test the integrity of the decision to establish the Council of Ambassadors, say, 24 months, and if progressive results are found wanting the issue should be re-examined by conference.
Change breeds insecurity, which in the current context could see the Caricom landscape again changing, with some states seeking their fortune extra-regionally or forming political alliances intra-regionally, in advancement of their economic growth and development goals. As before, such occurrences could be considered a destabilising influence on the future of regional integration. Minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade Dr Ken Baugh, speaking on behalf of regional manufactures asserted that: “It is in the interest of those of us in the region who appreciate the good sense of regional conglomeration, as represented by Caricom, that the community remains a rules-based organisation and that members follow the spirit and letter of the arrangements.”
The latest disparaging comments occurred in Trinidad directed at the Caribbean Court of Justice , which prompted a statement by regional statesmen, viz: “Any attempt to create a climate of hostility to the Caribbean Court of Jistuce (CCJ) by distortions in the country of the court’s location is serious in itself. When it is accompanied by suggestions of creating a National Court of Appeal in place of the CCJ, the implications for the people of the Caribbean Community, including Trinidad and Tobago, become stark and troubling.”
These nuances and distortions are yet another attempt to derail the integration process while further instigating a greater sense of insularity, that is indifferent to cultures, peoples, and so on, outside of one’s own experience in Trinidad and Tobago, which could lead to Caricom’s undoing.