Posted on

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Little action from Caricom

Tony Best

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Little action from Caricom

Social Share

“THEY DO HAVE a way with words. Even when you disagree with the Caribbean, you can’t help but admire how they say things.”
A senior official of New Zealand at the United Nations in New York was referring to Caribbean eloquence at international meetings.
That impressive use of language seems to have deserted the drafters of the communiqué issued at the end of 22nd inter-sessional meeting of Caribbean leaders held recently in Grenada.
The statement contained repeated reference to the heads of government having “reaffirmed” or “restated” their “commitment” to one cause or another: “expressed appreciation” or “satisfaction” that certain steps had been taken; and took note or “noted” that  developments had taken place or failed to occur.
After meeting for three days, the prime ministers and presidents of the various island-nations and coastal states that comprise CARICOM made few concrete decisions on the key issue designed to put the wheels back on the engine that drives the regional integration movement.
As a matter of fact, that failure was driven home when “in noting that there appeared to be a loss in momentum with regard to the regional integration agenda”, the leaders agreed there was a need “to reassess approaches with a view to determining modalities that would re-energize the regional integration endeavour, in accordance with their vision”.
In other words, they agreed to do very little but take a second look at their own failure to bring the Caribbean closer together, and that, they promised, would be done when they met at a retreat in Guyana.
Clearly, the heads of government must accept full responsibility for their inability to bring the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) closer to full implementation.
A clear conclusion is that the hearts of the prime ministers and presidents aren’t in the CSME. Instead, they are focused on their own national priorities.
Another hard fact of life is that the decision-making and implementation processes in CARICOM have become cumbersome and convoluted, a fault which can be laid squarely at the doorsteps of the leaders and the Secretariat.
The inability to choose a successor to recently retired Secretary-General Sir Edwin Carrington underscored the crisis facing the region. More than six months after Sir Edwin let it be known that he was leaving, the search for a replacement remains stalled.
Inappropriate territorial demands for the job, from countries whose nationals have never led the Secretariat, have raised their ugly heads. Some of these countries are insisting that they be given a turn, ignoring the key prerequisite of competence and experience rather than dwelling on geography.
Without a new and effective Secretary-General, the Secretariat would be a ship without a captain and a rudder. That’s why there must be a sense of urgency when it comes to the selection of a Secretary-General who would reinvigorate the Secretariat and eliminate the current atmosphere of business as usual that surrounds CARICOM headquarters.
It has spawned the paralysis. For at a time of an economic crisis engulfing most countries in the area, with the exception of energy-rich Trinidad and Tobago, there should be a spirit of dynamism designed to usher in a return to prosperity.
It isn’t that the area is devoid of suitable candidates for the position of Secretary-General. Far from it. Dr Richard Bernal, who successfully led the Regional Negotiating Machinery for years before going to the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington;  Winston Cox, who until last year was at the Caribbean’s executive director at the IDB; Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana’s president, who is due to leave office soon; and Dr Chelston Brathwaite, who as a two-term Director-General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, gave the Western Hemisphere’s largest agricultural agency the direction it needed and left it on a firm foundation are some of the people who come quickly to mind.
Far too many crucial issues should be on the region’s priority list and the Secretary-General’s job is one of them.
Many in the diaspora in New York were disappointed that the meeting in Grenada didn’t advance the regional cause – and their feelings are understandable.