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EDITORIAL: ‘Stoking fires’ for regional integration

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: ‘Stoking fires’ for regional integration

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Apparently now more disposed to striking a militant posture to influence decision-making processes at the Caribbean Community Secretariat, Secretary General Irwin LaRocque made a spirited intervention at last week’s ministerial meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
First, he joined Guyana’s Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodriques-Birkett in calling for regional private sector representation at COTED meetings. Secondly, he felt it necessary to urge COTED ministers to “stoke fires of integration” this year when CARICOM is marking its 40th anniversary.
A week ago today, in lamenting an evident “word game” instead of required positive action to fundamentally change the community’s management architecture, our editorial, titled New CARICOM Language, concluded: “We can only hope – rather than despair – that a so-called ‘change-facilitation team’, established to support Secretary General LaRocque, succeeded in coming  forward with some tangible, practical ‘deliverables’ for action when CARICOM leaders meet for their annual summit in Trinidad and Tobago in July”.
Dominican-born LaRoque became secretary general in August 2010 when he succeeded Trinidad and  Tobago’s long-serving Edwin Carrington as head of the secretariat, the principal administrative arm of CARICOM, having served as an Assistant Secretary General (trade and economic integration) for a number of years.
The fact that he felt it necessary to goad regional ministers at the COTED meeting to “keep the fires of regional integration burning” – aware, as he must be, of spreading disillusionment with the sloth in achieving major objectives – may perhaps be a signal of his own anxiety for practical responses to achieve implementation targets.
Assuming such an intention on his part, it was also encouraging to learn that he openly underscored the call by Guyana’s foreign minister to ensure regional private sector representation at COTED meetings.
It is doubtful there could be any serious objection by partners of the 15-member community for such an arrangement. After all, there is a precedent in earlier years, when it was the norm to have seated, with “consultative status”, not only the private sector but also the regional labour movement and leading non-government organizations at annual Heads of Government Conferences.
Whatever the factors that contributed to an end to this arrangement, the reality of the current economic challenges, regional and international, makes the presence of at least the regional private sector and labour movement necessary at COTED meetings.