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Jamaica’s very surprising call over Caricom

Rickey Singh

Jamaica’s very surprising call over Caricom

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THIS IS UNDOUBTEDLY a most challenging period in global political and economic developments for some members of CARICOM.
And a few leading Community partners seem to be wilting under mounting economic and social pressures, resulting in rather surprising political posturings. None more so than in the case of Jamaica.
Last week, for instance, that country’s opposition leader Andrew Holness felt compelled to publicly call for his country to suspend its membership of CARICOM until growing trade-related disputes could be satisfactorily resolved, more urgently with Trinidad and Tobago.
Here in Barbados, current outcries against punishing cost of living are competing with spreading vocal criticisms over a debt crisis amid fears of likely resort to a stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The difference is that while Barbados remains deeply focused on coming forward with a practical response to its estimated $400 million fiscal deficit, ahead of next month’s presentation of the 2013 national Budget, the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) seems spoiling for a political duel with Trinidad and Tobago over a widening trade deficit.
Ironically, while serving as Jamaica’s Prime Minister for the shortest period, some three months, before gambling with a snap general election in 2011, Mr Holness appeared to be quite a promising political leader of the future.
Basically expanding on a similar “suspension” position earlier adopted by his colleague Dr Christopher Tufton, the party’s spokesman on foreign affairs, the JLP leader told an “exchange forum” at the Jamaica Observer newspaper:
“There could be a suspension until we get our house in order, so that we can participate on equal footing with everyone … We do not believe that Jamaica’s interests are necessarily being fully served by CARICOM”. Those statements are   evidently lacking in required intellectual thought of which the JLP leader reputedly is otherwise capable.
So why this political flirtation with the idea of a temporary suspension of Jamaica’s membership from the regional economic integration movement? That valued CARICOM partner is, after all, a founding member and, as Mr Holness should know, without a united front involving the People’s National Party administration of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the “suspension” call is an obvious non-starter.
The harsh reality is that, unlike Jamaica’s “success” in mashing up our regions’ political unity experiment with the short-lived West Indies Federation in the 1960s, via an ill-considered national referendum, no government – in Kingston, Port of Spain, or any other regional capital – is inclined to suspend membership of CARICOM. Suspend to go where, and to survive how in today’s deepening globalized world?  
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist; [email protected]