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OUR CARIBBEAN: This new Caricom move on region’s economic future

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: This new Caricom move on region’s economic future

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The bureau of the Caribbean Community, which functions as a “management committee” between regular and special conferences of Heads of Government, has taken some new and significant decisions for further consideration and initiatives by the leaders of the 15-member regional economic integration movement.
One of the important and surprising proposals to emerge from the Bureau’s meeting in Port-of-Spain on Tuesday, chaired by host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, called for the creation of a CARICOM Economy Commission (CEC). It’s consistent with deliberations and recommendations made at last July’s annual summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
At that meeting, Heads of Government, in addressing critical issues facing the “future of CARICOM economies”, specifically noted unflattering observations by foreign financial and economic commentators which they regard as “tarnishing the credibility” of member states of the Community to “raise financial resources required to drive growth and development …”.
While it is appreciated that as the primary organ of CARICOM, a Heads of Government Conference has the authority to make recommendations and initiate relevant actions in the interest of the region’s integration movement – now in its 40th year of existence – it is, nevertheless, to be wondered whether the decision arising from Tuesday’s meeting of the Bureau considered also that later this year, or soon thereafter, there should be ready for consideration the anxiously awaited report from a high-level Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF).
Launched in June 2012 as a unique “partnership” of regional and international institutions and agencies, the CGF is comprised of representatives of the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, University of the West Indies and traditional partner agencies like Britain’s Department for International Development and Canada’s International Development Agency.
Central to the CGF’s mandate, as previously reported by this columnist, is the fostering of ideas and initiatives to generate economic growth and promote employment with a special emphasis on jobless youth. These are factors that have been influencing deepening concerns among governments of our Community.
For his part, the CDB’s President, Dr Warren Smith, was to go public with some serious warnings to governments on the pursuit of injurious fiscal management policies, even as he and his team of advisors continued working along with their counterparts of the CGF.
Coming out of Tuesday’s meeting of the CARICOM Bureau at which participants included, in addition to Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, the Prime Ministers of Barbados (Freundel Stuart) and St Vincent and the Grenadines (Ralph Gonsalves) with Haiti’s President doing so via teleconferencing arrangement, it was disclosed that the proposed commission on the economy should address “priority areas for  fiscal sustainability, resource mobilization, as well as critical economic structure services particularly energy and information and communication technology (ICT) . . . .”
Well, I guess we must await positive developments, between now and February next year – when the CARICOM Heads of Government are scheduled to hold their regular inter-sessional meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines – to better assess productive arrangements for the proposed commission on the region’s economy; By then, the CGF’s report should be almost in readiness, if not completed for official distribution to governments and participating institutions.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.