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ON THE LEFT: CSME based on faulty concept


NORMAN GIRVAN

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I do not think that any useful purpose is to be served by denying that there is a major crisis in the regional economic integration movement.
I stress economic because it is important to bear in mind that economic integration is one of four pillars of CARICOM; the other three being foreign policy coordination; functional cooperation and security.
Functional cooperation continues, and seems to be doing reasonably well. So is security. Foreign policy coordination happens in name only.
But the real problem is the stasis in the economic integration pillar; for this is seen as one of the main purposes of the Community.
In short, 24 years after the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was first launched, it is not even close to completion. More to the point, we do not know when it will be completed. Progress has slowed to a virtual standstill; the momentum has been lost; interest has waned. It is not yet officially dead; but it certainly appears to be comatose.
Several reasons have been advanced for the current malaise in CSME implementation.
First, there is said to be absence of political will. Second, it is observed that the global financial and economic crisis that started in 2008 has made governments turn inward; and taken up their time with crisis management.
There is also the school of thought that lays the blame on having a secretariat that is under-resourced and over-worked and therefore lacking in effectiveness.
The most substantive reasons advanced have to do with the weakness in the CARICOM governance and implementation machinery.
Quite simply, I believe that CARICOM governments do not really believe that the CSME, as presently structured, offers the likelihood of generating significant economic benefits.
At the same time, they confront the massive task of implementation, incurring significant financial costs as well as diminished policy space nationally. For some of the smaller members, implementation may be beyond their capacity.
In other words, the governments do not believe it is worth the effort.
My argument is that the CSME has been a failure – not because it was implemented and failed to bring about the desired results; not because its failure in implementation is due to defects in governance; but because it is a borrowed model of integration known as open regionalism, which is an imperfectly designed instrument to boost the development of CARICOM economies.
Hence it never developed the degree of traction among governments and other stakeholders required to sustain it.
The present drift in CARICOM could all too easily lead to the eventual side-lining of the Community; as the regional ship of state is either shipwrecked on the rocks of the world crisis; or becalmed in a backwater of marginalization while the rest of the world moves on.
As a people, we have confronted crises before and risen to the challenge. But surely, there is an individual and collective responsibility that falls to all of us.

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