OUR CARIBBEAN: Desires and realities
A PREFERENCE for strengthening unity and cooperation was clearly demonstrated by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government at their meeting last week, as reflected in comments and decisions in the official communiqué as well as statements to the media.
Secretary General Irwin LaRocque may well have set the tone when he noted that “the sense of unity and solidarity which brought the Community together at the best and worst of times must now be the central force that drives it to find a route to ignite growth in our economies”. He stressed the need for unified summoning of a “clear understanding that we are all in this together”.
This was a good appeal by the secretary general, who would be quite conscious of the yawning gaps between stirring, eloquent rhetoric and lack of precise, relevant actions by the political directorate of the 15-member CARICOM, now in its 41st year as an integration movement for economic development and functional cooperation.
For his part, host prime minister of the meeting and current chairman Dr Ralph Gonsalves, of St Vincent and the Grenadines, seized the opportunity to emphasise the dangers in perpetuating failures to implement decisions taken in accordance with the provisions of the Revised CARICOM Treaty.
Specifically, he called on fellow heads of government to put “appropriate institutional arrangements in its natural executive and administrative apparatuses to facilitate the speedy and efficacious implementation of CARICOM’s decisions”.
This, too, was a good appeal by Gonsalves, known to be a stout and eloquent advocate for the widest and most practical forms of regional economic integration as well as political unity.
I, therefore, assume that he would be quite disposed to sharing the modalities of functioning of his own government’s “natural executive and administrative apparatuses” to help in speeding up “efficacious implementation of CARICOM’s decisions”.
For therein lies the rub! What functioning “apparatuses” – to use his language – are in place at the national level to facilitate speedy and efficacious implementation of CARICOM decisions?
For a start, there are accredited ambassadors to function, on a regular basis, with the Community Secretariat and individual member governments.
Are the current modalities of functioning enabling compliance with CARICOM decisions?
Is there a functioning CARICOM office, division or department of all member governments that deals on an ongoing basis with issues pertaining to follow-up actions on questions, suggestions/recommendations arising from Community meetings, either at the level of senior officials, ministers or heads of government?
If so, how are these processed in cooperation with the Guyanese-based Community Secretariat?
We know that promised overall effective management at the Community Secretariat itself remains a work in progress. The long wait is quite frustrating for all concerned, not the least being the citizens of the Community, who are the ultimate losers when problems remain unsolved.
Further, how really useful is it to maintain functioning of the CARICOM Bureau – also known as a “management committee” – that functions between meetings of Heads of Government?
And why is it we are learning less of new initiatives taken – if they have been – for arrangements to make a lived reality of CARICOM’s flagship project, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)?
Perhaps we should have an update on what’s really new in advancing arrangements. The CSME has always been a CARICOM portfolio responsibility of a Barbados Prime Minister. Any hope of such an update anytime soon from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart?
Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email [email protected]