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EDITORIAL: Weakened by lack of coordination


EDITORIAL: Weakened by lack of coordination

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CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) Heads of Government are meeting in Guyana for their annual conference which started yesterday and ends tomorrow. But there is no buzz across Barbados about what is taking place there. There is very little interest in it or regard for it.

Yesterday, July 4, was CARICOM Day, but the occasion passed without fanfare. Many people in Barbados were totally unaware of the occasion.

Rather, Barbadians and other CARICOM nationals, from Nassau to Port of Spain, would have been more focused on America’s July 4 Independence celebrations and how to benefit from online shopping bargains, and for a select few planning to attend the celebrations being hosted by the US ambassador.

This may be a sad reflection on people in the English-speaking Caribbean, but it is a reality. That is why regional leaders need to review how people see the integration movement and where they would like it to go. The people must not be left on the sidelines, marginalised because of hindrances to their free movement, nor must businesses be left complaining about roadblocks in their accessing markets.

Thankfully, the University of the West Indies has placed on the table a workable starting point to the problem. Its suggestion that multi-site research be undertaken across the region to determine the public’s views on CARICOM is laudable and should be taken up. However, it should not be about a Leave vote as some opponents of CARICOM have been promoting, but rather about ways to strengthen the integration process. The various issues facing CARICOM indicate that there are severe differences.

There is no coordinated foreign policy even as the region must deal with strengthening relations with Latin America and undertake negotiations with China or even with emerging giants India and South Africa.

The lack of a cohesive position is clearly exhibited by the diplomatic recognition of Belize, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines of Taiwan as against the People’s Republic of China, which is recognised by the other CARICOM nations. This disunity is reminiscent of the region’s fractured position during the choice for a new Commonwealth secretary general.

The lack of a coordinated position is also evident in the ability to have a united air services arrangement, given the uncertainty surrounding the intra-regional carrier LIAT: some support it, others unalterably oppose it yet are dependent on it. The stonewalling by Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago on joining the Caribbean Court of Justice adds to the vote of no-confidence in our system and ourselves. 

Yet there is actually more that unites this region than divides it. Efforts to blacklist and tarnish  the financial services sector in many member states are glaring reasons why the region, small and vulnerable, must work together.

The emphasis must be on improving the existing integration systems to ensure the people benefit. It cannot be business as usual for CARICOM.