PM GONSALVES SOME SALIENT ISSUES FOR RESOLUTION IN CARICOM

EXTRACT FROM PRIME MINISTER GONSALVES LECTURE IN KINGSTOWN ON THURSDAY 22ND FEBRUARY (SOME SALIENT ISSUES FOR RESOLUTION IN CARICOM) LECTURE WOULD BE PUBLISHED IN PARTS.
 

In 1973, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was established under and by virtue of the Treaty of Chaguaramas; in 2001, the juridical framework for a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) was formally elaborated in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

Although several aspects of the Revised Treaty in respect of the Single Market have been put in place, the Single Economy is yet to be operationalised as envisaged.  It is not that some progress has not been made, but the CARICOM Single Economy is still to be achieved.

To be sure, we have witnessed solid progress in trade facilitation, freedom of movement of CARICOM nationals, the establishment and functioning of the supra-national Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its original jurisdiction, and the enhancement of functional cooperation in education, health, security, and the coordination of foreign policy.  Still, in each of the areas of progress, there is much that is yet to be accomplished.  But more than all this, the core features of the CARICOM Single Economy are yet to be realized.

Although the recently-published (March 2017) Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks [“the Golding Report” called after its Chairman, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding], has proffered an highly stylized and somewhat overblown critique of the lack of progress in the implementation the CSME, there is much truth in its lamentation that:

—Something cannot be said to have failed unless it has been tried.  The Single Market and Economy that we so often declare is not working cannot, in reality, be expected to work because it has not yet been functionally established. —- So much time has elapsed and so much that should have been done has not been done that we are in danger of succumbing to ‘integration fatigue’ without having actually integrated and we are having difficulty sustaining or renewing our commitment to the process.”

In the upshot, the Golding Report has staked out, not surprisingly, a Jamaican-centered perspective from which flows a bundle of thirty-three recommendations with suggested timelines for implementation. Many of these recommendations are relatively run-of-the-mill, sensible correctives to specific challenges or initiatives which have been canvassed repeatedly by this or that review, internal and external, of CARICOM.  Some, though, are plain unworkable under the extant governance arrangements in CARICOM; and altered governance has been enduringly problematic.

However, the Golding Report’s telling recommendation with undoubted far-reaching consequences for Jamaica and CARICOM is this:

There needs to be a clear, definitive commitment Now from each Member State to a specific time-bound, measurable and verifiable programme of action to fulfill all its obligations and complete all the requirements for the single market and economy to be fully established and operational within the next five years.  In the absence of such a commitment and its diligent execution, it is our recommendation that Jamaica should withdraw from the single market and economy but seek to retain its position as a member of CARICOM in a status similar to that held by the Bahamas.  It would then consider what form of trading arrangement it would wish to pursue with other CARICOM Member States”.

This recommendation is central to the Golding Report’s menu of recommendations; its no-nonsense, take-it-or-leave-it “litmus test”, in this regard, infuses and sprinkles, hither and thither, the tenor of much of the Report’s analysis and its gaze into the future of the regional integration movement.  Under the rubric of this central recommendation, the Golding Report lists twenty-two “must do” items for the CSME over the next five years, or else withdrawal by Jamaica!

The Golding Report has been laid in the Parliament of Jamaica; the matter is in the public domain for consideration.  We do not as yet know the position of the Jamaican government on the array of the Golding Report’s recommendations, especially that which occupies centrality.  I suspect, though, that rightly or wrongly, a large body of Jamaican opinion may applaud, even if from the side lines given CARICOM’s marginality to Jamaican political and economic discourses.

My purpose today is not to review the Golding Report although its ideas are an influential prod on the current working agenda of CARICOM and on the prospective way forward, strategically, for the regional integration enterprise.  Accordingly, I consider it opportune, on the eve of the 29th Inter-Sessional Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM scheduled for early next week in Haiti, to mark out some relevant territory on the salient issues at hand from the perspective of the Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), particularly that of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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