by Oscar Ramjeet:
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are now meeting in Montego Bay in Jamaica, and the Gleaner, the leading and most widely read newspaper in the region, has come out in a blistering attack against the regional group.
The editorial was published only days after former Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Sir Shridath Ramphal, who is a well known advocate for regional integration, spoke of the non-performance of the Georgetown-based CARICOM Secretariat.
And St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, also voiced his disapproval when he said that CARICOM lacks leadership.
The Gleaner said that the leaders at their Montego Bay meeting should be honest with themselves and declare their inability to provide "serious leadership" to the integration process.
The editorial added, "Should they so decide, the next step is obvious: disband the community and allow its 15 members to find their own way in the world. Or, if they desire, form alliances with alternative trade and economic organisation."
It added, "This is not a position that this newspaper has arrived at lightly, like the conceptualisers of CARICOM, and the millions of people who have invested much hope in the institution understand the logic of integration. But the logic is one thing, its application is another. It is on the latter front, for nearly four decades we have failed.
“As a concept and treaty, CARICOM was and remains an excellent idea -- as a single market, to be transported into a seamless economy and as a functional cooperation and economic grouping. It has had some successes, mainly on the political front."
It also stated that, in 36 years, CARICOM has failed to plan, contrive, or achieve an economic breakthrough and "In those countries that have enjoyed relative success, it has had little to do with their membership of CARICOM.”
I recall Sir Shridath, in a passionate presentation, told a graduating class at the University of the West Indies at St Augustine in 1977, 33 years ago, the importance of regional integration and questioned that this region with a population of five million has the most prime ministers and overseas missions with ambassadors and high commissioners than any other country in the planet.
I have time and time again criticised the slow pace of the regional movement and one time referred to it as CARIGONE instead of CARICOM.
The Gleaner stated that if the heads of government who are gathered in Montego Bay are serious about CARICOM and wish the region's support, they must provide bankable assurances that they will mend their ways.
It also referred to Trinidad and Tobago being unfair in denying national treatment to its partners with regard to energy supplies, thus giving its own manufacturers an unfair advantage in this seamless market
It also called for leaders to finally agree on a system that gives executive authority to a supranational body to ensure implementation of decisions taken by heads. It also suggested that there should be an accommodation of shared sovereignty.
It is felt that the organisation has no effective implementation mechanism, nor are they penalties for reneging on undertakings. So, leaders attend summits, talk a lot, arrive at decisions and give undertakings which, for the most part, are never fulfilled.
This in my view should be corrected as soon as possible and I sincerely hope that the Montego Bay summit will iron out the differences of the various leaders and they work together towards a unified movement -- they should remember unity is strength.
July 5, 2010