Sunday, August 8, 2010

'Job description' for a new Caricom secretary general

Jamaicaobserver Editorial:

Mr Edwin Carrington, the secretary general of Caricom, has signalled he will be stepping down after 18 or so years in the job. The appropriate tribute will be paid to him when he does so.

But as the Caribbean Community looks for a new secretary general, the search, we suggest, must be guided by certain criteria in order to find the person with the necessary qualities. Let's start with the 'don'ts'.

First, the person cannot be a Jamaican because Jamaicans now head several regional institutions, such as the Office of Trade Negotiations, the Caribbean Development Fund and Caribbean Export. A Jamaican is also the financial controller (effectively number two) at the Caribbean Development Bank. Let's avoid the appearance of a Jamaican take-over.

No one from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has been secretary general and they are now the governments with the least commitment to Caricom. A woman has never had the post and this should not be ruled out nor made a requirement. The person should not be a naturalised citizen of the OECS as they would not have support in the sub-region.

Second, the person must be a genuine leader with proven political acumen and experience and have a stature which commands respect -- ideally, a former minister or prime minister.

Technocrats and bureaucrats from regional and international organisations should, under no circumstances, be considered.

Third, the person must be in his or her mental and physical prime, given the stamina required to maintain the arduous travel schedule and the tedium of the perpetual round of meetings. The new SG must be able to serve for 10 years and this should be the enforced term limit.

The region must not entertain the delusion that anyone in their 70s can properly execute the duties of SG. Ideally the person should be in the 40s, like United States President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. The heads of nearly all Fortune 500 companies are below 55 years old. There is good reason why 60 is the normal mandatory retirement age for diplomats.

Fourth, nobody currently in the Caricom Secretariat or retired from it has the ability or credibility to become SG because of their culpability for the failures of the outgoing administration.

Recruiting someone from outside is necessary, both to inject new management and to send a clear signal that there is a new beginning. An outsider needs to be unencumbered by loyalties to existing senior staff since they will have to be quickly replaced. This is often a healthy practice when there is a new CEO.

Fifth, it is essential that the person should have some exposure to and understanding of Caricom affairs. The vice chancellor of UWI can vouch for the difficulties and disadvantages entailed in the steep learning curve of Caribbean politics when you do not have that background.

In short, the new SG must be a non-Jamaican in his or her prime (under 55 years old) who has a track record of leadership, management skills and political savvy. Under no circumstances should the new SG be a former diplomat, bureaucrat in an international organisation, academic (generally out of touch with reality) and current member of staff of the Caricom Secretariat.

The Caribbean has an embarrassment of riches in human resources. The region has more than enough well-qualified and talented people to find a very able individual to be SG of Caricom as it struggles to survive.

August 08, 2010

jamaicaobserver editorial