Government Information Agency
GEORGETOWN (GINA) — Secretary General (SG) of the Caribbean Community Irwin LaRocque said that CARICOM’s ongoing reform process has validated the relevance of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) as the platform from which to build the Community’s economic resilience.
He made this remark today at the Twenty-Fifth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM which is being held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The SG said that following a review of CSME’s operations by the Prime Ministerial Committee on Sunday, the next steps regarding the process would be presented to the conference. He said the Commission’s preliminary report will recommend that priority attention be focused on fiscal sustainability, including debt management, and promoting a conducive environment that would reduce regional impediments to investment and trade and spur private sector growth and development.
With regards to the reform process, he said a broad consensus was emerging on the strategic priorities for CARICOM in the next five years. The process was initially built around a five-year strategic plan for the community and a transformed secretariat.
“…The CARICOM brand must permeate all our institutions and activities as we seek to build our sense of identity,” he said.
Issues of growth, sustainable development, ICT, human resources and transportation are among the priorities that the Heads will also be deliberating on.
Speaking specifically about ICT, LaRoque said that it was both an enabler of socio-economic development, as well as a sector in its own right for creating employment, and called for it to be viewed as the new frontier for regional integration. “To enhance those possibilities, the creation of a single ICT space within our Community should be pursued vigorously in our efforts to bring technology to the people, while aiding in building our technological resilience,” he said.
He said that human development on the other hand, must be discussed from a holistic approach to the region’s education system. This would help to address the shortcomings and challenges that had been observed in human resource capacity in both public and private sectors.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that efforts to create a more efficient integration movement have seen the reform process proceeding apace. To date, national consultations in all member states and two associate members have been completed.
She proposed an amendment to the agenda of this inter-sessional meeting for the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty and support for Trinidad and Tobago’s CARICOM-endorsed Bid to Host the Secretariat in Port of Spain.
The Arms Trade Treaty, the PM said would provide the region with a significant component in the global fight against the trade of conventional arms in illicit markets. Among CARICOM member States, only Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada have thus far ratified this treaty.
“To attain that secure future, to build sustainable development and progress, we must be willing to not only do the work that is required, but also take the tough decisions and fulfill our obligations,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Prime Minister of the host country, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in his remarks, lashed out at critics of CARICOM. He reminded that CARICOM is not a central government for a bundle of disparate territories.
“It is not a unitary state; it is not a federation; it is not even a confederation. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas conceives it as a community of sovereign states. Its centre has been deliberately designed as a weak superstructure which constantly gropes for consensus. That is what the political market can bear; that is the reality which the broad citizenry in the Community has endorsed,” he said.
He added that neither the political leadership as a collective nor the population as a whole has an appetite for much more than what is currently on offer in the Treaty commitments. As such, the political mandate is to ensure that what is fashioned in the Revised Treaty is implemented optimally.
Dr. Gonsalves said that far too often, CARICOM is lambasted for its failure or refusal to implement the decisions of its treaty-based institutions and invariably, the Secretariat is excoriated for this implementation deficit.
“The Secretariat is not CARICOM; it is the central administrative instrument of CARICOM, but it possesses no authority to compel enforcement of decisions… each government is enjoined in its responsibility, nay its solemn obligation, to put appropriate institutional arrangements in its natural executive and administrative apparatuses to facilitate the speedy and efficacious implementation of CARICOM’s decisions,” he stated.