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Time for better functioning Caricom

In addition to appointing a secretary general, the Heads of Government have to begin the upgrade, indeed transformation, of the secretariat to take on a far more involved role.
Published: 
Friday, March 18, 2011

 By all calculations, it must be time for the Heads of Government of Caricom to appoint a secretary general of the Community to lead the business of the secretariat forward. 

The appointment of a permanent SG is absolutely essential to give someone the long-term responsibility to effectively advance the agenda of the integration movement.

The heads met last month in Grenada at their intercessional, the meeting between summits, but as far as anyone is aware, they did not reflect deeply, if at all, on the appointment of a replacement for long-serving Secretary General Edwin Carrington.

The fact is that given the status of the integration movement and the lack of solid advance and achievement in the Single Market, to say nothing of the Single Economy which is still some distance from even getting off the ground, the need for permanent, forceful and inspirational leadership at the Guyana-based secretariat could not be more required.

Attending to the appointment of a secretary general will lead to another desperate consideration on the part of the heads; that is, seeking to upgrade the secretariat and by extension expand its role and functions as it services Caricom.  

Notwithstanding the many achievements of the Carrington regime over the last 18 years, inclusive of having the leaders interact with significant world leaders on issues crucial to Caricom, the failure at implementation has been a main drawback. The reality has been that leaders go to Heads of Government meetings, take decisions but there is little organisational strength to have the decisions implemented.

Two decades ago, the most distinguished integrationists proposed the creation of a European-type commission led by a commissioner as a means of countering that power or implementation vacuum that existed.  

The proposal was to have the commission look after the day-to-day implementation of decisions taken by the leaders at their HOG meetings.

Twenty years later, prime ministers such as those of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and the president of Guyana have been scathingly and openly critical of what they identify as the many failures of the integration movement.

To begin with, if the Caricom leaders back in the 1990s had swallowed their pride and accepted some minor ceding of sovereignty to the commission and the commissioner, undoubtedly the region would have been closer to achieving the major and outstanding objectives of Caricom.

Indeed, as in so many aspects of life, matters do not stay in one place if they are not advanced; they drift backwards. Free movement of people across member states continues to be contentious with countries such as Barbados taking definitive positions against Guy-anese nationals and others who they deem as persona non-gratae.

So too has there been little advance in the Single Market with the intended regionalisation of production through the harmonisation of human and physical resources to replace goods and services from abroad and to create exportable products, a hope languishing somewhere in the wind.

So in addition to appointing a secretary general, the Heads of Government have to begin the upgrade, indeed transformation, of the secretariat to take on a far more involved role. And to do so there has to be a ceding of power from the centre to the secretariat. To make the new mechanism work, governments have to be prepared to stand by and follow-through decisions taken at Heads of Government meetings.

No one can twist the power of sovereignty out of the hands of an elected government. However, such governments must be clear in their minds that being part of an integration group such as Caricom requires a sharing of sovereignty with other member states. This is a feature of the real world of block politics of the 21st century.

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