Caricom finally makes some decisions, but deeds, not words please

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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USUALLY the Caricom Heads of Government (HOGS) conference is a feast of semantics, reciting the mantra of regional integration and making solemn commitments to implement decisions long overdue. At the end, most items have been merely noted or postponed.

This time round, the recent summit in Antigua made some potentially important decisions. For example, the heads approved the Draft Strategic Plan for the Community, which identifies several key strategic priorities for the Community over the five-year period, 2015-2019.

The key goals are: building economic resilience, social resilience, environmental sustainability, technological development, strengthening the Caricom identity and spirit of community, improving community governance and coordinated foreign policy. They are to be accomplished by accelerating the implementation and use of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME); introducing measures for macro-economic stabilisation; improving competitiveness, education, human capital and health to unleash key economic drivers to growth and employment; enhancing citizen security, climate adaptation and disaster management; deepening foreign policy coordination and reforming the Caricom Secretariat, its organs, bodies, institutions and governance arrangements.

Based on years of hard experience, we know that some declarations are no more than platitudes, especially in the areas of foreign policy coordination and reform of the Caricom Secretariat. Not much will change regarding climate change response and education.

However, what is new is the belated recognition that there is an urgent unavoidable need to introduce measures for macro-economic stabilisation such as debt reduction, fiscal policy and interest rate policy. This has been decided on six years after the global economic crisis engulfed the world. But better late than never.

Another new priority is citizen security. This is unavoidable given the corruption and exponential escalation of murder in many territories.

Heads of Government noted that the plan represented a good strategic repositioning for the Community, as it sought to secure its future in a rapidly changing environment. It was agreed that for success, the plan would require commitment and focused implementation by all the major actors in the Community.

The summit also received the Second Report of the Commission on the Economy which focused on the reform of the business environment in Member States. Not surprisingly, the Report also emphasised the importance of a stable macroeconomic environment as a prerequisite for the Community's Growth Agenda. More important was the adoption of the recommendations to appoint a Caricom Debt Advocacy Team to persuade the international community to agree to appropriate debt relief and/or debt amelioration arrangements for the highly indebted Caricom states.

The Antigua summit was encouraging but the "proof of the pudding" is in the implementation and what Caricom needs now are deeds, not words.




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