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Jamaica won't leave Caricom, says LaRocque

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features editor — Sunday thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 01, 2012    

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SECRETARY General of Caricom Ambassador Irwin LaRocque says Jamaica can't survive on its own and, as such, he doesn't foresee the country pulling out of the regional integration movement.

This, in spite of calls from several sectors of society for the country to bow out of the regional body on the basis that Jamaica is at a disadvantage, especially with regard to trade.

Speaking with editors of the Jamaica Observer and the Gleaner at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Friday, the Caricom head said he was convinced, after having met with leaders of Government, the Opposition and the private sector, that there was no threat Jamaica would delink from the regional bloc.

"Jamaica is going to have difficulty going it alone," he said. "Jamaica is going to experience difficulties if it goes slower than the rest (of the countries), and I do not think that it is an option that it is even on the table for them to consider realistically. I think what is the option is to fix the problems that exist as is perceived by Jamaica, between Jamaica and its partners, and I don't think that it's insurmountable.

"I'm aware that Jamaica has serious economic challenges, and they have historic groundings... but the answer is not to pull out, but to fix it from inside," LaRocque stressed.

The Caricom head left the island yesterday, after a three-day working visit during which he also met with representatives of the media and youth organisations. Prior to his visit, LaRocque said he had read various articles in the press on the swirling controversy about Jamaica's place in Caricom and whether or not it should opt out. He, however, left with a different impression.

"Leaving here, I do not think there is a threat of Jamaica leaving Caricom. I think, however, the issues that Jamaica has raised need very real attention; and I think (it) will be given. As a matter of fact, it is already being given in various quarters," the secretary general said.

"I'm leaving here very, very satisfied that the various leaders of this country, in different walks of life, continue to be committed to the integration enterprise. I leave here in a very positive mood, but a sober one; in the sense that the issues that have been raised are very real and dear to the hearts of every Jamaican, but not only every Jamaican but the people of the Community as well," he added.

Proponents of a departure from Caricom say the group has failed to meet its targets of economic growth in the region and reference the trade imbalance between Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago as an example. They also question its relevance at a time when its members are more focused on nationalist gains.

Among the detractors is Opposition spokesman on industry Karl Samuda who, during the recently concluded Budget Debate in Parliament said the country didn't appear to be benefiting from Caricom and urged that a decision about leaving the bloc be made in the near future.

While acknowledging its shortcomings, however, LaRocque maintained that Caricom was not a failure, but only needs tweaking. Referencing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the secretary general said he saw potential for leadership in the integration movement from Jamaica

and Trinidad.

"One of the successes of the OECS was commonality of view and a camaraderie among some of the heads of the OECS that helped to propel things. I see, in the relationship between the leaders of Trinidad and Jamaica, that potential," the Caricom head said.

"I think the single most important reason for keeping Caricom alive is to serve the development of our region. It can't be anything but that," said LaRocque

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