Source: The Jamaica Observer
Although mandated studies have found an estimated overall 64 per cent level of “compliance” in the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), the harsh reality is that it is yet to be “fully embraced” by a number of member states.
That, basically, is the assessment of findings in reports submitted to the Georgetown- based Caricom Secretariat with free intra-regional movement of services and the right of establishment identified as the two areas of “major deficiencies” among the five “core regimes” of the CSME.
Additionally, there continues to be disappointment and discomfort with respect to the pace of progress in addressing the old problem of free movement of Caricom nationals with particular concern in relation to advancing the process of free movement of skilled nationals of the 15-member community.
The five “core regimes” of the CSME — the often claimed “flagship project” of Caricom which will mark its 39th year of existence with this coming July’s annual Heads of Government Summit — are the free movement of skills, goods, services and capital, and the right of establishment of businesses to freely operate in member states across the community.
While, at first glance, the approximate 64 per cent “compliance” may bring comfort to some, the real concern for all governments and business sectors anxious for the realisation of substantial progress of the CSME should be an effective process of combined monitoring by them to ensure required compliance.
This does not have to be done publicly — unless really necessary — but quietly with set timeframes with a view to, hopefully, avoid more of the same ad nauseam post-mortem why the CSME seems stuck in the mud while our ears continue to be filled with official rhetoric of our regional “survival together” — against the odds — or “perishing collectively”.
Much criticism is often levelled — and not without relevance — about the foot-dragging politics by governments in steering a committed course in advancing the arrangements for realisation of a seamless regional economy via the CSME.
The reality, however, is that too often the regional private sector, and in particular the so-called “captains of industry” and “enlightened entrepreneurs” escape blame when such blame should be shared.
Caribbean Business Council
A good example, outside of the real and perceived “deficiencies” in the “compliance” level with respect to the CSME could well be the failure by governments and the private sector to make a reality of the long mooted and recognised need for the creation of a Caribbean Business Council (CBC).
Such a mechanism was once vigorously advocated by once very articulate and visionary spokesmen on behalf of the region’s private sector — such as Jamaica’s James Moss-Solomon and Guyana’s Pat Thompson. I have covered regional Heads of Government and ministerial meetings where leaders of governments and the region’s private sector spoke eloquently in favour of establishment of the CBC.
But sadly, while by October 25 last year we were learning of the coming establishment of a Latin America and Caribbean Business Council as an initiative of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC) — an announcement that came via Kuwait — there is yet to be some concrete evidence of regional initiatives within Caricom for the inauguration of the long promised Caribbean Business Council.
Truth is, more than the apparent need for hastening the process for inauguration of the CBC to strengthen government/business partnership for regional development, and consistent with the primary objectives of the CSME, there seems to be an urgent need for a permanent monitoring mechanism on “compliance” with provisions of the Revised Caricom Treaty on which the CSME is anchored.
But it is felt that such a process, which could be done with minor staff adjustments within the Caricom Secretariat, should be approved — perhaps at the coming first Inter-Sessional Meeting of community leaders in Suriname — but should be linked to a sanction requirement on defaults.
Other wider perspectives on the future of Caricom, and specifically realisation of the CSME, include suggestions for new invigorated approaches to deepen intra-regional investment and trade to include Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Central American states such as Costa Rica.
Further, that public-private sector partnerships could be pursued within the scope of a new arrangement for a special window being opened with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) for the blending of grants and concessionary loans along with excessive liquidity available in some countries.
The sectors to be targeted, according to such advocates who are regularly monitoring regional developments, can include maritime transport, food security with increased production of staples like root crops and rice, as well as small livestock (for sheep and goat meat) and tropical agricultural products and cultural services geared for the tourism industry.