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The time for action has gone

Sunday, March 4, 2018

“Jamaica should seek a clear and definitive commitment by all member states to a specific time-bound and verifiable programme of action to fulfil all their obligations, and complete all the requirements for the CSME to be fully established and operational within the next five years.”—Golding Committee.

The above is the first line in the recommendations of the Golding Report on the implementation (non-implementation) of the Caricom Single Market and Economy, the more than two-decade-old attempt by Caricom member states to integrate production, allow for the free movement of goods and services and people across the region to make best uses of the resources of the region, inclusive of the development of a viable export platform.

It is the only new recommendation coming out of yet another report on Caricom. It seeks to counter what the commission refers to as the “implementation deficit”—ie, that Caricom leaders have historically gone to summits and other such high-level conferences, waxed warm with regional fervour, taken decisions to advance the CSME, but as soon as they return to their countries they ignore the decisions taken.

The importance of the recommendation is that it places a time line on implementation, failure to achieve which, as indicated by the chairman of the commission, former Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding, who would himself have ignored his share of decisions taken, would result in Jamaica walking away from the CSME but remaining part of the functional elements of Caricom co-operation, having to do with matters such as health, hurricane, education, and other basic reasons for co-operation among member states. Having read only the summary of the report and its recommendations, I don’t know if the commissioners explored what’s the reasons for the “implementation deficit”.

Is it that decisions were taken without a full exploration of the implications of the same? Is it that decisions taken by the Heads of Government were not based sufficiently on research as to what is possible? Or is it the case that the refusal to implement seemingly feasible and beneficial decisions had to do with insufficient commitment to the West Indian nation?

Is it that at our core we do not trust sufficiently the Caribbean brethren across the region? It is one thing to celebrate West Indian success in cricket; another thing to truly identify as West Indian/Caribbean people, seeing togetherness as perhaps the only workable means of pooling our meagre resources to advance the cause of West Indian peoples.

Very significantly, the Golding Commission had removed from its area of consultation, discussion, and recommendation on the issue of whether or not Jamaica should sign on automatically to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice, which its government long time agreed to be part of.

By not requiring the commission to discuss and make recommendations on the CCJ, the politicians have left the matter open for political campaigning. There is an outstanding history in Jamaica about referendum on such an issue ie, the West Indian Federation. The forces of antagonism to meaningful integration had the last say on that matter.

Outside of that first recommendation quoted at the top, the vast majority of the 33 recommendations are ones which have been stated and re-stated over decades by many other “Wisemen” groups, inclusive of many of the most distinguished and committed West Indians.

The issue is whether or not commitment to time and verifiable programmes of action can force action upon member states, their leaders, and people. The Jamaican Prime Minister, the relative youngster Andrew Holness, has made the important statement that the establishment of the commission and the purpose are not to give Jamaica an opportunity to opt out but rather a reason “to optimise Jamaica’s participation in Caricom.”

But that is the easy rhetoric which Caricom leaders are good at.


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