Caricom’s inertia: Who’s to blame?

Address by Dr. the Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Chairman of CARICOM at the Opening of the Twenty-Fifth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government at Buccament Resorts, St. Vincent and the Grenadines March 10, 2014.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) commemorated and celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year. During those forty years, CARICOM has chalked up a wide range of achievements, some of which are impressive, others modest. Of course, there have also been setbacks, disappointments and failures particularly around freedom of movement of persons, good governance and implementation issues. The accomplishments touch and concern functional cooperation, particularly in education, health, and citizenry security; trade and economic integration; freedom of movement of persons though still problematic; the coordination of public policy in the areas of renewable for energy, agriculture and tourism, air transport, financial services, and foreign affairs, and disputes-settlement through the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Still, there is a great deal left to be done to realise the full fruition of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. It is the frustrating, unfulfilled potential of CARICOM which prompts stinging critiques, including a justifiable sense in some quarters that this regional body is unequally yoked and thus allocates or distributes its benefits too unevenly.

The disillusionment of many of the critics stems, in large measure nevertheless, from their illusions about CARICOM’s nature and its institutional arrangements. So, let us begin by stating what CARICOM is not. CARICOM is not a central government for a bundle of disparate territories. It is not a unitary state; it is not a federation; it is not even a confederation. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas conceives it as a community of sovereign states. Its centre has been deliberately designed as a weak superstructure which constantly gropes for consensus. That is what the political market can bear; that is the reality which the broad citizenry in the Community has endorsed. Neither the political leadership as a collective nor the populations as a whole have an appetite for much more than what is currently on offer in the Treaty commitments. So, our political mandate is to ensure that what is fashioned in the Revised Treaty is implemented optimally. To achieve this we must first love and care for CARICOM; secondly, we must ensure that the organs of the Community work as …..To continue reading, login or subscribe now.

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