“We have lost a year,” Arthur said while noting that the consequences for the region are and will be adverse as a result and have been already illustrated by the situation that has evolved in the financial sector. He emphasized the need for real movement in the direction of regional integration during an address at the Rotary Club of Georgetown Dinner at the Pegasus Hotel on Friday.
Arthur, who had lead responsibility for the Caricom Single Market and Economy, underpinned regional cooperation as the critical element as the region tackles the global economic crisis. But he observed that if economic integration is to become a strong force to drive Caribbean development, and is to be the means by which the regional economy is inserted into the global economy, “that process must involve the building of strong and competitive enterprises by allowing them to have access to the skills of the people of the Caribbean, wherever they are available”.
He asserted that the Caribbean has never realized its developmental potential in large measure because it has never succeeded in putting the creative imagination of its people fully to work on the region’s behalf, and according to him “that creative imagination must be liberated for the Caribbean to progress”.
The former long-serving Barbadian Prime Minister singled out labour mobility in the region as a key aspect of the integration process saying that a sound policy on the issue should be implemented in a sensitive and coherent manner, adding that when citizens move across the region for employment, they will do so in an environment within which the social benefits to which they are entitled in any one place are clearly defined and known by all.
The region, he said, needs to define and implement a decent work programme and agenda so that labour mobility can lead to social and economic progress everywhere. He noted that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) recently signed with the European Union makes a concession agreeing to a regime for the temporary movement of natural persons from the Caribbean to its markets.
According to him, that concession gives the EPA some of its worth to the region as a possible instrument for Caribbean development. Arthur said too, that the calls by some countries to revamp the social mobility aspect of the CSME because it “places a strain on their social systems” therefore seems a sharp contradiction and “quite frankly an expression of backwardness” for anyone to salute the provision of labour mobility that we have located at the centre of our efforts to build a regional economy through CSME.
Further, he said that the global crisis is occurring at a time when the region has to simultaneously radically reorder its economic relationships with its principal trading partners, while trying to reconstitute its components into the single market and economy. In both of these instances, he said, that the Caribbean ship of state is sailing in unchartered waters
Arthur said that a Caribbean solution to the economic problem which is global in source and scope will clearly depend in large measure upon the strength and soundness of the response by the international community. He declared that if that response is not sound, to the extent that it is rooted in analysis of the crisis, and if it is not strong and all-encompassing in the scope of its solutions, then areas such as the Caribbean will be left dangerously adrift.
He also observed that the global economy is both under-governed and managed in a highly democratic manner and decried the fact that Caribbean heads are still to meet to consider how the region should respond to the unfolding global crisis. He added that in the face of this economic crisis, it appears that the regional movement is at large.
Arthur served as Barbadian Prime Minister from 1994 to 2008, losing the elections last year.