Caricom will not meet its commitment to achieve a full single economy and single currency under the CSME by 2015, Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said yesterday, while confirming a finding by consultants that the community is at decisive crossroads.
LaRocque was at the time delivering the feature address at a Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) business luncheon held at the Regency Hotel, in Hadfield Street.
“The CSME [Caricom Single Market and Economy] was launched in 2006. One year later, we announced to the world that by 2015, we would have in place the framework of a fully functional single economy, including a single currency, namely a monetary union. That 2015 target will not be met. We made then, as we continue to make now, the same mistake we made in 1989 at Grand Anse. We set ourselves over-ambitious and unrealistic targets; targets, which by their very nature, doom us to apparent failure when they are not met,” he stated.
Ambassador LaRocque, however, pointed out that he was not suggesting that targets that allow for a leisurely pace are set, since the world is not waiting on Caricom. “But what I am suggesting is that we must set targets which take into account not only the necessity and urgency of achieving the goal, but equally important, what it takes to get there and the resources available to us to do so,” he explained.
During his address, Ambassador LaRocque noted concerns reported in Stabroek News and the regional media about a January 2012 report by a UK consulting firm, Landell Mills Ltd., which said Caricom is in crisis. The report, entitled ‘Turning Around CARICOM: Proposals to Restructure the Secretariat,’ warned that the community “could be brought down quickly” if the international economic situation worsens. It noted that many member states are highly-indebted and said further financial downturn this year could see significant funding for the Caricom Secretariat and regional institutions cut off at short notice. In addition to the danger of a loss of funding, there is evidence that over the next few years some of its 15 member states, frustrated by the pace of progress, could begin to “vote with their feet” and leave the community, it further warned.
The consultants identified too many mandates, institutional weaknesses and a lack of implementation at the level of Member States as some of the internal problems that have retarded the community. In order for Caricom to survive and eventually prosper, they recommended that there must be full and unequivocal support from member states; a focus on delivering a narrow range of specific, practical and achievable benefits over a reasonably short time span; and a credible reorganisation and strengthening of the movement, including the Secretariat and regional institutions.
LaRocque yesterday noted the impact of the international financial situation on vulnerable economies like those in the community. “It must be recognised, however, that meeting the legitimate expectations of the people of our community has become more challenging at a time when the effects of the global economic and financial crises, first felt in 2008, are still reverberating,” he said.
“I am not at all suggesting that the malaise in which we find ourselves is only and totally due to the global crises, but it certainly has exacerbated it. Also, it certainly has brought to the fore the need once again, to take stock of what we are doing and how we are doing it; how effective we are and are we delivering,” he added.
According to him, the CSME complemented by other integration pillars—Human and Social Development, Foreign Policy Coordination and Security Cooperation—still remains as relevant today as when the idea was first conceived in Grand Anse in 1989. “The CSME still represents tremendous potential to achieve the goals of growth and employment and to provide business opportunities, both with respect to manufacturing and services,” he said. “It is a vehicle through which businesses utilizing the enlarged single economic space, now with a market of some six million, could begin to expand their horizons to enhance their competitiveness and so use the regional platform as a springboard into the global environment,” he added, while noting that the market will grow to 15 million as soon as Haiti puts the necessary requirements in place to participate in the CSME. “But the CSME continues to be a work in progress, progress which has been characterized by some as being slothful,” he said, admitting that it is understandable that people of the community would be impatient, especially in times of crisis.
The Secretary General reiterated that to fulfill the objectives of the CSME and of the Community, it cannot be business as usual. Importantly, he said, the consultants’ report, which will be considered by Heads of Government at next week’s Inter-Sessional Meeting in Suriname, also indicates it is essential for the region to decide on what it can and cannot do. “There is just so much that can be done given our realities and the time has come for us to cut our suit to fit the cloth with which we have been endowed,” he said. “The community needs to prioritise. This is in keeping with the views of the Heads of Government who, at a retreat last May here in Guyana, decided on a list of priorities based on that realisation. We need to agree on these critical things that must get done; focus on them; get them done; and get them off the regional agenda so that we can take on new realistic priorities. The current mode of trying to get everything done at the same time is inefficient and contributes to gridlock, the so-called implementation deficit,” LaRocque, a Dominican, stated.
He also said that the role of the Secretariat in all this will be determined in large measure by the response of the Heads of Government to the report of the independent consultants. “However, I must make the point that the view that all things Caricom are within the purview of the Caricom Secretariat is erroneous. There cannot be responsibility without authority. A critical element in going forward, therefore, must be a clear understanding that the Secretariat can no longer be all things to all persons. If we are to be more effective, we must be focused and adequately resourced to play any role that is envisaged by our Heads of Government,” he stated.
The Secretary General, who succeeded the long-serving Edwin Carrington, said that even as some stakeholders are questioning the effectiveness of the integration arrangements, they have recognised the value of the achievements in health, education, some aspects of the single market, external trade and in foreign policy co-ordination. He said that in all of these areas, the Secretariat has been at the centre of the process. “But the Secretariat must also acknowledge its part in the failure of the Community to achieve such measures as hassle free travel and free movement of skilled Community nationals. These are issues that tug at the heart of Caricom’s people and, for many, it is the measure of successful integration,” he said.