“We’re not delivering fast enough” -LaRocque urges quick action on crime, economic slowdown

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, speaks at the opening ceremony of the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM being held in Guyana

Underscoring the importance of addressing pressing issues affecting the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, called for urgent attention to be placed on the Region’s economic development, crime and security and international relations. LaRocque, during the opening ceremony of the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM being held at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown on Thursday, said in order for the Region to tackle its many issues, it is imperative that there be a pooling of resources.
He said there is little doubt that the search for sustained economic growth and development is foremost on the agenda of the Heads of Government while noting that CARICOM states have been “grappling with low growth, high debt and the consequent pressure on the fiscal position.”
“The efforts to combat these challenges have been hampered by such matters as de-risking and the continuing damaging effects of climatic events, among other things. Pursuing the course of action to emerge from that situation is therefore of paramount importance. I contend that dealing with those and other challenges, demands more than ever, that we work collectively and pool our resources.”
Ambassador LaRocque reminded delegates of the two-day meeting that the control of crime and the maintenance of security are critical to the growth of the region’s economy. He said it is imperative on the Community to provide citizens with a safe community; a challenge which he said has been taken up by the body. “We have taken up that challenge but some of our best efforts are being hindered by delays in our system. Starkly put, we are not delivering results as fast as we should in a number of areas.”
He stressed that crime and security is not confined to each individual territory but affects the entire region and as a result, the critical regional legal instruments awaiting finalization are needed desperately to assist in combatting crime at the national levels.
“The time is past due for the outstanding matters to be concluded with a degree of urgency. Winning the battle for a safe and secure society brings with it more opportunity for economic growth and development. It will also provide a boost for one of our major economic sectors, Tourism.”
The Secretary-General reminded delegates that the Tourism Sector is one of the primary drivers of economic growth and attracts significant investment, creates jobs and boosts the creative industry, to provide a few examples. As such, proposals for sustainable tourism development in the Region are welcomed and will continuously be part of the agenda of the heads of government.
Information and Communications Technology
Like Crime and Security, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is critical to the development and advancement of the Region. As such, Ambassador LaRocque noted that ICT remains an exciting prospect in enhancing the Bloc’s socio-economic development. He referenced the roadmap towards creating a single ICT space.
“ICT is both an enabler of development and a sector in its own right. The establishment of a Single ICT Space will provide harmonised ICT policies, legislation, regulations, technical standards, with affordable networks and universal access. This would positively affect such issues as roaming rates, as well as address spectrum and broadband matters,” he stated while quickly adding that the advancement would not “happen overnight” as it requires human and financial resources as well as technical infrastructure to achieve it.
The end product he assured will be of “tremendous benefit to consumers and businesses alike.” The CARICOM Secretary-General noted too recent international developments that have caused much discomfort and global uncertainty which could result in additional shifts in the international balance of power.
“Some of our traditional partners are at the centre of these developments. In evaluating the circumstances, we must consider such longstanding arrangements as the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the future of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).”
Therefore, he noted that with an ever-changing and unpredictable global environment, the Region must consolidate its foreign policy and refine its strategies to safeguard and advance its interests.
Citing the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, Ambassador LaRocque singled out the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). He said the Region has identified CSME as the best vehicle to promote its overall economic growth and development while noting that there has been “considerable progress” in the implementation of CSME.
“This can be seen in the legal and institutional measures and mechanisms to support the free movement of goods, services, skills, and cross-border establishment of businesses. However, there is still much to be done,” said the CARICOM Secretary-General.
He posited that the work of the CSME has been supported by the rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which provides legal certainty to its operations; the jurisprudence of which becomes increasingly important as the Region deepens its economic and commercial relations.
LaRocque noted that it is timely for the participants of the two-day Inter-Sessional Meeting to consider among other things a “comprehensive review of CSME” as was agreed to last July. He believes however, that a review of CSME must not be only about what has been done or achieved and constraining factors but about the “impact and how it has measured up to intent and expectations, and therefore how the shortcomings might be addressed.”
Additionally, the Secretary-General said that gauging the impact of integration is an integral part of the Reform Process underway in the Community while noting that reform is driving the change in the way business is done and aims to make the Secretariat, the Regional Institutions and the Member States more accountable in the conduct of their roles as Implementing Partners in the integration process.
He stressed that the key to accountability is the establishment of a monitoring, evaluation and reporting system based on the principles of Results-Based Management (RBM).
“With a US$500,000 grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), a consulting firm has been working with us in developing a Gender Sensitive CARICOM Results-Based Management System. That System includes performance scorecards, as we seek to ensure that we use an evidence-based approach that will focus on results, and allow us to track the progress of integration,” Larocque disclosed.
As a result, through indicators, achievements and roadblocks can be judged while it becomes easier to foster a results-oriented culture aimed at increasing the pace of regional integration and the impact it has on the people of CARICOM.