HEADS OF Government of our 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) owe it to themselves and the citizens of the regional economic integration movement to engage, with haste, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony on a “crisis reality” warning he made public just recently:
In an evident ‘tell-it-like-it-is” mood, the very experienced St. Lucian Head of Government went public with his warning that some countries of CARICOM are “on the brink of collapse.”
But that’s not all. As declared the former law lecturer of the University of the West Indies and Legal Counsel to the CARICOM Secretariat in an address on October 29 to students and academics at the UWI Cave Hill Campus:
“The tragedy of the times is that we are in the throes of a major crisis like the Caribbean has never experienced before, but we are refusing to face the reality that confronts us, and all of us are engaged, in one form or another, of self-denial…”
Cheers would be in order for a CARICOM Prime Minister who, in this 40th Anniversary year of the region’s economic integration movement, has found it necessary to telegraph his ominous message of the sad “state of self-denial” in which Heads of Government are collectively gripped.
It is to be noted that Dr Anthony did not spare himself from blame. He spoke of “we” and “us”. Well, there are 15 of them, if we include the Chief Minister of Montserrat, with which Britain still maintains a colonial relationship.
Political prudence would prevent ANY of Anthony’s counterparts from publicly questioning his bold assumption and most worrying conclusion.
A question of immediate relevance, however, is whether the Prime Minister of St Lucia, known for his eloquence and expertise in addressing issues of regional interest, has considered it necessary to also confidentially communicate with his CARICOM counterparts the particular prevailing problems, challenges and attitudes that compelled him to go public with his “major crisis” warning.
The reluctance of our Heads of Government to bite the proverbial bullet in favour of deepening and widening the regional economic process is quite well known. Summoning, expediently, to their rescue the “national sovereignty” factor, for which they are known, some have been consistent in throwing up hurdles that sustain a non-action status quo.
Take, for instance, a most relevant example pertaining to the old, crying need to have in place an enlightened and efficient management infrastructure for the CARICOM Secretariat.
Here I would reference the visionary and historic ‘Rose Hall Declaration on Regional Governance” that emerged at the CARICOM Summit in Montego Bay in July 2003, under the chairmanship of then Jamaica Prime Minister, P. J. Patterson, with Dr Anthony being among the participating Heads of Government.
It was a comparative ground-breaking ‘Declaration’ to help make a reality the vision of a seamless regional economy serving, in ALL areas, “One People of One Community”.
The nine-point ‘Declaration on Regional Governance’ included plans to establish a CARICOM Commission, or a similar mechanism, armed with powers to exercise “full-time executive responsibility” for furthering implementation of Community decisions…”
The proposal was anchored among major recommendations of the 1992 report of ‘The West Indian Commission’. And a spirited debate ensued, raising hopes. However, when the time came for a decisive vote on the entire historic ‘Rose Hall Declaration on Regional Governance’, an intervention was made by a Head of Government, to the effect that they “agree in principle”.
I recalled off-the-record expressions of disappointment among some Heads of Government about the implications of bracketing “in principle” for approval of the entire ‘Declaration on Regional Governance’.
That was ten years ago. We may never know, for the record, which of the governments, or, more specifically, Heads of Government were to subsequently frustrate the realization of key elements of the ‘Rose Hall Declaration’ that perhaps explain some of today’s “crisis reality”.
We know, as boldly expressed by Prime Minister Anthony on October 29, 2013 at the UWI Cave Hill Campus, that there are member states of CARICOM on “the brink of economic collapse…”
(By Rickey Singh)