Blaming the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat for the gaps in implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is unfair, former Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding has argued.
He insisted that implementation of the region’s flagship programme is primarily the responsibility of national governments.
Golding addressed the matter frontally as a member of a high level panel that discussed the CSME during a recent two-day stakeholder consultation in Guyana, where the CARICOM Secretariat is based. It was hosted by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
The former Jamaican leader gave credit to the CARICOM Secretariat, the Community’s administrative arm, for the commendable progress it was making to push the process and its assistance to member states.
“Credit must be given to the Secretariat for the considerable efforts it has made to push the implementation process and assist Member States to fulfill their obligations. The Secretariat is often made the scapegoat for CARICOM’s failures. It is unfair to the Secretary-General and his staff. I would not want his job for five times his salary; the frustration that it must certainly cause would be hazardous to my health,” he told the well-attended session.
“Implementation is primarily the responsibility of national governments. The Secretariat dare not even appear to be inserting itself in the decision-making or implementation process of Member States.”
He added that “hardly any excuse or explanation” had been proffered by member states on their tardiness with respect to implementation.
“What is the primary cause of this malaise? Capacity or resource constraints? Lethargy? I think not! Is it lack of political will? That would suggest acceptance of the merits and necessity of doing something but an absence of the courage to do it. I think not, as well,” Golding said.
“We continue to be deceptive to each other and to the people of the community if we conceal doubts and fears of honouring our commitments while we speak so passionately about the CSME.”
Golding advised, however, that there had to be an acknowledgement that implementation action required of member states, in some cases, was complex and required far-reaching policy changes, legislative processes and executive action. He pointed out also that many member states were challenged by resource and capacity constraints.
He recommended that “we need to delve deeper than the quantitative and qualitative assessment of the progress or lack thereof of the CSME implementation. It seems to me that among most – if not all – member states (including my own), there are deep misgivings about some of the CSME provisions and requirements. It seems to me that some member states are of the view that full implementation of the CSME is likely to do them more harm than good”.
The perception and the benefits of the CSME also resonated with other participants at the consultation. From the floor, questions were raised, for example, about whether member states wanted to cede their financial independence; conflict of interest positions that may occur in the area of national interest versus regional obligations.
Golding chaired a Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. The Commission was charged with evaluating the effects of Jamaica’s membership in CARICOM on the country’s economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and job creation. Jamaica’s current leader, Andrew Holness earlier this year tabled the report of the Commission in the House of Representatives.