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CARICOM Heads in Restructuring Mood as they Begin Summit

These will be the West Indies Cricket Board, WICB and CARICOM itself, or rather it’s Secretariat, now based in Guyana.

Concerns over the CARICOM Secretariat are not new. There were instances back in the 1980s when strong calls at high regional government levels, were made for the location to be changed from Georgetown. There was also the argument that its rate of success, in terms of delivering benefits to the Caribbean citizens, was not at satisfactory levels.

Though CARICOM has indeed produced numerous success stories, it has done a poor job in communicating those benefits to the people on whose behalf they were secured. When the Community was formally established over 25 years ago, its commitments were clearly articulated in The Treaty of Chaguaramas (1973).

At the time, the Governments agreed to have as their objectives:

1. The economic integration of the Member States by the establishment of a common market regime;

2. The coordination of the foreign policies of Member States;

3. Functional cooperation, including:

•The efficient operations of certain common services

•The promotion of greater understanding among its peoples and the advancement of their social, cultural, and technological development.

In areas of education, health, culture, disaster management and security, much has been accomplished. The Caribbean Examinations Council, has always been a flagship but one that appears to be ignored or overlooked by Caribbean citizens. This is the body that has helped to make education and examinations more relevant to the West Indian people, reflective of their common realities, history and experiences. But there are more examples.

However, it has been the dismal failure of CARICOM Governments to make sense of, and bring into full operation, the promise of the Caribbean Single Market & Economy, (CSME), that has prompted much doubt about the institution’s usefulness, in recent times. As some have argued, not even the Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ, that the Heads established, has been granted the full support for implementation or better said, acceptance and endorsement as the final court of appeal for the Caribbean states.

Others have argued that CARICOM Heads have had a tendency to spend a week at a summit, discuss for hours and hours, agree to policies and treaties and then when they return home to their respective countries, find all the excuses why they cannot put into effect, what they have just agreed to. This is one of the main causes of scepticism if not scorn, by West Indian people…when it comes to CARICOM.

And of course, much of the blame has been placed at the doorstep of the Secretariat, not the leaders. So this week, the Heads all meet again, for hours and days and will no doubt arrive at decisions, to re-structure the operations of the Community generally, but also the Secretariat in particular. To guide their deliberations, they will examine the findings of the latest report, titled, “Turning around CARICOM: Proposals to restructure the Secretariat.”

The Caribbean people await the actual results.

But also on the agenda, is the governance structure and operations of the West Indies Cricket Board. This is good, but in some ways, bad. Given the huge investments made by Caribbean governments, including St. Kitts and Nevis, in the preparations to host Cricket World Cup 2007 and other international cricket events, they must be considered a crucial stakeholder, perhaps with even greater financial input than the WICB. This therefore gives them the opportunity, if not the right, to be heard.

They will certainly express dissatisfaction that despite all the effort of the special governance committee, headed by former Jamaican Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, not much has been done to improve the structure and operations of the WICB. There are those who hold the view, that the Board has lost its way, and it is not as transparent in its functioning as it ought to be, especially to the people of the region. In part, the Patterson Committee report was said to have contained recommendations that would deliver more acceptable practices and greater accountability.

What has to also be given consideration however is that too much involvement or interference in the administration of West Indies cricket by politicians or governments, may not necessarily lead to the expected results of a stronger institution. Sport administration, through direct and strong government involvement may not be the solution.

The CARICOM meeting will be held on Thursday and Friday and St. Kitts and Nevis is being represented by a three member delegation that includes Prime Minister Douglas, Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Officer, Astona Browne and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Elvis Newton.



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