The Secretary General argued that despite criticisms across the region, including from the media and regardless of the press headlines and claims that “CARICOM is Dead”, “CARICOM has Lost Momentum”, “CARI- COME CARI-GONE”, CARICOM is alive and on the move and is here to stay.
She said, when one examines carefully, exactly what CARICOM truly is, it would be revealed that CARICOM is not unidimensional construct, but a multi-dimensional living organism. She said that since the concept of common services drove the very first meeting of the conference of Heads, in 1963, our governments have sought to exploit the advantages to our people that could come from banding together, to provide those services.
Applewhaite expressed her view that one can make the argument, that the collapse of the (West Indies) federation, (in 1962), served as a spur, to ensure that the essential elements and benefits of integration, were not lost to the people of the region.
“Integration is not just some intellectual concept, debated over by politicians, intellectuals and bureaucrats. It is present in the University of the West Indies, producing thousands of Caribbean people, trained in a variety of disciplines to help develop our region. It is present in the Caribbean Examinations Council, CXC, preparing hundreds of thousands of our youth for a future in our region and the wider world,” said Ambassador Applewhaite.
The CARICOM acting Secretary General continued, “Integration is cooperation in health, when among other things, we can lower the cost of pharmaceuticals, through bulk purchasing, and enable the Caribbean to be the first region in the world to be rid of polio. It is the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS, recognized by the United Nations as an international best practice, which has significantly increased access to drugs, treatment and care, for those suffering with the virus.”
CARICOM she said is also about polling our skills and resources, under the coordination of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, to reach out to people in distress, in the wake of natural disasters.
The diplomat said the integration movement has equally manifested itself through the Free Trade Area, then the Common Market, and now the Single Market that by 2008 had accounted for more than 3 Billion US Dollars in intra-regional trade and provided jobs for hundreds of thousands in this region.
Applewhaite went on to outline many other features, institutions, organizations and success stories that support the case that CARICOM is a viable entity delivering results and tangible benefits to the people of the region. The other areas of functional cooperation she highlighted included the free movement of skilled persons, coordination of foreign policies, Caribbean Court of Justice, the Caribbean Development Bank, the CARICOM Competition Commission, the CARICOM Development Fund, the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards & Quality and the Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency.
These are some of the practical applications, said the Secretary General (Ag.), of functional cooperation, a concept which allows us to pool the skills and resources, existing within our member states.
She said integration has worked and continues to work for the benefit of the Community and that CARICOM cannot be judged solely on the progress of the CSME, because the score card must be balanced. The ambassador admitted that though the CSME is the flagship, of the integration movement, it is by no means the only aspect of our regional integration.