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CARICOM governance structure earmarked for review

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)  Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community at their 31st Regular Meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica decided to have another look at the Community’s governance structure.

To this end, they agreed to establish a special committee to conduct a review of several proposals on governance structures that were brought to the conference table. This Committee will be assisted by a Technical Working Group and would commence work “almost immediately.”

At the final Press Conference on Wednesday evening, Chairman of the CARICOM and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Honourable Orette Bruce Golding announced that the Committee would comprise the Bureau of the Conference – the incumbent Chairman, Prime Minister of Jamaica; in-coming Chairman, Prime Minister of Grenada; and the outgoing Chairman of the Conference Prime Minister of Dominica – the President of Guyana and the Prime Ministers of St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

A Special Meeting of Heads of Government on the issue would take place in late September.

Acknowledging the challenges of the current structure, Mr Golding said any new structure adopted or adapted must have continuity and must consider the integral role of the Caribbean Community Secretariat. In this regard therefore, Mr Golding said that a review of the structure of the Secretariat would be done to ensure its effectiveness and viability.

The Secretariat, he stated, must be appropriately structured and resourced to be able to carry out its functions effectively.

He noted that over the years, the Secretariat had come under serious criticisms – some of which were unwarranted and unfair – because it had neither the autonomy nor authority to sanction Member States who did not implement decisions taken by the Conference.

On the issue of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), Mr Golding acknowledged that the pace of implementation was less than satisfactory, stating frankly that “absolute free movement will take time, although this is the ideal.”

He explained further that some countries were understandably grappling with serious issues regarding the free movement component of the CSME. Citing an example, Mr Golding explained that un-restricted movement to some smaller countries would put pressure on those countries to provide the social amenities necessary for an influx of persons from another Member States. “It is indeed a reality that some Member States have difficulty in addressing at this time,” he added.

Under the CSM, specific categories of skilled persons are presently allowed free movement across Member States who participate in the Single Market. However, gradually the band of persons is being expanded. At the 30th Conference in Guyana last year, certified domestic workers were added to the category of persons allowed to move.

Notwithstanding the challenges faced by some Member States in implementing the Free Movement component, Mr Golding pointed out that the mechanisms put in place under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to facilitate free movement should be allowed to work effectively.

Again, admitting that there were other thorny issues within the Community among Member States, Mr Golding insisted that the Revised Treaty might not be perfect but “it does provide a solid foundation for the operations of the Community.”

Referencing Article 187 of the Revised Treaty, which makes provision for dispute resolution, Prime Minister Golding urged Member States to make use of those facilities to resolve their disputes.

In addition, he also urged his colleague Heads to work in tandem with their ministries of finance when committing to implementing Conference decisions which had implications for their national budgets.

“CARICOM Heads cannot continue to function in isolation of their respective ministries of finance,” he emphasised.

The 31st Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community ended on a very positive note and Heads of Government, having thoroughly exhaled the sticking issues of the Community relaxed for another few hours to dance to the music of Bob Marley – One Love – a fitting note on which to wrap up three gruelling days of serious deliberations.

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