I am honoured to be here with you this afternoon at the invitation of Professor Sankat to deliver this lecture and begin the series of Distinguished Lectures on our integration movement. It is a discourse that is much needed and if my understanding is correct, I look forward to hearing from some of the Region’s iconic figures on this theme.
There can hardly be a better place for such a conversation, given the long involvement and prominent role of the University of the West Indies in integration. The intellectual foundation for the modern movement emanated from this institution and some of its leading academics have continued in that tradition by contributing their thoughts, views and in many cases their time and energy towards furthering the integration process. The alumni of this institution have been providing leadership in all fields in the Region and abroad and many of those who have passed through the halls have confessed that their grounding in and support for regional integration found its genesis at the University. The Region owes a debt to UWI. More now than ever, the tradition must continue.
The nexus between this institution and the regional integration process was cemented when in 1963, trying to salvage the wreck of the Federation, the then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Eric Williams, called for a meeting of his colleague Heads of Government in the Anglophone Caribbean to discuss the future of common services. Chief among these was UWI, which was viewed as indispensable to the integration movement. Fifty years later, that characterisation still holds true.
The experiences and the knowledge that so many gained from their stint at the institution doubtlessly would have both encouraged and fortified the “regional nationalism” that existed at the time and is so needed to integrate this Region. For make no mistake, to integrate small states such as ours, united and divided by the Caribbean Sea, with disparities of capacity, in different stages of economic development, jealous of their sovereignty, and among some of the youngest nation states in the world, requires fortitude, patience and vision. Indeed, one of the most ardent devotees of regional integration, Sir Shridath Ramphal stated in a speech in 1975: “The natural state of our Caribbean is fragmentation: without constant effort; without unrelenting perseverance and discipline in suppressing instincts born of tradition and environment, it is to our natural state of disunity that we shall return.”
No surprise therefore that regional integration has had a long history of gradualism, moving, some will argue, at the pace of the slowest. Of course, it can also be argued that such a steady approach has resulted in the Caribbean Community being the longest surviving economic integration movement among developing countries and indeed second only to the European Union, globally, in longevity. That “unrelenting perseverance” of which Sir Shridath spoke, fuelled by our innate desire to come together, has ensured that this year we celebrate 40 years as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). And I am confident that CARICOM will be here to celebrate its achievements in another 40 years.
In sharing my thoughts with you this evening I will briefly trace the evolution of the integration movement, give a sense of where we are today, point to the major challenges and look to the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in real terms our integration process can be regarded as beginning eighty one years ago, given that it was in 1932 that the first concrete proposals for Caribbean unity were put forward at a meeting of Caribbean labour leaders in Roseau, Dominica.
It was the labour movement which championed and pioneered integration as a means of self-governance for the West Indian territories. At congresses in the late 1920s and 1930s, Caribbean labour leaders went from discussion of the idea to actually drafting a constitution for the unified territories, aided in large measure by a young economist from Saint Lucia, Arthur Lewis, who later distinguished himself and the Region as our first Nobel Laureate.
Progress stalled with the intervention of the Second World War but shortly after its end in 1945, momentum was regained towards independence as a unit. This was the main theme of a landmark meeting which took place in 1947 at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Out of that meeting, the process began towards the West Indies Federation. This Federation would eventually involve the British colonies, with the exception of then British Guiana and British Honduras, and came into being in 1958. Its goal was Independence and some services were established to support the West Indian nation, including a Supreme Court and a shipping line. In preparing for Independence, a plan for a Customs Union was drawn up but during the four years of the Federation’s existence free trade was not introduced among the islands.
The end of the Federation in 1962 brought a close to this phase and to this approach to integration. In many ways, however, the end of the Federation led to the beginning of another chapter in the integration process which would evolve into the Caribbean Community. The need to maintain and possibly expand the Common Services that existed during the Federation was the catalyst for that (1963) Common Services Conference which I mentioned earlier. The UWI and the Regional Shipping Service along with the Caribbean Meteorological Service, which began one year later, kept the embers of integration glowing along with the so-called Little 8, comprising the Windward and Leeward Islands and Barbados which stayed together after the dissolution of the Federation.
The Little 8 folded in 1965 and later that year, the Premiers of Barbados and British Guiana and the Chief Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Messrs Barrow, Burnham and Bird respectively, agreed to establish the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). It was the first attempt to integrate through trade. The other territories joined this initiative and CARIFTA was launched in 1968 along with the Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Secretariat, which became the CARICOM Secretariat.
During that period, “regional nationalism” was alive and well. It was a nationalism born out of the common desire and recognition of the imperative to forge our individual nationalism within a regional context. There was a political chemistry among our Leaders.
Eight years later, recognizing that CARIFTA could only carry us thus far, our Leaders felt confident enough to move on to a Common Market and Community and deepened the integration arrangements on the basis of three pillars: economic integration; foreign policy co-ordination and functional co-operation. The Treaty of Chaguaramas formalising this new arrangement was signed in 1973. That Treaty which reflected the aspirations of the time could only carry us so far. It included a Common External Tariff (CET) which incidentally requires Member States to give up some sovereignty. However, decisions were largely unenforceable and dispute settlement arrangements were weak. Trade barriers among members were also rampant and many of the provisions of the Treaty were best endeavour clauses.
Sixteen years later, the watershed meeting of Heads of Government at Grand Anse, Grenada in 1989, set the Region on course towards the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Grand Anse was a bold response to the circumstances of the day. The Community was faced with a changing global economic environment while the performance of the regional economy was sluggish. The traditional market for our commodities was threatened with the advent of the European Single Market, and discussions continued on the global trading arrangements. Both of these developments would result in preference erosion for the commodities the Region had come to rely on so heavily. Grant assistance was also declining. Our Leaders recognized that we needed to become more self-reliant for our development. A deeper form of integration was the logical answer to those challenges.
To accommodate this even deeper form of integration, the Treaty was revised significantly and was signed in 2001. That revision of the Treaty set out the objectives for the Community, including the Single Market and Economy. These include improved standards of living and work; full employment of labour and other factors of production; accelerated, co-ordinated and sustained economic development and convergence; enhanced co-ordination of Member States' foreign policies; and enhanced functional co-operation. That last objective recognized the need for more efficient operation of common services and intensified activities in areas such as health, education, transportation and telecommunications.
In 2006, five years after the signing of the Revised Treaty, the Single Market was ushered in. Twelve of our fifteen Member States form the Single Market, while Haiti and Montserrat are working towards putting it into place.
In the midst of these various transitions in the wider Region, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), whose Members are either Member States or Associate Members of CARICOM, have also been strengthening their integration arrangements which were first codified with the Treaty of Basseterre in 1981. In many ways the OECS has moved beyond CARICOM with the Revised Treaty of Basseterre Establishing the OECS Economic Union, signed in 2010, which among other things has granted free movement of persons within the Member States. This is an integration group that has had its own single currency and institutions, such as its Central Bank, Supreme Court and Stock Exchange. There is much to be learnt from the progress being made at the level of the OECS which could assist the wider integration effort.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
The framers of the revised Treaty in crafting the elements of the CSME, also sought to address some of the short comings of the 1973 Treaty. An attempt was made to move away from unanimity in decision making; to establish a rules-based system; the dispute settlement mechanism was strengthened and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was established as a means of ensuring the rights and obligations under the Treaty are observed.
The Caribbean Community rests on four pillars, economic integration, human and social development, security co-operation and foreign policy co-ordination. All four pillars are important elements within our integration arrangements although the Treaty focusses heavily on the creation of a CARICOM Single Market and Economy and even more so, on the market dimensions of the CSME. The important dimension of the services sector was added. This was a clear recognition that the regional economy is being oriented more towards services while not minimising the continued importance of agriculture and other sectors. In that regard, human resource development is crucial in the exploitation of new opportunities arising in the services sector.
While the Treaty creates or gives rise to certain Institutions of our Community such as the CCJ, the CARICOM Competition Commission, the CARICOM Development Fund, CROSQ and CAHFSA, CARICOM’s integration architecture is not limited to those and consists of some 20 institutions. The Caribbean Development Bank and, as I mentioned before, UWI, are an integral part of our Community. All of these institutions have an important function in delivering on the objectives of our Community.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these progressive steps in regional integration have been taken against a background of an international system that has undergone a number of profound changes over the last two decades spawned by the process of globalization, itself fuelled by free trade, market liberalization and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution. These systemic changes have resulted in significant modifications to the contours and functioning of the international system and in fundamental shifts in the global balance of power. These transformative changes pose challenges to the continuing development of the Community. They also create opportunities that can be exploited to our benefit.
For CARICOM, enhancing competitiveness and expanding trade are crucial for improving the welfare of the Region. However, small developing economies like ours have structural and institutional characteristics, which affect the process of economic growth, constrain their ability to compete internationally, increase their vulnerability to external events, and limit their capacity for adjustment. These include small population, geographical dispersal, minimal export diversification and dependency upon very few export markets, inadequate infrastructure, low competitiveness, economic rigidity with high adjustment costs, high transport and transit costs, and difficulties in attracting foreign investment.
These constraints have been exacerbated by the effects of the global economic and financial crises on Caribbean economies. The impact on CARICOM States is represented by continuing sluggish growth prospects and the challenges of –
a) Rising food prices;
b) A slump in demand for traditional commodity exports;
c) Increasing unemployment rates, especially among the youth;
d) A slowdown in foreign direct investment flows;
e) Unpredictable remittance flows;
f) Rising debt and the inability to effectively service the debt; and
g) Rising fiscal deficits.
Globally, several countries have responded to the deteriorating economic environment by introducing counter-cyclical fiscal policies. However, the ability of CARICOM countries to apply such policy measures is constrained by the lack of fiscal space exacerbated by a severe debt burden. CARICOM’s debt stock currently stands at approximately US$19 billion, while the debt to GDP ratio ranges from 60 to 144 per cent for our Member States.
Debt servicing, particularly of external debt which accounts for a major percentage of the total public sector debt, continues to deprive CARICOM countries of resources that could otherwise be directed towards productive activities.
This debt situation is aggravated by the diminution of the Region’s access to concessionary financing because International Financial Institutions and the Donor Community have insisted on using GDP per capita as the sole criterion to determine whether or not a country qualifies for development support. Through this concept of “graduation” or “differentiation”, most CARICOM Member States, categorised as middle income countries, are increasingly denied access to concessionary funding and development assistance. The Community has been lobbying actively for quite some time against “graduation” solely based on our relatively high per capita income while ignoring the vulnerabilities which face small economies such as ours.
It is clear that faced with those realities, there is an imperative to come together, rather than looking inward, to be better able to meet those challenges. Our path to regional development is premised on the commitment by our Member States, to promote initiatives aimed at achieving a coordinated and strategic approach through the pursuit of increasingly coordinated policies and the combined use of the resources and capacities of the Region. Regional integration is the vehicle that the Community has chosen to take us along this path with the CSME as the engine.
The ultimate goal of the CSME is the creation of a single economic space encompassing all Member States. It has the following core regimes: free movement of skills, goods, services, and capital, and the right of establishment. It also includes abolition of exchange controls, free convertibility of currencies, an integrated capital market, convergence of macro-economic policies, and harmonised company legislation. A critical element is the harmonisation of laws and administrative practices.
To date, a lot of attention has focussed on the Single Market aspect of the CSME, perhaps since one can readily discern rights and obligations enshrined in the Treaty and because it is the easier part of creating a Single Market and Economy. However, on the macro economic issues of the Single Economy, at best, the Treaty points to best endeavours. As we move along the integration continuum from Single Market to Single Economy – an artificial distinction for purposes of implementation – it impinges more and more on national sovereignty and brings into question governance issues and possibly some sort of political integration.
The Single Development Vision adopted in 2007, envisioned the completion of the Single Economy by 2015. Once again the Community had overreached in its ambitions just as it had done at Grand Anse in 1989, which had put the operation date of the CSME at 1993. The fact is that the Revised Treaty was completed and signed 12 years after Grand Anse and the Single Market took a further five years before becoming operational in 2006. We set ourselves overambitious and unrealistic targets, which by their very nature, doom us to apparent failure when they are not met.
I am not suggesting that we set targets that allow for a leisurely pace. The world is not waiting on us. I am suggesting that we set targets which take into account not only the necessity and urgency of achieving the goal but equally important, what it takes to get there, and the resources and capacity of the entire Community to do so.
This is not to say that we have not made progress in our economic integration arrangements. All of the core regimes under the Single Market are operating, although work still needs to be done in some areas. Additionally, regional policies have been approved or are in progress in areas such as, agriculture and food and nutrition security, energy, industry, ICT and security. Work has also commenced on a policy with respect to small and medium sized enterprises. We are fairly well advanced on a regulatory framework for Financial Services and an Investment Code. These policies, once implemented by Member States, will contribute to the development of the respective sectors and to improving their competitiveness.
However, the true test of the CSME is if it has helped in solving the economic problems of the Member States. We have begun a discussion on whether the construct of the CSME addresses the immediate concerns of Member States and do we need to recalibrate and focus more on the productive sector and making our economies more competitive. I am of the view that we do. We probably have adopted a too theoretical model of economic integration. Our regional economists have long called for us to focus on production integration and on the competitiveness of our economies.
Production integration can only be achieved through the full involvement of a competitive private sector. To facilitate the private sector involvement we must address the ease of doing business across borders and within the CSME, as a whole. There is also an urgent need to strengthen the institutional capacity of private sector support organisations. These institutions are vital to give the private sector a cohesive voice at the table of decision-making in matters of interest to their members.
In the final analysis, focus must be on increasing production in order to generate income and address the standard of living in our various Member States. Key to increasing production is agriculture, export services and manufacturing. The success of these sectors is of course underpinned by affordable energy and affordable and reliable transportation services.
Ladies and Gentlemen as we forge ahead, what has emerged over these first seven years of the operations of the CSME is that the Treaty, as it now exists, may be limited as a tool to advance the integration movement and thus pass the test mentioned above. The Treaty is basically trade-based with insufficient attention paid to the Single Economy. Whereas there are clear obligations under the Treaty with respect to the Single Market, for the most part, the provisions relative to the Single Economy can ideally be described as best endeavours.
Further, the governing arrangements for the CSME have become bureaucratic, unwieldy and lethargic and we spend more time and resources discussing the same issues rather than making decisions we can effectively implement. There is need for more care and attention in the decision-making process, including an effective consultative mechanism.
I believe we have reached the stage where we must ask fundamental questions about the efficacy of the governance structures outlined in the Treaty and of the Treaty itself.
This issue is among the areas of priority being considered by the reconstituted Inter Governmental Task Force which is working towards making recommendations for further Revising the Treaty. Two of the areas are Governance of the Caribbean Community and Related Issues and the Working Methods of the Various Organs and Bodies of the Caribbean Community. What we are seeking to do is build the regional architecture for integration to ensure that it helps in the growth and development of Member States and has an impact on the lives of our citizens.
The bedrock of our governance arrangements is that we are a Community of Sovereign States, as stated a decade ago in the Rose Hall Declaration of 2003. With that in mind, the fundamental issue is how to balance that reality against the need for an effective system of governance to allow for efficient and timely implementation of decisions.
Over the years, ideas have surfaced in this regard, particularly after the 1992 report of the West Indian Commission, “Time For Action”. That report suggested a system of Commissioners empowered to enforce decisions. Latterly, the idea of a Permanent Committee of CARICOM Ambassadors, comprising individuals of sufficient rank and influence to drive the implementation process at the national level, has been put forward.
That concept envisages each Member State establishing a Regional Integration Unit, headed by an Ambassador who would be the country’s representative on the Committee. The OECS Commission is fashioned broadly along similar lines and presents an opportunity for us to observe the workings of such an arrangement.
While the Committee of Ambassadors may not be the ideal option, it is the best we can possibly achieve in the short term under the current circumstances. However, the issue of some form of supranational authority must be kept alive.
In that context, key to the functioning of any such authority is the role of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat and Community Institutions established to assist in the development of the Community.
Already in place to ensure certainty in the interpretation and application of the Treaty’s provisions is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its original jurisdiction. The Court, in its early judgements, has cemented the Community’s rules-based system, engendered a level of confidence and occasioned a shift in the way business is done in the Region’s Councils.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND WORK IN PROGRESS
Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the unintended side effects of the concentration on trade and economic aspects of our integration movement has been the tendency to judge the success of the entire movement by the efforts in those areas. Indeed in some quarters, the effectiveness of CARICOM is judged on issues related to the movement of persons or merchandise trade balances. This view is at odds even with the economic reality, given the important contribution that trade in services is making to the Region. While these issues need to be addressed, it is unfortunate that these are the criteria often used in the court of public opinion, since so much else has been achieved in the past 40 years. It has also had the effect of minimising the important role of human and social development in our societies. There have been several notable achievements in this area.
In recognition of the importance of Health to the development of our Community, the Heads of Government set up the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development under the leadership of the Chancellor of this University, the Honourable Sir George Alleyne, OCC. The Commission’s report in 2007, made the point that “a healthy population is an essential prerequisite for the economic growth and stability of the Caribbean” and stressed the importance of health to achieving the goals of economic development as enunciated in our Treaty.
The serious implications of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were pointed out by the Commission which identified one Member State in which the combined cost of dealing with diabetes and hypertension, two of the NCDs, amounted to more than US$58 million annually, an indication of the economic burden that these diseases place on our countries. It was due to leadership by CARICOM, that the ravages of the NCDs commanded global attention and action, prompting a UN High Level Forum on the issue in 2011.
In order to efficiently address the public health concerns of the Region, five regional agencies were amalgamated to form the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). CARPHA will, among other things, address the surveillance and management of communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases and public health response to disasters,. This week, the Agency is facing its first test with the outbreak of H1N1 in at least three countries.
Faced with the threat posed by HIV/Aids to our Region, and the youth population in particular, the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), established by CARICOM in 2001, has made a critical impact on reversing and stabilizing the spread of the AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean. The Caribbean also stands to be the first region in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. This is largely due to its unique governance arrangements, for which it was designated a UN Best Practice in 2004.
The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), an institution of our Community, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, continues to provide regionally and internationally recognised examinations and curricula relevant to the needs of the Region, among a raft of education services. Some of their innovative methods have been studied and introduced in third countries.
Beyond academics, the Community has developed the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) to establish standards and to provide our artisans and tradespersons with a qualification recognised throughout the Community. In order to better position the Region to be more competitive, emphasis is placed on developing quality human resources through the provision of technical and vocational training to provide the requisite skills that would satisfy the demands of the workplace. The CVQ has the potential to ensure that the Community has available to it, a regional pool of certified skilled persons. It puts the opportunities of the CSME within reach of many, given its inclusion in the free movement of skills regime in certain specified fields. It gives the lie to those who contend that the movement of skills is reserved for the elite.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Youth of our Community deserve special attention. Following the Report of a CARICOM Commission on Youth Development in 2010, a five-year CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan (CYDAP) has been created to give expression to the six CARICOM Youth Development Goals which underpin the Paramaribo Declaration on the future of youth in the Community. The Commission on Youth Development was established by Heads of Government, and following consultations with youths throughout the Community, provided a full scale analysis of the challenges and opportunities for youth in the CSME and made recommendations on how to improve their well-being and empowerment.
The Action Plan spans the areas of: education and economic empowerment; universal access to secondary education by 2016; reshaping of national education policies to reflect the life cycle approach to learning; and the establishment of integrated programmes providing employability skills, transition skills and entrepreneurial skills for youth in and out of school.
The Secretariat is collaborating with the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and Development Partners to engage, motivate and inspire entrepreneurial interest and action among youth, and to increase livelihood opportunities and employability for economically and socially marginalized youth.
The Youth of our Region is making a significant contribution in the areas of sports, music and culture in particular, all of which contribute to employment and development of our regional economy.
The Region does have a comparative advantage in culture, due to our acknowledged creativity for which we are known and respected internationally. Culture is central to the promotion of regional identity and unity, and an important component in the regional integration construct. One way that the people of the Region will feel connected and “intensely Caribbean,” with a strong sense of community and identity, is by unleashing creative and cultural appreciation, imagination and production.
The development of cultural and creative industries has been identified as one of the priority areas for job creation and growth. The diversification of Caribbean economies through these innovative, indigenous industries should be viewed as an indispensable component of any development strategy to assist Member States to make the necessary adjustments to survive in this globalised environment. The cultural and creative industries therefore present significant opportunity for building competitive export industries using local talents and resources. We now have a Regional Development Strategy and Action Plan for the Cultural Industries.
In response to the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters in our Community, we established a mechanism to co-ordinate preparedness for and relief in the event of a natural disaster, through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Their Comprehensive Disaster Management System has proven its value both in the preparation for disasters and in the aftermath with its co-ordination of relief efforts.
To strengthen relief efforts we have also created the first multi-country disaster insurance scheme in the world, through the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF). This is a not-for-profit entity, owned, operated and registered in the Caribbean for Caribbean governments. It has been able to limit the financial impact of some catastrophic natural disasters to Caribbean governments, by quickly providing short-term liquidity when a policy is triggered.
Well before climate change became a global issue, our Community began to address the need to mitigate the effects of and adapt to this phenomenon. Through the work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), the Community has become very influential in the global response to climate change, including in the formation of the Climate Fund. The work of the Centre in providing climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM Member States has been outstanding, so much so that the Centre has also been identified as a best practice internationally and now lends advice and assistance to other threatened regions.
In the area of Foreign Policy co-ordination, CARICOM has demonstrated that its influence in international affairs has far exceeded its size. Our experience has shown that when we act in concert, our collective voice in the international community is greater than the sum of its parts. Another element of this co-ordination is securing the election of CARICOM candidates for positions in international organisations in order to influence the international agenda.
We have seen the fruits of such an approach in recent times through the promotion of NCDs and the plight of Small Highly Indebted Middle Income Countries among others, put on the table by CARICOM, as major components for consideration in the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The leading role played by CARICOM in advocating for the Arms Trade Treaty at the UN, was because of our deep concern about the prevalent use of firearms by criminals in our society.
It was also CARICOM which led the way for the recognition of small and vulnerable economies as a group within the World Trade Organisation.
Additionally, the Community used its leverage to have the International Civil Aviation Organisation adopt the community of interest principle under which a country belonging to a grouping such as CARICOM, and which has no airline of its own, could designate an airline of another member of the grouping to use its route rights in the conclusion of air services agreements. That has been of inestimable value to airlines based in the Region.
We are therefore seeing that our foreign policy co-ordination can be used to address regional and national problems.
Our increasing co-ordination in foreign policy has resulted in the recognition of CARICOM as an international actor. This recognition has led to an increasing number of states seeking closer ties with the Community. Last May was the latest example of this reality when, within the space of a week, the President of China and the Vice President of the United States both came to Trinidad and Tobago to meet with regional leaders.
To make optimum use of such opportunities, the Community has established and identified the basic principles as well as the operational modalities to inform the conduct of its foreign policy coordination. One of the fundamental principles is that the pursuit of our development goals and interests must shape our external outreach. Also of importance, is that in today’s fast paced and globalized world, foreign relations are no longer the preserve of Foreign Ministries. Community foreign policy coordination therefore requires the harmonisation of messages and policies at the national level between Foreign Ministries and line ministries.
I have taken time to illustrate some of the achievements and some of the issues that we are working on as a Community. They show that he pooling of our skills and resources to bring about improvements in our circumstances and the lives of our citizens stands as testimony to the benefits of integration.
Ladies and Gentlemen, notwithstanding our achievements, of which I am proud, and plans, there are serious challenges which need to be addressed if we are to move the integration process forward and make it more meaningful to the people of our Community. Some of these challenges include,
• sustainable economic growth;
• hassle free travel;
• the high cost of energy; and
• equitable distribution of the benefits of integration, which if not adequately addressed could lead to discontent.
As we move to address those challenges, we must reach to the realisation that our national growth and development is inextricably tied to regional growth and development. Regional policies and national policies must be so intertwined as to be almost indiscernible. It is in that actualisation that our citizens will feel most acutely, that sense of being part of a Community.
A major realisation in going forward is that the current and future situation demand that we change our modus operandi and crucially, the way we think about integration. Once again we are at another juncture in the progression of our regional integration movement.
Our capacity to respond to the various challenges and to exploit such opportunities as they may bring, depend in significant measure, on the extent to which our arrangements can be strengthened. It will require first of all consistent and positive engagement in the areas selected for priority action; secondly, effective decision-making machinery; and thirdly, the capacity to deliver.
Instituting change is never easy and is more difficult if it is attempted in the face of entrenched attitudes and structures. That notwithstanding, the Community is engaged in a three year reform process that encompasses every facet of its operations. In short we are changing the way we do business. Heads of Government agreed in March 2012 that since ‘form followed function’, it was necessary to re-examine the future direction of the Community and the arrangements for carrying this forward. This includes the role and function of the CARICOM Secretariat and the Institutions of the Community.
A Change Facilitation Team has been recruited to assist me with this process of change. The Team is currently undertaking consultations in Member States on the first ever Strategic Plan for the Community. These country Consultations provide an opportunity for nationals of each Member State and Associate Member to influence the strategic direction of the Community, their Community, our Community. The five year Strategic Plan will set out a common vision and identify our priority areas of focus over the period.
Critically, it will also address issues of implementability including the roles and responsibilities of all participants in the Community architecture: namely the Conference of Heads of Government; the Ministerial Councils; the Bodies, such as the Committee of Central Bank Governors and the Budget Committee; the CARICOM Secretariat; and the Institutions; as well as issues of governance, institutional and operational arrangements and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
The Consultations on the Strategic Plan are not starting with a blank slate. They are drawing on approved policies and programmes as a starting point. These include the 2007 Single Development Vision; the Strategic Plan for Regional Economic Development, on which there was close collaboration between the Secretariat and UWI; the priorities articulated by Heads of Government themselves at their retreat held in Guyana in May 2011; and approved policies and action plans in a range of areas, such as agriculture, energy, industry, security, health, youth, ICT and Climate Change, to name a few. These policies and programmes are then taken in the context of the rapidly changing global environment that impacts our Member States, to chart the way forward.
With eight consultations complete, common themes are emerging. Included among these are:
• The need to address economic recovery and growth as a core strategy over the next five years;
• The need to strengthen governance and decision-making arrangements, beginning with the Heads of Government Conference, to secure a more effective Community;
• The need to solve the challenges with inter-regional transport, the free movement of persons including hassle free travel, as critical success factors for regional integration;
• The need to secure the Region’s future through targeted interventions in agriculture for food security, energy security, education, health and ICT;
• The need to re-ignite the fire of regionalism among our Caribbean people, through shared understanding and building of a sense of Community;
• The need to communicate fully and consistently with the people on the issues of integration; and
• The need to embrace and optimise the diversity of the people and Member States that lend to our strength as a unified Region.
As indicated, some of the sectoral issues had already been identified by Heads of Government as critical areas and appear in some form in the national plans of most Member States.
It is clear from the consultations, that the people of CARICOM remain committed to realising the potential of our integration movement, our single but diversified space, and even eventually our “United States of the Caribbean” as it has been described in some of the consultations.
On the basis of the Strategic Plan, the review and restructuring of the Secretariat, and indeed Organs and Institutions of CARICOM, will be addressed to enable the construct to deliver in a much more focussed and effective manner to the people of the Community.
This reform process is central to the future of the integration movement and Prime Minister Anthony’s call for a “big conversation” could not be more timely. It would be, he said, an opportunity to chart a new paradigm for growth, review the role and performance of our regional institutions to determine how they can help in these times and better assist us to restore growth to our economies.”
That big conversation has begun and as a former Prime Minister of this country said in calling for the establishment of the West Indian Commission, “let all ideas contend.” It affords an opportunity, for example, for a new generation of intellectuals from UWI, and other universities and organisations in the Region, to offer their views and prescriptions.
In such a conversation, voices from our civil society must be heard as the call for participatory governance in the consultations is a clear sign that the top down form of integration will not be accepted by our people.
In joining that conversation we must be prepared to examine every aspect, principle and underlying philosophy that has guided this integration movement. Should we seek to widen our fold and embrace more of our Caribbean neighbours or should we concentrate on deepening our arrangements? Can we achieve both at the same time? What are the implications for the Single Market as we forge ahead, as we must, with trade arrangements with Third States? Should sanctions be introduced as a means of enforcing compliance with Treaty provisions and decisions? What are the most appropriate governance arrangements which we must put in place in order for us to realise our full potential as a Community? And what would be the implications for such governance arrangements in a widened Community?
These questions and others must form part of the introspection that admittedly has as its fundamental premise, that regional integration is the basis for national development.
Ladies and Gentlemen, two years and six weeks ago, I assumed the position of Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community expressing in my inaugural statement that “while there was cynicism in some cases, a common thread was a commitment and belief in our integration movement, as well as hope for change.” I said then, it was a hope as Secretary-General I would strive to fuel. That hope is what guides my long term vision for our Community. It is also guided by the optimism and enthusiasm for CARICOM, by our youth in particular. It has been heartening and humbling to experience, at first hand, in my interaction with the young people in every Member State that I have visited, their desire for integration and their impatience for it to become a lived experience. I have witnessed at first hand, what Prime Minister Anthony referred to, as the integrating power of the people across our Region.
Primarily, it would be a Community in which all are involved. There would be a system of meaningful consultations from which a free flow of ideas emanate, allowing for the distillation of the best and most practical. This would help to capture the imagination and interest of all and allow the people to seize a stake in the integration process – allowing for the sense of being Caribbean to take precedence over all else. It would also lead to more efficient implementation of decisions having had the benefit of the widest possible input.
It would be a Community in which regional plans and policies are harmonised with national plans and policies. The national would become regional and the regional national.
We would have deepened the integration process, with a single economic space a reality, and a closer convergence of economic policies.
Ideally those issues that are important to the people of the Community would have been resolved. I speak here of hassle free travel, free movement, currency convertibility, and contingent rights. We have to create a Community in which the people have tangible proof that integration is working for them and that their domestic space extends from Belize in the west to Barbados in the east, from Suriname in the south to The Bahamas in the north and all in between. This would mean being able to travel freely, change their currency and have the families who move, treated to all intents and purposes, as citizens of their adopted country.
To achieve such goals we must frankly discuss and resolve the concerns of all Member States. These concerns are real as it relates to free movement in particular.
I would like to see our foreign policy co-ordination strengthened as a means of achieving our development goals.
I would like to see the CCJ embraced by all Member States, in both its jurisdictions, as a step towards completing the circle of sovereignty for the Region.
I would like to see a single CARICOM ICT Space, in which a telephone call from Port of Spain to Kingston is a local call and broadband is ubiquitous and easily accessible to all
I would like to see a community that has achieved sustainable growth and development, where there is confidence and belief in where we can go, and what we can achieve together, where its institutions are seen as reliant and integral to achieving our goal of a Community for all.
I intend to deliver a Secretariat that is strategic in outlook and efficient, effective and responsive in serving the needs of its Member States and providing leadership to the integration arrangements.
I would like to see, a Community therefore, that makes maximum use of its human resources, technology, international relations and secures the commitment of all its citizens to the integration process.
The task is ours to make this integration movement so much a lived experience that our natural state becomes one of unity. It is a task to which I have dedicated myself and invite you to join me.