‘Find a way to get it done or move on’ – Ambassador LaRocque says of CSME
By Bibi Khatoon
“It’s either we get it done, find a way to get it done or move on to some other issue.”
Those were the words of Secretary-General to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque as he addressed a Regional Stakeholder consultation on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), being held at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana.
The CSME which was formulated to integrate CARICOM Member States into a single economic unit is in its twelfth year since implementation in 2006. In fact, the CSME was first envisioned at the 10th meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in July 1990.
Today, representatives from the region began a two-day workshop to talk about ways they can make the CSME more effective.
The Secretary-General in his opening remarks challenged the participants to formulate concrete recommendations at the end of the session.
“Certainly we have to move things along much faster,” he said, as he alluded to processes that have been ongoing since 2005 without any plausible outcome.
He questioned “why it has taken so long?” pointing out that “the time taken to get things done is a cost to the private sector and a cost to the credibility of the community at large.”
Ambassador LaRocque said one of the issues is the lack of prioritizing at the national level.
The CSME also aims to reduce all tariff barriers within the region to help smaller states compete on the international market. It will allow for free intra-regional movement of capital and labour among Caricom countries.
One of the first presenters at the forum was Prime Minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, who alluded to immigration challenges which still exists, including the fact that visas are still needed for CARICOM citizens to enter some member states.
He too agreed that the process is taking too long.
“I don’t believe it will happen in my lifetime,” he said, adding that there are many practical things which can be done in the meantime.
The Regional Leader outlined two reasons for the lack of progress, those being the uneven stage of development of the regional economies and the unequal burden between units of CARICOM.
The Prime Minister outlined areas of health, education, human resources development, common foreign policy, functional cooperation as areas which can see some practical work.
Also presenting was Former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding who noted that it is not the Caricom Secretariat which should be blamed for the setbacks since implementation is the work of the countries.
The participants are expected to have a closing meeting where the achievements of the two-day session will be reviewed.