CARICOM Heads: Outcomes, Questions

Caribbean Heads and CARICOM Secretariat officials at the 31st Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government held in Barbados, February 18-19. (Mohamed A. Hassim photo)

By Elizabeth Morgan

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 26 — In my article last week I addressed some of the trade and economic issues on the agenda or which should have been discussed at the 31st Intersessional Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government in Barbados, February 18-19.

With Jamaica’s Prime Minister absent, the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Trade Negotiations did not submit a report. I do not think it met. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is still preparing its Advisory Opinion on the CSME requested by the CARICOM Secretariat, which is relevant to implementation.

Following up on the Intersessional deliberations, I read the statements and communique and listened to the concluding press conference which, for me, raised concerns and questions from the trade and economic outcomes:

The Outcomes

CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)

From the communique, Heads, after reviewing CSME implementation, again expressed their determination to increase the pace of implementation considering the financial and human resource constraints. Regarding the latter, Barbados and Jamaica have offered technical support. The Heads, in addition, agreed to the following for approval at the 41st Conference of Heads in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in July:

(i) Reviewing the governance structure making it more supportive of implementation. Another Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee was established chaired by St. Vincent and the Grenadines and recommendations are to be submitted before July.

(ii) The Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME is to develop an implementation strategy and programme.

It was again emphasized that CSME implementation required the participation of all stakeholders, particularly private sector, labour, and civil society.

Engagement with Private Sector et al

Heads were informed by the private sector representative that the CARICOM Private Sector Organization (CPSO) was now established as a non-profit organization headquartered in Barbados. The CPSO is to provide, from its report, a refined strategy for increasing regional production and addressing food security. This will be done with assistance provided by Trinidad and Tobago. Recall that the CPSO is to be designated an associate institution of CARICOM.

Report of the Commission on the Economy

The Commission presented its report with proposals for building economic resilience and easing impediments to doing business in the region. Again, the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME will be reviewing these recommendations for adoption with the support of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).

Strengthening relations with Africa

Heads agreed that the CARICOM/African Union Summit will be held in Nairobi, Kenya in June 2020. This meeting will coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, June 22-27.

Some Observations/Questions

The CARICOM Heads already have a packed program of work at the national, regional and international levels. The financial and human resource constraints at the national and regional levels were acknowledged. While there is the need and desire to make progress in implementing the CSME, are some of the actions proposed by the Heads realistic within the given time frames?

Will Heads actually be able to meet once per month through any medium especially with general elections pending in various countries? Can this new Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Governance complete its work in four months?

The Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME has a very heavy work programme leading up to July. Is this Sub-Committee being assigned more than it can effectively manage?

Is there to be another new CSME implementation strategy and programme? Or, is this a revision/updating of the existing strategy/programme?

On the CPSO, more information is needed about this Organization. Who is the chair? Who are the members? How is it organized? How was their report prepared?

On relations with Africa, how is the CARICOM office in Nairobi to be staffed and financed?

I suggest that these questions should have been posed by the regional media at the press conference.

I welcome the enthusiasm which the Chair, PM Mottley, brought to this meeting. As I have said before, she displays a genuine desire to obtain results for the benefit of the people of the Region after years of delay. However, after reviewing all the actions proposed from this meeting, I am led to ask whether progress will be made on accelerated overload and with overly ambitious expectations?

(Elizabeth Morgan, who writes for CMC, is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics.)