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Caricom: Less talk, more action

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Over the last weekend, CARICOM Heads of State and Government concluded another Summit in Grenada. As has become customary, Prime Minister Gonsalves gave a report to the nation on the outcome, yesterday, at a press conference. We must commend the Prime Minister for consistently making the effort to update the country on any major developments.{{more}} It is something that we take for granted, but it has not always been that way, nor indeed are many of his Prime Ministerial or Ministerial colleagues so forthcoming.

It is a pity that we in the journalistic community are often so caught up in local political issues, that subjects such as those relating to CARICOM, regional integration and the like are often shunted aside, leaving the public little wiser, save for the presentations and explanations of the Prime Minister. Sadly, this was the case again on Monday; much of the limited question time taken up with local issues. Our journalists need to be more mindful of opportunities for the nation to be informed about CARICOM matters. Who is to put challenges to our leader to ensure that ordinary people understand what we are involved in, regionally?

The flip-side of this abdication of responsibility, is that we continue to complain that CARICOM is a “talk-shop”. That may well be so, but are we not guilty of complicity by avoiding discussion and our failure to probe and ask hard questions? In every one of our countries, except for any controversy, we do not seek to impress on our leaders the importance of accountability, nor the urgency of fulfilling the regional integration mandate. Our media needs to lead the way in this and not simply to be followers of a narrow local political agenda.

Having said this, the Communiqué, issued by the weekend Summit, smacks too much of “business as usual”. Yet this is precisely what our leaders were supposed to combat. The noises, on the eve of the Summit, from persons like President Jagdeo of Guyana and our own P.M. seemed to suggest that a sense of urgency was to prevail at the meeting. There is not much evidence from the communiqué of that being the case. Perhaps if one is to place a positive spin on the outcome, one can say that, at least, the decision to hold a special two-day Retreat for the Heads in Guyana in May is a step forward. Half-empty or half-full?

There is a growing sense that regional leaders are unwilling, (to use a Roman term), to “cross the Rubicon”, that is, to make definitive steps forward. Instead, (to use another Roman analogy), they seem to be like the Emperor Nero, fiddling while the city burns. It is always a case of deadlines not met, decisions delayed, or, as in this case, some special meeting to be held. All the while, our situation becomes more untenable and more incongruous. Regional integration is not a choice; it is a strategic imperative which must be pursued, subsuming any narrow national or self-serving interests.

It is difficult to reconcile the positive spin of the Leaders that we should not be “..discouraged by the often-expressed view that CARICOM was in crisis”. Instead they have urged “..that the Region be viewed as being at the crossroads of opportunity”. The problem is that if one lingers at the cross-roads for too long, those opportunities are likely to bypass us.

Our Leaders must back their words with action. They have acknowledged, in the Communiqué, that “the most urgent need is for implementing decisions already made…” When are they going to ensure that this is done?