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Caribbean leaders at loggerheads

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01.FEB.08

The leadership of the Caribbean Community is seriously challenged to put its house in order and collectively bring a sense of common purpose to the serious challenges confronting the people of the region. Just in this first month of the new year alone, there have been conflicting statements and positions emanating from various Heads of Government on critical issues facing the Caribbean.{{more}}

Take the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) hammered out with the European Union, with last minute initialing of the text just before the December 31st deadline. That treaty is supposed to be formally signed by Caribbean governments in the middle of March. Yet, barely a couple weeks after the agreement was hailed as a “negotiated victory”, out comes Guyana’s President Bharatt Jagdeo, claiming that in fact it was a capitulation to EU pressure, but it was only that, according to him, the region had little choice. Then just last week CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) met and called for “a review” of the negotiated agreement. There have also been signals from St. Lucia and the new government in Barbados of some discomfort with what was negotiated. What really is the situation?

LIAT is another case. We all profess how important is a regional carrier to mobility of goods and people throughout the Caribbean. Yet while the taxpayers of the region are bled to support it, getting often sub-standard service in return, some leaders seem hell bent not on correcting its shortcomings, but on providing alternatives. Can there not be a common, sensible position on this? If our governments can’t provide us with a clear focus on such a vital issue, whither the CSME?

A common foreign policy seems as difficult to achieve as finding snow in hell. In its absence we see the open divisions on relations with Taiwan or the People’s Republic of China, making us look like pawns in international power plays. Adding to this is the virtual washing of linen in public on the question of the ALBA initiative being pushed by Venezuela. Can we not have some principled common understanding? A position worked out with the best interests of our people in the forefront and not what pleases Washington? Compounding this, though, is the apparent advocacy of an anti-Washington military alliance. Our people clearly see no advantage in any military alliance, and any pact we join ought to be for the Caribbean people and not against any other nation or people.

Finally, there are the critical issues of crime and food prices. Much is said, but little positive seems to be done. Yet these are matters which affect all our citizens and which can impinge negatively on the development of the Caribbean. It is on issues like these that we urge our leaders to demonstrate faith in their people, listen to their proposals and involve them in finding solutions.

Focused, positive and creative leadership is what we demand of our governments.

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