Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Unfortunately, much of what emerged from last month's retreat in Guyana of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders was, as usual, imprecise and opaque.

What was clear, however, is that the heads of government believe, with some justification, there is a need for talking up what has been achieved by the Community, while putting on hold the additional steps necessary to establish a genuine single market and economy, "such as the creation of a single currency".

In essence, the leaders, in their 'diplo-waffle', conceded what we all know: Caribbean governments have been bad at fulfilling the obligations they set themselves.

Mr Tillman Thomas, the Grenadian prime minister, calls it an "implementation deficit", the result of an absence of the legal basis for decisions of the conference (of heads of government), supplemented by an institutional machinery with the requisite legal authority".

In other words, as a community of sovereign nations, CARICOM has failed to work out a mechanism for its members to devolve elements of their sovereignty to a centre.

An awareness of this weakness in CARICOM's structure is, of course, not new. It was a central issue on which the Ramphal Commission deliberated two decades ago and proposed a governance structure not dissimilar to what existed in the European Union (EU), to which Mr Thomas returned in his paper to his fellow heads of government at the treat. Indeed, it is a direction in which the subgroup, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, is moving.

At the wider regional level, breaking the logjam on governance, to give greater decision-making authority to a centre, based on policy directives from the heads, requires the approval of CARICOM's two most important power brokers: Jamaica, on the political front, and Trinidad and Tobago, the Community's strongest economy.

However, Jamaica's approval carries a 50-year baggage from its participation in, and central role in, the break-up of the West Indies Federation. Trinidad and Tobago has some of the concerns of Jamaica half a century ago - that it will be overrun by poor neighbours. International social and racial dynamics also impact on Port-of-Spain's attitude to deeper integration.

leadership deficit

These are real issues that CARICOM has to work through. But that notwithstanding, the Community can do and achieve more. But it suffers not only from a deficit of legal arrangements, but also of leadership - and not just from the heads of government, but also at its secretariat.

This is where another issue raised by Mr Thomas, we believe, deserves significant attention: the choice of a secretary general to replace Mr Edwin Carrington:

"The new secretary general should be capable of driving the regional integration project - one who is imbued, also, with a sense of political and diplomatic strategy, who brings to the office sufficient personal stature to be a respected, courageous and independent chief executive," the Grenada PM said.

We agree!

In this regard, our choice for the post is Mr Bharrat Jagdeo, who will leave his job as president of Guyana in August after a dozen years.

Mr Jagdeo knows his own mind, can talk frankly to the heads of government, and has a strong sense of what is important for the advance of the regional integration project. And there is precedent in the EU of choosing former political leaders to lead the Community.

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