This week’s regular annual summit of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) is a most opportune time for a serious assessment of the state of the regional economic integration movement inaugurated in Trinidad and Tobago four decades ago.
Whatever the priority issues for their agenda, it would be most disappointing for Caricom citizens to learn that sufficient time was not devoted for a clinical assessment of the plus and minus factors in efforts to keep hope alive for realization of the official commitment to building “One Community for One People.”
The founding fathers of Caricom have long ago passed away, but successive governments of what today represents a community of 15 member states must seize the moment for realistic stocktaking to determine how best to rescue the integration movement from prevailing sloth, cynicism and doubts in this year of its 40th anniversary.
There have been varying media perspectives this past week on challenges facing Caricom. Some reflected concerns stemming from an apparent lack of will to make a reality of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) promised seven years ago — after some 13 previous years of deliberations.
Others have been lamenting ongoing verbal clashes over intra-regional trade in a community that continues to move at virtual snail’s pace to achieve even 18-20 per cent of overall volume of world trade while remaining significantly dependent on foreign imports of food, amid the incessant talk about the huge potential of the region’s vital agricultural sector.
Last week, for instance, came two perspectives of the Caribbean community. First, an editorial in last Wednesday’s Jamaica Observer with the provocative title: “Is Caricom the bloc the builders rejected?”
On the following day, the Observer was reporting on a passionate reaffirmation in support of Caricom by Foreign Minister A.J. Nicholson to an earlier plea for an end to the frequent quarrels over trade between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
The arresting question of the Observer’s editorial could have been misinterpreted, without careful reading, as being unsupportive of Caricom when, in reality, it was designed to spur the regional integration movement into taking positive initiatives for advancing intra-regional trade and economic development, as being done by other trading blocs.