TO JUDGE from the range of issues considered and decisions unanimously taken by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community last week in Antigua, there seems a refreshing new commitment to make more meaningful and people-focused economic integration and social development in this region.
This assessment is based on the lengthy 23-page communiqué released at the conclusion of four-days of ‘summitry politics’ at the 35th annual regular Heads of Government Conference.
The summit was hosted by new Prime Minister Gaston Browne, a first-time head of government of that Eastern Caribbean nation.
Foremost among new decisions taken last week was the unanimous approval of a five-year Strategic Plan (2015-2019) with the building of economic, social, environmental and technological resilience as critical priorities.
In the works for over two years, with valuable contributions from regional experts in economic, fiscal, social and human resource development, and in collaboration with regional and international financial institutions that are traditional partners in the Community’s progress, this first-ever five-year “strategic plan” is located in a second report from what’s designated as ‘The Commission on the Economy’.
Not only did the leaders of the 15-member Community revived in Antigua the feature of a scheduled dialogue with leading representatives of the vital private sector during their summit meeting that was once the norm for this annual event. They also took two important related decisions to demonstrate perhaps a new commitment on a work plan that, hopefully, would contrast with their abysmal decision of some two years ago to place on “pause” mode once promising arrangements for a seamless regional economy, via the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), that currently attracts much cynicism among disenchanted citizens.
Two proposed initiatives, involving, among others, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and University of the West Indies (UWI—both firm pillars of support for Caricom—call for a “regional fiscal sustainability framework”, within six months and, secondly, the design of a “regional debt management mechanism”.
• As if to further demonstrate a new sense of commitment for getting things done within scheduled time-frames the Community leaders also agreed to appoint a ‘Caricom Debt Advocacy Team’.
The team’s mandate would be to advocate, on behalf of ALL member states, by collaborating with “development partners in appropriate debt relief, and/or debt amelioration arrangements for the highly-indebted CARICOM states….”
Marijuana and slavery
That pursuit would be based on approaches to “non-traditional sources of financing and to promote public/private partnerships for development of the region’s economic infrastructure with technical advice from the Inter-American Development Bank, CDB and the World Bank.
• Additionally, the Heads of Government mandated the Caricom Economic Commission (CCC) to consider the regulatory framework to promote “venture capital” and other new financial products as well as innovative financing schemes which could support a “growth agenda” that includes the particular needs of small and medium-sized businesses in the Community.
• And consistent with an earlier pledge, the Heads also agreed to establish a Regional Commission on Marijuana (RCM).
• In relation to the ongoing issue pertaining to reparations for ‘native genocide and slavery’, the summit adopted a Regional Strategic and Operational Plan for a Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme (CRJP). They also agree to despatch a ‘Draft Notice of Complaint’ under cover of a letter from Barbados’ Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, in his capacity as chairman of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Reparations, to the governments of the European Union to request the holding of a conference on reparations either by year end or early in 2015.
In the meanwhile, they are, encouragingly, prepared to stick with an earlier decision to collectively avoid “doing business as usual” with the Dominican Republic. More later.
• Rickey Singh is a noted