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Involving people in Caricom plan

By Rickey Singh

 AT their 35th annual summit this past July Caricom Heads of Government unanimously approved  a “Strategic Plan for Comprehensive Development” across the 15-member regional economic integration movement.

It was the first-ever such blueprint for collective approaches in achieving the wide range of programmes for trade, economic, political, education, cultural, sport and other objectives consistent with attaining a seamless regional economy for “one people of one community”.
The community’s leaders should be aware that to achieve this laudable goal requires involvement of citizens of this region through a sophisticated communication blitz designed to make maximum use of state and private media, electronic and print. 
The question is, how committed are Caricom governments to the implementation of the wide-ranging policies and projects agreed to when they publicly announced approval of the community’s first Strategic Plan —a summary of which was posted on the website of the Georgetown-based Community Secretariat?
“Very committed,” I was quickly assured in a telephone conversation yesterday with the Community’s Secretary General and chief regional public servant, Irwin LaRocque, when I reached him in Samoa where he is participating in the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, scheduled to conclude tomorrow.
Concerns over the phenomenon of climate change and the challenges for national/regional environmental protection were among considerations that helped in shaping the community’s first Strategic Plan.
Secretary General LaRocque said he was quite conscious of the importance of pursuing an imaginative educational programme to sensitise citizens of the community to the aims and objectives of the Strategic Plan. 
He also appreciates that success would very much depend on the commitment by member governments of the regional community to make use of their resources and facilities to make worthwhile the expected efforts to inform and educate the region’s public about the core features of the plan.    
The decision to develop the plan was first taken by Caricom leaders at their Inter-Sessional Meeting in Suriname in 2012 when they agreed to re-examine “the future direction” of the community and the “arrangements” for carrying forward the vision.
The five-year plan covers the period 2015-2019 and resulted from wide public consultation across Caricom. Now that it has been approved for implementation, the leaders and relevant cabinet ministers of Caricom, along with stakeholder representatives, should demonstrate their interest in the shaping and execution of a public education programme in favour of methodical implementation of policies and programmes. 
It’s also relevant to note that the community’s Heads of Government are to benefit from formal briefings by a Commission on the Economy established to regularly report on various initiatives. These would  include formulating of a fiscal sustainability programme and reviewing the region’s business operating environment with a view to alleviating constraints to growth in member states.

/Rickey Singh is a noted Guyanese-born Caribbean journalist
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