ONCE again, as has happened on many occasions during its 46-year history, the leaders of the regional integration movement known as the Caribbean Community (Caricom) were compelled by circumstances facing them to acknowledge shortcomings, and re-state commitments to urgently address them.
Heads of Government, the conference communiqué from last week’s summit in the St Lucian capital, Castries, noted “the lack of urgency expressed by some states in enacting necessary legislation, and putting in place the administrative measures for implementation”.
This has to do with the effective operation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy, a mechanism which was born out of discussions taken at the summit held in Grand Anse, Grenada, in 1989.
It is said to be the engine through which the vaulting ambitions of the movement will take essential flight for the benefit of the people of the region. A fundamental pillar of these ambitions is the free movement of people and of goods through member states, several components of which call for “hassle-free travel” by the region’s citizens.
On this front, last week’s deliberations were to involve the finalisation of arrangements for the acceptance of the “Skills Certificates” of Caricom nationals wishing to move from one member-state to another. What has been the case over the years since this feature was introduced is that several countries demand that a “skills certificate” be issued in the country to which a Caricom national goes in search of jobs, despite being in possession of same from their home country.
This is just one of the lapses which last week’s summit acknowledged as being in need of those “administrative measures for implementation”.
On myriad fronts there have been stumbling blocks in the way of the realisation of the ambitions, aimed as they have been, at creating a more engaged regional public, and enhanced life prospects. This even as the conference keeps enlarging the categories of workers who can benefit.
When he hosted this conference two years ago, the Grenada prime minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, railed against what he called the “knee jerk nationalism” which stood in the way of easier access to some markets, of the goods and services being provided by others.
Since she has come on board after elections in her country in 2018, the Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has been seen as possessing an almost single-minded focus on the CSME in getting it fired up to produce the results which its original architects had in mind.
Through her advocacy, it was reported on the ground in Castries last week that the leaders had agreed to the re-engagement of a new private sector organisation, the Caricom Private Sector Organisation, and a re-invigorated Caribbean Congress of Labour. On the basis of discussions during the first working session of the summit, there is a proposal for these bodies to be engaged a “associate institutions” of the integration movement, working through the CSME.
Reporting that they have “welcomed” these latest moves, the leaders are called upon now to demonstrate the required commitment to realising the anticipated tangible results.