Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Editorial | Rebalance CARICOM review committee

Published:Friday | July 8, 2016 | 7:00 AM

We have been credibly informed that Roderick Rainford is alive and in reasonably good health. So, too, is Byron Blake. For those who do not know, Messrs Rainford and Blake are distinguished Jamaicans.

But more relevant to the specific circumstance, both are exceedingly knowledgeable about the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and broader matters of regional integration and Caribbean affairs. They have lived it.

Mr Rainford served briefly, in the early 1990s, as governor of Jamaica's central bank. Before that, he served for nearly a decade, between 1983 and 1992, as secretary general of CARICOM before he was succeeded by the Trinidadian Edwin Carrington.

Mr Blake, on the other hand, worked for more than three decades in the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana, starting as a research economist. When he retired in 2004, he was assistant general secretary, with responsibility for regional trade and economic integration. He periodically writes on the Community and matters relevant to Caribbean economic integration.

We have invoked the names of these gentlemen in the context of Prime Minister Andrew Holness' committee, chaired by Bruce Golding, a former prime minister, which has been mandated to review Jamaica's 43-year participation in CARICOM, the benefits it has derived therefrom, and what should be the country's strategy for extracting better value from its membership in the Community. The 18-member Golding task force began its work this week.

 

QUALIFIED GROUP

 

The group appointed by the prime minister - though large and potentially operationally unwieldy - consists of eminent and qualified people, representing institutions and interests that have legitimate stakes in what value Jamaica is able to extract from the regional single market and economy as well as the areas of functional cooperation encompassed in the CARICOM regime. But none of the members of the group is like, say, Messrs Rainford and Blake, an immediately identifiable CARICOM expert or a person with known sympathies for regional economic integration. Which, of course, is not to say that none is.

 

BENEFIT TO TASKFORCE

 

Rather, it is our contention that the deliberations of the task force would benefit from the kind of institutional, specialist inclination of either, or both, of these two men, or someone, if he is capable, willing or available, like Alister McIntyre, the former vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), who was secretary general of CARICOM between 1974 and 1977 and is an expert in developmental economics and regional integration. This is not an exhaustive list of the kind of person who would add to the substance and discourse of the group. There are others, including some who reside outside Jamaica.

It is not too late for a rebalancing to take place. If it doesn't happen at the structure of the task force, it is incumbent on Chairman Golding to attempt to garner this kind of additional expertise and intellectual depth, and not only by way of passive invitations for people to voluntarily submit briefs. Indeed, we would expect that P.J. Patterson, the former prime minister, who is perhaps Jamaica's most committed regionalist, will be tapped for his long experience in the integration process.

Given an apparent penchant in the region to forget history, we encourage Mr Golding's group, in its analysis and in charting the way forward, to remember arrangements like the CARICOM Multilateral Clearing Facility, why it collapsed, and what would be the efficacy of a revived, but modified, mechanism to suit these times, in support of intraregional trade, defined as more than visible goods.