Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Editorial | Urgent: Publish the Golding report

Published:Monday | October 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM

If there is one policy issue that has differentiated Andrew Holness from his predecessor Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) prime ministers, it is his posture towards regional integration, in particular Jamaica's membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The others appeared to approach the Community with a sense of reluctance and wariness, rather than warm engagement, and at times, in the case of Edward Seaga, downright hostility. Part of the concern, as Mr Seaga used to frame it, was that some in the region, including in Jamaica, wanted to use CARICOM as a back-door return to a political federation of the West Indies, from which the JLP had extricated Jamaica in 1962.

It was also Mr Seaga's argument, at one point, that the economies of CARICOM states, even combined, were too small for it to rationally command too much of Jamaica's focus. He proposed that Jamaica pay more attention to developing economic partnerships elsewhere.

When Mr Holness' party returned to office a year and a half ago, it brought none of the grumpiness that characterised past relationships with the Community. Indeed, Mr Holness declared to be "in CARICOM", ready to fight for its share of the regional market, in which it runs a huge trade deficit, mostly because of the petroleum products it imports from Trinidad and Tobago. Even Karl Samuda, the commerce and industry minister, has muted his hair-trigger complaints of supposed non-tariff barriers and other forms of cheating against Jamaican manufacturers in CARICOM, especially Trinidad, and Tobago.

It appears that Mr Holness' Government has become so upbeat about the economic opportunities in the 15-member group that at its summit in Grenada in July, the prime minister lamented how slowly the Community was moving to transform itself into a genuine single market and economy, the CSME as envisaged by their Grand Anse Declaration of 1989 that led to a revision of the Community's treaty.

"The true expression of the realisation of the integration dream is to get the CSME going, and we have to have the resolve as leaders to do this," Mr Holness told his fellow leader. "It is how people will experience true development and prosperity. And so, Jamaica wants to urge members to seriously put our efforts and commitment behind the CSME."

 

LONG DELAY

 

It is against this background, and the sense of urgency with which Mr Holness appears to have imbued Jamaica's CARICOM relations, that we are unable to fathom the Government's long delay in publishing the report of the Golding Task Force on Jamaica's relationship with CARICOM and other regional partners. That report was delivered more than five months ago, eight months after the task force started its work.

Bruce Golding, a former prime minister, led a 17-member team in the exercise, having been told by Mr Holness to, among other things, assess the opportunities and challenges of CARICOM and what obstacles were in Kingston's way to achieving those benefits.

Unless Mr Golding's document is so bad that the administration believes its publication would be an embarrassment to the task force, we believe that its findings should provide a platform for serious discussion on a number of crucial issues facing Jamaica, CARICOM and other regional partners. Brexit is one of these issues.

Britain's departure from the European Union - the terms of which are now being negotiated - means that the CARIFORUM countries (CARICOM and the Dominican Republic) will have to negotiate a new trade regime with the UK, which will no longer be part of the Economic Partnership (EPA) between the EU and CARIFORUM. The EPA itself may require adjustment.

CARICOM, too, has to begin to think seriously on the framework of its relationship with the United States in the context of Donald Trump's unconventional presidency and its future engagement with China against the backdrop of Beijing's Belt and Road initiative.