Editorial | Is Jexit inevitable?
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, we were told by Jamaica House, intended to engage fellow Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on the recommendations of the Golding Report on Jamaica's future in the Community at their two-day half-yearly summit, which concludes in Haiti today.
What was far from clear, though, is whether Mr Holness, other than formally advising his colleagues of the conclusions of report, would advance the debate. For, Mr Holness' Government has neither indicated its own position on the report, nor engaged the public in full, robust debate on its key findings. Nor, too, have critical interests groups, such as the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the manufacturers' association, university academics and public intellectuals.
Perhaps in the aftermath of the Haiti meeting, and with the advantage of the critique of the report by St Vincent's prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, Jamaicans can get on with serious interrogation of its findings. For, the issues raised by the Golding Commission and, for that matter, Prime Minister Gonsalves', demand for discussion beyond that which is planned in Parliament.
Jamaica has long had an ambiguous relationship with CARICOM. While it remained in the Community, it often appeared, especially during Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administrations, sceptical, fearing, as the former JLP leader, Edward Seaga, used to warn, that it might prove a "back door to another attempt at the federation from which Jamaica exited in 1962".
Mr Holness has seemingly abandoned the JLP's past fears of integration, declaring Jamaica's intent to grab its fair share of any economic opportunity CARICOM has to offer. It was in that context that former JLP prime minister Bruce Golding was asked to lead the review of the integration movement. His most critical finding is that Jamaica insist on CARICOM moving at full throttle in transforming itself into the agreed single market and economy. If the task is not completed in five years, Jamaica should withdraw from the Community's trade and economic arrangements -Jexit.
"The value of regional integration, notwithstanding the current wave of economic nationalism in various parts of the world, is as relevant and useful and, perhaps, even more urgent today than it was at (CARICOM's) inception and can provide us with a more secure passage to a brighter future than each of us trying to row his boat alone," the report concluded.
The Golding proposals would require, among other things, an accelerated programme of macroeconomic and fiscal convergence, the elimination of distinction between CARICOM's lesser and more developed countries - of which Jamaica is designated among the latter - as well as sanctions, including the denial of policy loans by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), to countries that fail to meet the CSME obligations.
Prime Minister Gonsalves believes that many of the Golding Report proposals are unworkable in the absence of a CARICOM supranational executive for, which, he says, there is no appetite in the Community; or that a single economy is achievable in the absence of carve-outs for the members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, including St Vincent. He also rejects the proposal for the elimination of less-developed and more-developed country designations.
Said the St Vincent prime minister: "It is doubtful, given the current context of globalisation, the condition of the regional economies, the unequal yoking of the member states of CARICOM, and the highly unlikely attainment of an executive CARICOM commission, that a single economy can be fashioned in CARICOM now or in the foreseeable future.
"If this assessment is correct, we ought reasonably to spend our time more usefully on the attainment of the goals resident in the other pillars of CARICOM's design. In this way, our focus is likely to yield substantial results, even on modest objectives, than to be in thrall of a permanent condition of dissatisfaction because of the elusive single economy, and its essential precondition, an authoritative executive governance apparatus."
There is much to talk about.