Editorial | Private sector lazy on Golding Report
We don't know the specific organisations, including from business, labour and NGOs, that met with CARICOM leaders at their Montego Bay summit last week. Nor are we privy to what these "stakeholders" told the heads of government.
But leaders apparently appreciated the consultation so much that they recommended that a similar encounter be held at least annually and led by either the head of government with responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) which means whoever is the prime minister of Barbadosand/or the CARICOM secretary-general.
At the same time, the leaders suggested that CARICOM members establish national "consultative mechanisms", which, we expect, would be a critical point of contact for national governments on the perceptions of their citizens on the working of the community and how it can be made to serve them better. Moreover, the outcomes of the national engagements would help to inform the discourse at the regional level.
It is against this backdrop, as well as our concern for the paucity of thoughtful engagement that takes place in Jamaica on matters of regional integration, that this newspaper urges the Jamaican Government to urgently follow through on this suggestion, but for the encounters to be more frequent than the annual sessions implied in the post-summit communiquÈ. Indeed, it might be useful for these national consultations to be held parallel with the proposed quarterly meeting of CARICOM's prime ministerial subcommittee on the CSME, which the heads of government expect to "guide and invigorate" the implementation of the single market.
We, however, do not believe that leadership of this engagement ought to be dependent on the actions of governments or on formal institutional encounters. There are other ways to influence policy, including by placing compelling, fact-based arguments in the public domain.
That, unfortunately, in recent times, has not been a favoured approach by regional stakeholders, especially those in Jamaica and, in particular, the private sector, which tends to complain much about CARICOM but usually on the basis of anecdotal evidence.
The response to a review of Jamaica's relationship with CARICOM, commissioned by the Holness administration and done by a task force chaired by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, is a case in point.
The Golding Report made several far-reaching proposals for the acceleration of CARICOM's full transformation from a customs union to a single market and economy, as well as for changes in its governance arrangements. It also suggested a five-year deadline for CARICOM to act on the recommendations, lest Jamaica withdraw from the community's trade and economic agreements.
In the several months between the publication of the report and its recent debate by Parliament, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce offered a considered analysis of the report, its findings and recommendations.
It is true that the Government snipped away bits of the report that it felt were superfluous, impractical or not as urgent during the debate by the legislature. Nonetheless, the document is among the papers to be before CARICOM leaders when they convene in November, especially to discuss the CSME. Yet, again we have no sense of what the private sector makes of it, what they believe is in their interest, or what the Government should advance as its priorities.
Some private-sector leaders may have been part of the Golding task force, but in their own right. Their endorsement of the report can't automatically translate to institutional support. The private sector needs to move beyond this display of intellectual truancy, if not laziness.