With the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government currently under way in St Lucia, a call is being made for the Jamaican delegation there to take tangible steps to address what local manufacturers have described as the unfair advantages enjoyed by their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
Opposition Spokesman on Industry and Commerce, Gregory Mair, led the charge, saying for too long CARICOM has been a "talk shop" and that what was now required is action from the Jamaican Government.
Mair, in a statement released yesterday, said the cynicism by many Jamaicans towards CARICOM can only be allayed if there are tangible results from the summit now taking place in the St Lucian capital of Castries.
"If CARICOM is to survive, the man on the street must be able to recognise benefits accruing from the alliance," he warned.
"Further, the Treaty of Chaguaramas is useless unless all countries within the region recognise that, while Jamaica is an open market for their goods and services, this market will close unless they too provide easy access to allow Jamaican producers to service their consumers," Mair added.
Mair was reacting to news out of St Lucia on Wednesday that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had assured CARICOM heads of Jamaica's commitment to regional integration. Simpson Miller had also indicated that she rejected the cynicism with which CARICOM is viewed "in some circles".
Do what's necessary
Yesterday, the Jamaica Manufac-turers' Association, through its immediate past President Omar Azan, said the Jamaican Govern-ment must do "what is necessary to protect ourself and our people".
"If our Government does not stand up for our people, our people will have to stand up for ourselves ... ," Azan told The Gleaner yesterday.
He declined to give details about that option, but warned that "all I need to do is go public on a few radio stations and televisions and then you will see how quickly people will act".
Noting that the problem within the CARICOM 'family' was mainly with the move by the T&T government to provide its manufacturers with heavily subsidised electricity, he said Jamaica has often taken the lead at the regional level and suggested that the time has come to "stand up" to Trinidad.
"There has been an uneven playing field and Trinidad has held a stick over everybody's head for too long. We need strong leaders to do what is necessary," he said.