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EDITORIAL - Does CARICOM spook the PM?

Published:Tuesday | March 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller can bask in her success of having the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) intervene in the impasse between Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), although the final outcome of the initiative remains uncertain.

We wish Mrs Simpson Miller well. Not only would an amicable settlement be good for West Indies cricket, but the prime minister risked a bit of her political capital on this regional venture. But perhaps Mrs Simpson Miller was always sure of her support at home.

There is a more complex, and critical, regional matter, though, which faces the Jamaican prime minister, about which she has spoken tangentially, but of which her administration has so far not articulated a clear policy. We refer to the future of CARICOM, the regional integration project.

CARICOM is supposed to be evolving into a single market and economy among its member states. But its constituents have low, and diminishing, confidence in the project. There is this sense that the Community has stagnated.

Indeed, a report by an independent consulting group on the future of CARICOM, commissioned by the regional leaders, concluded that the Community was in danger of expiring "slowly over the next few years". The institution, the consultants said, is wracked by dissatisfaction among members, and poor finances hamper the work of the secretariat.

Of course, the consultants, whose report was reviewed by heads of government at their summit earlier this month, only reiterated what even casual observers have said for a long time.

The real issue is whether CARICOM can be fixed, or more important, whether its leaders are committed to repairing it. They, including Mrs Simpson Miller, say they are.

On her return from this month's summit in Suriname, she said: "To remain static is not an option at this time. Orderly and directed change with a clear vision should never be feared."

However, this newspaper, and we dare say the region's people, perceive a lack of clarity about a CARICOM fix on the part of Mrs Simpson Miller and her heads-of-government colleagues. They have asked the secretariat to draft a five-year restructuring plan.

What, however, is missing from that mandate are instructions that the arrangement must include a strong centre, with shared sovereignty.

Significant failure

CARICOM has lost people's confidence because of its failure to deliver the promise that conglomeration would lead to an economic breakthrough for the region. That, in part, is a result of CARICOM's other significant failure: its inability to implement its policy decisions, which is inherent in its structure.

CARICOM lacks a strong centre, to which its constituent parts would cede, and share, sovereignty.

The upshot is weak and haphazard implementation, such as the failure to follow through on the free movement of labour, for which there are no consequences.

A fundamental fix of CARICOM rests, ultimately, with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, its political and economic leaders, respectively. Jamaican leadership on this matter is particularly important.

Kingston, unfortunately, is still haunted by the half-century-old ghost of the collapse of the West Indies Federation, and Mrs Simpson Miller's party, especially, is scared of accusations of resurrecting the federal experiment. The real issue for the PM should be whether she believes that the product of CARICOM is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.