There is still a lot of enthusiasm for the regional integration movement among Member States and for implementing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made this clear on Thursday as he responded to questions from the media about the effectiveness of the Heads of Government Conference and progress with the CSME.
Mr. Stuart was speaking on the sidelines of the Thirty-eighth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in St. George’s, Grenada.
Mr. Stuart explained that with respect to implementing the CSME, not all CARICOM countries had the same technical and human resource capabilities, and, therefore, could not meet the required deadlines. Consequently, he said this necessitated a review of the regime at the summit “to see where we were at the level of implementation by participating Member States”.
He said that it was discovered that they were certain areas of non-compliance that could be remedied in the next six months and that they were other medium-term issues that were still to be resolved.
Concerning the views that ‘nothing was happening’ in CARICOM, Mr. Stuart admitted that such a debate would be ongoing, since there were people in the region who believed that unless the conference was front page news and had “ringing declarations”, that it was in fact, “a waste of time”.
“The truth is that we have made significant strides at the regional integration levels ever since 1965, ever since Barbados headed the initiative to establish CARIFTA. And between 1973 and now – we’re 44 years into CARICOM.
“[The region is] more highly integrated today than at any other time in its history. Our people know one another better. There are a lot more cross-border relationships. The University of the West Indies, West Indies cricket, the Caribbean Public Health Agency and Caribbean Development Bank [are] all headquartered in Barbados. All of these have helped bring the region very, very close together. The CXC has helped to bring the region closer together. And these efforts continue,” he stressed.
Mr. Stuart reiterated that although Member States had made substantial progress over the years, they were under considerable pressure and were experiencing much difficulty since the Second World War.
“These pressures have not been unique to us. These pressures have affected countries in the North Atlantic where the economic breakdown began. It should be a source of great consolation to the Caribbean that in spite of the pressures we’ve had to endure, that no CARICOM country has voted to leave CARICOM, but the role model we have in Europe has not been so fortunate.
“The British people have felt the European Union has been too burdensome for them [and] that the burdens they carry are more than the benefits they enjoy. And that is the template that we always referenced when we think about how well we’re doing in CARICOM,” the Prime Minister affirmed.