Much more work still has to be done to ensure that a seamless, balanced CARICOM Single Market and Economy is in place.
This was underscored by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he officially opened the Office of Trade Negotiations, the CSME Unit and the CARICOM Development Fund, at Mall Internationale in Haggatt Hall this week.
Addressing an audience of local and regional officials, including CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Stuart said: “Those of us involved in the day-to-day operations of the Single Market recognise the complexity of the task before us, as we make our way towards the Single Economy.”
Sounding a note for regional integration, the Prime Minister, who has lead responsibility for the CSME, added: “At the level of heads of government we need to continually show our commitment to regional unity and integration, and love for CARICOM, across and beyond the span of regional institutions, as we urge the people of the region to have faith in our beliefs.”
Stuart invited officers of CARICOM, to revisit their personal mission and to have a vision for regional integration “in its broadest and most fundamental sense”, and to have a “sensitivity and understanding of issues affecting each member state and its citizens, and motivation to balance those two in the pursuit of the regional good.”
He continued: “It will be difficult to sustain the drive needed to press past the many obstacles before us without that passion for regionalism, and without the careful balance that is required. There must be greater analysis and more thorough research into the issues that concern our people.”
Conceding that the region had “much work ahead”, he maintained that although every CARICOM member state was facing significant economic challenges, this should not be allowed to dampen the pursuit of greater levels of regional integration.
“Sentimentality is not the anchor of our integration system. There are clear developmental priorities that must be addressed collectively. Though … the form of integration, its operations and terminology will change over time, our community will have to rely on those initiatives that bring positive results to citizens of this great region.
“We must learn from the mistakes of others and improve on delivery of an enhanced sense of regionalism and belonging,” he said.
He stressed that there must be cooperation and collaboration first within an organisation or institution at the local level, before “output can be generated for the benefit of others at the regional level”.
The Prime Minister said that by having three key regional organisations in such close proximity at Mall Internationale, the Barbados government would be assisted in meeting its responsibilities to CARICOM regional integration and it would also promote greater “communication and interface among the decision makers and clients”. But, what was even more important for the region, he noted, was that “it will allow for the Office of Trade Negotiations, (formerly the Regional Negotiating Machinery), to be “uniquely positioned”.
Stuart expressed the hope that as a community, regional states could find some common ground on how to best manage the CARICOM Secretariat of the future, its related institutions, and the community as a whole.
Barbados contributes approximately $13 million annually to the institutions set up by CARICOM and has lead responsibility for the Resource Mobilisation Task Force, which raises the additional funds required to fully capitalise the CARICOM Development Fund.