The Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) latest Heads of Government Conference ended today with a declaration from the new chairman that it was “a most successful meeting” but St Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony was not impressed.
“I cannot say this has been the best ever meeting of CARICOM in recent times. I think there was too much recycling. Recycling not just of items, not just of issues, but I get the impression that sometimes there is a lack of will to really implement decisions we have made about how we ourselves will organise, the meetings, manage the meetings of heads of governments.
“There are too many issues that come to the heads that ought to be settled at lower levels,” Anthony said in an interview as the 35th Heads of Government Conference came to an end this afternoon.
“Maybe I am impatient, maybe we need to concede more time. I certainly see willingness on the part on the heads of governments to come to term with some of the issues, but I guess my impatience is I can’t come to meetings all the time and discuss the same issues, over and over and over.
“Clearly there has to be a limit for that and something has to change.”
A few hours later, speaking at the final press conference,
CARICOM Chairman, Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, said there were several outcomes, including the decision to set up a regional team to push for debt relief for highly indebted member states.
“We are all aware of the economic difficulties being experienced across the Community and the Commission on the Economy came forward with some concrete suggestions to alleviate the situation. We look forward to the formulation of a regional fiscal sustainability framework within six months and a regional debt management mechanism,” he told members of the media.
“They also agreed to appoint a CARICOM Debt Advocacy Team to advocate on behalf of member states with development partners on appropriate debt relief and/or debt amelioration arrangements for the highly indebted CARICOM states. This initiative recognises that growing out of the current burdensome debt is not realistic for certain member states given their structural and other economic vulnerabilities.”
The leaders also agreed to pursue a resource mobilisation strategy based on approaches to non-traditional sources of finance and to promote public-private partnerships for the development of the economic infrastructure with technical advice form the Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and the World Bank.
But Browne, who came to office following his Antigua Labour Party’s victory in the June 12 general elections, said that “without doubt” the centerpiece of the summit was the approval of CARICOM’s first ever strategic plan.
He said that “landmark document”, covering 2015 to 2019, seeks to reposition the Community by identifying priorities and activities to implement them to deliver benefits to the people of the Community and to meet the challenges of the international environment.
Those priorities are building economic resilience, social resilience, environmental resilience, technological resilience, strengthening the CARICOM identity and strengthening Community governance along with coordinated foreign policy.
Among the other outcomes were: Montserrat’s announcement of its intention to accede to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas by the next meeting of the Conference, paving the way for its full participation in the Community and particularly the CARICOM Single Market and Economy; and the establishment of a regional commission on marijuana to conduct a rigorous enquiry into the social, economic health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use to advise whether the drug should be reclassified and made more accessible.
The CARICOM chairman also reported that a “frank exhange” was held over lunch with some of the leading figures in the region’s private sector which he described as “a good start to a new relationship between Heads of Government and the business community”.