Next week Barbados will roll out the red carpet for the leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for their 36th regular meeting.
And given our flair for ceremony, our pride and renowned hospitality, we will no doubt pull off a world-class summit, of the standard we are now accustomed to staging, and no doubt expected for our hosting of regional and international dignitaries, such as the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who will be in attendance.
The discussions are being held under the theme – CARICOM: Vibrant Societies: Resilient Economies.
However, behind the fanciful titles, forced handshakes and plastic smiles that have become equally synonymous with these types of events, there can be no disguising the current slumber, which has befallen our much-touted CARICOM.
Indeed, the communiqué for the July 2-4 summit may already be written and even if not, we say without fear of contradiction that next week’s exercise will hardly amount to anything that will change the price of bread or milk for ordinary Caribbean people.
Indeed, while our leaders continue to pontificate and procrastinate over the seeming inevitable, the economic hardship that continues to envelope the region’s people, stifling growth, development and trade, while worsening our problem of security, intensifies.
Our dream of a vibrant CARICOM single economy also remains a distant one.
Which brings us to our Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s pronouncement this week that the single market component of the CARICOM Single Market & Economy is “on the march”.
Whilst we understand the need for our leaders to be purveyors of hope and positivism, instead of advocates of doom and gloom, it still needs to be asked and answered: What CSME road is our dear Prime Minister travelling on?
Certainly, it is not any of the bumpy streets that the average man is very familiar with!
For sure it is not Bridgetown or Stabroek market either, and it definitely cannot be Castries market, otherwise our Richard Cozier wouldn’t be searching up and down the islands for new markets that will take Pine Hill Dairy juices, without the addition of any onerous import duties.
Even if we were to hitch a ride across to Port of Spain, the buzz in Woodford Square these days is all about Jack and Kamla – so there is no time for any CARICOM, much less CSME talk.
And for all intents and purposes, our regional integration movement is blowing rather cold these days. We can’t even get a bunch of fruits from Dominica, never mind that our Secretary General’s navel string may be buried there. So if anything, Prime Minister, this region urgently needs to hold a march to remind people that it is still CARICOM, not CARIGONE.
As a people we are sick and tired of all the long talk and the lack of implementation.
For while it cannot be denied that the CSME remains the best platform for the region’s social and economic development, our leaders’ inability or unwillingness to take the proverbial bull by the horns and actually make any critical decisions in the interest of the people, has been downright disheartening.
From the hassle-filled travel, which still affects our movement from one country to the next, to the seeming lack of confidence shown in our regional court by the majority of CARICOM states, which still prefer to pledge their allegiance to the British Privy Council, even though we are now way past the colonial hour, the current atmosphere surrounding our integration is anything but inspiring.
Maybe this distrust has something to do with the fact that we can’t even get a viable regional airline going and the fact that LIAT is still on its knees while member states would faster put their money into foreign carriers.
Our lack of regional consensus doesn’t stop there. Just look at the mess we are making with our bid for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General!
Maybe, Ivor Carryl and Steven McAndrew need to return to bring back some semblance of life to the CSME Unit in Bridgetown, or it may fall to the former army brigadier turned Guyanese president, David Granger, to rein in this current crop of leaders.
We certainly hope he can, else they may all need to march – through the door – if our CSME is to have even a small chance at life.