A more active participation from the private sector and civil society is key to the full implementation of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong made this suggestion on Monday as he outlined a number of areas for improvement for the regional integration system.
“It seems to me that if we are to succeed in building our CSME the consultative mechanisms that CARICOM decided upon several years ago simply have to be implemented and made to work. I speak of the black business labour and civil society consultative council,” said Comissiong.
He was addressing a one-day regional stakeholders’ consultation on the CSME under the theme What is in it for me? at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) on Pine Plantation Road, St Michael.
Comissiong said he recognized how difficult it was to make the consultative councils work, but suggested that a part of the reason was the lack of active participation from stakeholder representatives in the private sector, civil society and labour.
“People say they want consultation, but consultation calls for work, it calls for attending meetings, not finding excuses not to be there,” said Comissiong.
He also pointed out that the inter-Ministerial consultative committee needed to be established and cannot be done in an ad hoc way, but needed a “settled mechanism that has a settled routine of meeting”, which Barbados was now finalizing.
He said there was still work to be done in solidifying the establishment of a committee of Ambassadors and making it as effective as it should be, and there was also need for better planning at the level of councils of CARICOM.
“It seems to me that we need to do some winnowing down of the agenda of these council meetings. We need to find ways of dealing with routine matters outside of council meetings so that the time can be reserved for really important issues and decisions that Ministers need to make,” said Comissiong.
“What seems to be lacking in these planning mechanisms in the past is the involvement and presence of the private sector, labour, civil society and the youth. We are now making a more concerted effort to bring these entities on board not only at the Government conference level but also at the level of the councils and to me this is very important,” he said.
He also said there was need for the formation of the Caribbean Private Sector Association “as soon as possible” and for the Caribbean Congress of Labour to be more than just an associate in name.
“Then we need to look at how we bring civil society and our youth fully on board,” he added.
Comissiong said he saw a need for a 24-hour news entity to provide news and information coverage all across the region, adding that a committee was currently looking at that possibility.
According to him there was also the need for inter-rgional travel to be more efficient and cheaper and for institutions and associate institutions of CARICOM to do a better job at communicating with the public.
“We have 18 institutions and seven associated institutions. If they all made a bigger effort to communicate to the Caribbean people that they exist and are doing good work on behalf of the people of the Caribbean we will develop an ideology of regionalism in our Caribbean Community,” said Comissiong.
Meanwhile, Secretary General of CARICOM Irwin LaRocque said the CSME was “one of the best platforms for achieving sustainable economic growth and development for member states”.
“It is the platform on which we must build international competitiveness and economic resilience for our region,” said LaRocque, adding that consultations should have regular inputs from key stakeholders to ensure what is developed is fit for purpose.
Calling for more regular meetings among stakeholders, LaRocque said while a lot of work has been taking place he was less than satisfied with the implementation at the member states level.