Prime Minister Mia Mottley and her counterparts in CARICOM emerged seemingly upbeat from their deliberations at their 31st Inter-sessional meeting here this week.
She remarked: “This conference will come to be remembered as one in which we laid the footsteps for a number of key decisions.”
Certainly, we are heartened by her enthusiasm but as always the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
That is not to question her sincerity or that of our regional leaders, but as Mottley herself has lamented, inertia and lack of will have often hindered the much-needed progress this necessary regional integration movement can deliver.
Still, we remain hopeful.
There are a number of proposed plans coming out of the two-day summit that hold much promise for the region’s people once delivered.
Hardly did anyone miss the proposal for a new flat CARICOM roaming rate.
It would mean that a St Lucian travelling to Georgetown wouldn’t pay varying roaming charges for calls, data or text messages. As it stands now, Caribbean people are either forced to turn off their phones when travelling just next door or brace to fork out huge amounts to telecommunication companies on their return home.
No doubt Caribbean people will eagerly anticipate this new flat-rate as they continue to move up and down this region for work, business and leisure. It would certainly help to fuel social and economic activity for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
According to Mottley, the rate will cover data for popular social media platforms including those that offer messaging and calls. The rate will also include an amount of local and regional calls and over time, more services.
We hope that telecommunications companies will not just see their bottom line and possibly a reduction in their revenue, but will willingly sit at the table to hammer out a win-win deal in the interest of the Caribbean consumer they claim they so love to serve.
CARICOM leaders must ensure that this proposal does not go offline.
Another outcome which catches the attention is the proposal made by the Regional Private Sector Association and the Caribbean Congress of Labour for a comprehensive plan to ensure the region’s food security.
Despite the vast, yet-to-be-maximized agriculture power of this region, we have procrastinated on this issue of feeding ourselves adequately.
On the table is a plan to substitute 25 per cent of our food import bill – US$5 billion – over the next five years. It would include both crops and livestock.
There should no delay on this.
The Caribbean is rich in natural resources and we need to grow what we eat for several reasons. We can save money, earn revenue from exports, guarantee high quality produce, create more jobs, and reduce the spiralling rate of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart conditions that have been attributed to our dependence on imported processed foods.
Third, but not at all least, is the declaration by CARICOM heads that crime must now be confronted as a public health issue.
In April, Trinidad and Tobago is expected to host a multi-disciplinary summit of not only the leaders but virtually any interest group with an interest in restoring peace and a sense of security across member states.
Third, but not at all least, is the declaration by CARICOM heads that crime is now a public health issue and it must be confronted.
In April, Trinidad and Tobago is expected to host a multi-disciplinary summit of not only leaders but virtually any interest group with an interest in tackling this vexing issue.
This meeting could not have been convened at a more apt time.
Certainly, statistics showing that the Caribbean region, home to 8.5 per cent of the world’s population, disproportionately accounts for about 27 per cent of the world’s homicides is reason enough.
Member states are confronting issues they have never had to grapple with before at a rapid pace that demands partnership. In the face of porous borders, shifting criminal and terrorist threats, no country can succeed on its own.
We salute the CARICOM chairman – our Prime Minister – for stirring Bajan pragmatism back into the pot that is our regional integration movement and turning up the fire to bring things to a boil with the fierce urgency of now.
She is to be congratulated for her skilful leadership of heads who claim to be champions of regionalism by day and dealers in nationalism by night. We are mindful of the very strong challenges to our unity from within, stoked by the machinations of others from without.
Now we watch and wait for her toil in the vineyard to bear fruit for the benefit of us all.