I just read the communique coming out of the CARICOM annual Heads of Government summit.
The document dutifully details, in all of 9 paragraphs, comments at the opening ceremony.
There’s a paragraph each on the award of the Order of CARICOM (to Mr Kamaluddin Mohammed, Trinidad and Tobago, known as Mr. CARIFTA, and who “played a leading role in laying the foundation for the Community’s social, trade and economic cooperation structures, including the Single Market”) and the 8th Annual CARICOM 10K race (I never even knew they had one, but for the record, it was won by Cleveland Forde of Guyana and Tanya Nero of Trinidad and Tobago).
Bear with me here, I’m going somewhere with this.
An Amendment to the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency (the what? ) was signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Suriname, and the Secretary General of the UN sent greetings.
They discussed the global economic situation, but don’t seem to have made any decision on what to do. They did however, agree “on the need to develop a Caribbean Investment Programme to support the efforts at stabilization and growth as well as competitive production.”
What the hell does that mean? Did they decide to establish the programme or not? It sure doesn’t sound like it. They agreed that we need a programme. Maybe after another couple of summits they’ll get around to agreeing to actually establish one! And then one day, actually establish it. (If they did so agree, the writers of the communique should be more specific, I don’t take anything for granted especially when interpreting comments from politicians)).
They looked at the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and endorsed the agreements reached at the Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME on 3 July 2012.
Now, I have no idea what the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee decided, since the reports of statements made at the press conference after the meeting were full of vague nothings like this:
“”What came out of this meeting though, is a firm commitment to the CSME project, [and] it is conceded that we have some challenges to meet. We have not moved as quickly as we would have wished… There are some knotty problems which continue to bedevil us, but we must continue to wrestle them to the ground by doing some sensible prioritising.” That from Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who chaired the meeting.
The Communique helpfully adds that “With regard to the Single Economy, Heads agreed on specific elements of the Work Programme and Timetable for implementation in the short to medium term.”
The Heads also, according to the Communique, spoke about economic joint ventures, BAICO/CLICO, children and youth, HIV/AIDS, UWI, CARIFESTA, Haiti, external trade, border issues…..
They noted…they recognised…they were updated…they welcomed…YAWN!!!!!
I’m being impolite I know, but I am bored with the CARICOM Heads of Government Summit. (I covered it once or twice, and never, ever want to do so again. Lurking outside meeting rooms and sprinting after Prime Ministers with delusions of grandeur to beg a comment or two, and then attending press conferences where little or nothing is said is not my idea of a productive use of my time.)
CARICOM Prime Ministers get together twice a year and spin their wheels. Let me be clear, I am not one of those who believes that there is no value in CARICOM. There is a lot of valuable work being done and regional co-operation taking place in areas like health, education and security.
The Heads of Government summit, however, is a grand waste of time. While the technocrats work all through the year, when the Heads get together the point is to make those political decisions which are needed to move matters forward. I don’t see that happening.
I’m not alone. James Moss-Solomon, that consummate regionalist, has been also sounding increasingly weary and impatient at the inactivity of the Heads of Government.
Two of the big issues in the region right now, are the cost of energy in Trinidad and Tobago and its impact on regional trade, and the Caribbean Court of Justice. Were either of those discussed at the Summit? I don’t know, what I can tell you is that there was no mention of either in the communique.
Instead, an organization that gets little enough done in English is now requesting “the conduct of a study to examine the possibilities and implications, including costs, of introducing French and Dutch.”
The Heads apparently did not endorse Trinidad and Tobago’s proposal to accede to the CCJ on criminal matters only. I say apparently, because there is no mention of that important issue in the communique. The Barbados Nation’s editorial comments on its surprising absence from the communique.
Is it really surprising though?
And are we surprised at the growing apathy towards CARICOM and ignorance of its work?
I don’t think CARICOM is either irrelevant or outdated. But our leaders certainly go out of their way to make it appear so.