BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Dr. Carla Barnett has acknowledged that the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) has not kept “pace with the vision of its architects” but said she remained convinced that “momentum is building towards implementing key outstanding commitments”.
Delivering the Owen S Arthur Distinguished Lecture Series on Monday night, Barnett said the momentum is also moving towards shaping a 21st century agenda that “focuses on the critical issues that must be addressed in order to deliver a sustainable future for our region and our people”.
In 1989, CARICOM leaders agreed in the need to establish the CSME as a means of deepening the regional integration movement to better respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by globalisation.
Regional leaders had expected that the initiative would have been fully implemented in 2008.
But speaking on the topic “Making the CARICOM Single Market and Economy a Lived Reality Towards Building Sustainable Economic Development and Resilience,” Barnett recalled that in 2004, the late Barbadian prime minister Owen Arthur made the point that the CSME is a work in progress.
She quoted Arthur, who died on July 27, 2020, as saying that regional decision-making must be complemented with national action, given that CARICOM is a union of sovereign nations.
“It is important to make clear that the CSME will never appear in any one place or time as a finished or finite entity, with a grand finale, complete with fireworks. Rather, it will evolve,” Arthur is reported to have said, according to Barnett.
She told the audience that this was never intended to suggest that the implementation of the CSME should be slow.
“Owen Arthur would be and was impatient of the delays and deferrals that too often characterised the way we did and do business. The good news is that he would not be alone. Our Heads of Government in their recent meetings have emphasised the need for us to speed up our implementation and strengthen collaborative efforts to reinforce our resilience as our region faces unprecedented shocks and threats,” she said.
Barnett said that over the last two and half years since the declaration of the coronavirus (COVD-19) pandemic, CARICOM has functioned as a highly collaborative mechanism with its regional institutions working, together and with national agencies, to monitor the evolution of the pandemic and coordinate information sharing.
But she said the costs imposed by the COVID pandemic and related shocks have been significant and threaten to erode the development gains achieved within CARICOM.
“More than that, the very visible threats to our food security, real difficulties in accessing medical supplies and stumbling blocks to accessing development financing at the scale and scope needed to address our vulnerability to external shocks – which are by definition not of our own making – has emphasised the need to work more effectively together within the Community and demonstrated the positive results of doing so. Hence our accelerated work on regional agricultural production, industrial policy, and strengthened south-south collaboration.”