Thursday, September 01, 2011

While CARICOM is on my Mind, Meet the S-G La Rocque!

For the past couple of weeks, I've been getting "Google ALerts" on CARICOM, and almost always, it is something negative about CARICOM.

Apart from the fact that CARICOM made a statement supporting the rebels of the TNC in Libya, I continue to question the real relevance of CARICOM in the Caribbean region. Not because it does not count--far from it--but what exactly it is doing to assert itself these days.

I read that they have a new secretary-general--by name La Rocque. He has vowed, as per this article here, to do quite a number of things to dynamise CARICOM, including cutting down on international travel and using video-conferencing instead! Secondly, "overtime" is out of the window.

You would think that for an organisation that has been around since 1973, they would have a lot more going for them than free movement and a Caribbean Single Market Economy scheme. CARICOM turned 38 on 1st August, but I sense that it is difficult to really speculate on what concretely it might be remembered for. Even on free movement, I read that it is only a few days ago that a press release issued stated that Jamaicans can now travel hassle-free. This has come as a result of "incidences" involving Jamaicans -- apparently! How miscreants from a member state might affect the region's free movement is beyond me -- but that is just me.

I do not for any second want to castigate CARICOM or even compare it with ECOWAS or SADC (comparable only by member countries, where ECOWAS has 15 and SADC 14). But I am still itching to compare the free movement system currently in CARICOM and ECOWAS.

ECOWAS has had free movement of its citizens since 1979. Regrettably that has meant that during the inter-necine wars of Liberia(affecting the Mano River Union countries of Liberia/Sierra Leone/Cote d'ivoire/Guinea) of the early nineties, it meant that (child) soldiers and mercenaries could move freely through the sub-region's porous borders, as well reside in ECOWAS member states for minimum ninety-days without hindrance. That ECOWAS member states have yet to fully ratify supplementary protocols associated with free movement, including setting up committees to monitor free movement (no country has done that yet!) speaks to the considerable work on free movement ECOWAS still needs to do.

CARICOM, conversely, seems to be working hard, albeit slowly.

I cannot foresee, in the 21st century, any regional integration project that underplays free movement; it just does not work. So I want to implore that given Caribbean countries are small, and that they have the CSME working better for  them than what might be here in the ECOWAS sub-region, they get serious on the regional integration project of helping them manage globalisation and its many adverse impacts.

Statements supporting Libyan rebels are curious--at a time when even the African Union has been very slow to recognise them--and interesting: they will not make CARICOM grow to be the community it can become, so CARICOM, more grease to your elbows after your 38th anniversary on 1st August this year. But, surely, you can do better?

As to whether La Rocque can be the saviour to CARICOM observers want, we live in vain expectation!

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