Remember the “formidable team” appointed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and chaired by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding to assess Jamaica’s position with regard to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)? As I noted at the launch of the CARICOM Review Commission in July 2016, the eighteen-member group consisted mostly of business people with five sixths of the Commission being men (if my Math is correct – that is only three women). It included no civil society or youth members.
Be that as it may, the Commission’s Report has now been tabled in Parliament, albeit almost a year later than when it was completed and handed to the Prime Minister (on March 30, 2017, to be exact). I have a copy of the Report and I plan to read it… It has actually been released today by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Why the delay? I have no idea. Is this a priority? Again, I know not. When will it be debated? I am not sure. NOTE: Jamaica will assume CARICOM chairmanship in July, 2018.
Here is the Statement by Prime Minister Holness in Parliament on February 7, 2018.
TABLING OF THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO REVIEW JAMAICA’S RELATIONS WITHIN THE CARICOM AND CARIFORUM FRAMEWORKS
by The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation
- Speaker, you will recall that relatively early in the term of this Administration, I mandated the establishment of a Commission to review the effectiveness of existing arrangements within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as to explore the strengthening of strategic partnerships within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks.
- The Terms of Reference were made public, but in summary, Mr. Speaker, I tasked the Commission with the important work of conducting an in-depth examination of CARICOM’s performance, while identifying those aspects of our regional engagements within the Community that have not met their intended objectives, in line with the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to advance the regional integration process.
- Additionally, the Commission was charged with evaluating the effects of Jamaica’s membership in CARICOM on the country’s economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and job creation.
- Pursuant to this mandate, the Commission was established on 20th June 2016, under the skilful Chairmanship of Mr. Bruce Golding, Former Prime Minister, who led the charge of inquiry into the existing relationship between Jamaica, CARICOM and the CARIFORUM Group, ably assisted by eighteen (18) distinguished Commission Members, and a Coordinator from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, which also provided Secretariat support to the Commission.
- Speaker, on 30th March 2017, the comprehensive Report of the Commission was presented to me by Chairman Golding. It reflected the culmination of months of research and analysis by the well capable and learned Commission Members, in consultation with eminent political figures and experts in business, academia, civil society, as well as from the public and private sectors.
- Additionally, the Commission invited and received submissions from members of the public and conducted several focus group studies in parishes across the island to gauge public awareness of, and attitudes towards CARICOM. A Youth Forum was also held at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to solicit the views of young people on CARICOM.
- Speaker, let me thank the Chairman and the Commissioners and everyone who contributed to this Report. It is timely and well received and as Jamaica assumes the Chair of CARICOM in July 2018; we intend to pursue further review, revitalization, renewal and restoration of CARICOM to increase its relevance and effectiveness.
- To advance the necessary review process, the International Relations and Trade Committee (IRTC) of Cabinet discussed the submitted Report in several meetings, under the Chairmanship of Minister Kamina Johnson Smith.
- Speaker, we take note of the fact that the Commission’s Report, which includes 33 recommendations, has been presented against the background of the establishment of CARICOM in 1973, which involved a communal vision of Caribbean integration, as well as the Revision of the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 2001 intended to establish the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
- The Report is also being submitted in a context where in 2005 CARICOM Heads took an informal decision to place the “E” in CSME on hold; and the fact that in July 2017, noting deficiencies and variance in implementation, CARICOM Heads agreed to a CSME Implementation Plan to be overseen by the Secretariat – this Plan should be taken into consideration when discussing the Report. Furthermore, we note the fact that international partners prefer to partner or work with groups of states rather than individual countries, giving rise to the importance of the CARIFORUM Group of States within the ACP framework. Speaker, we cannot operate without recognizing the influence of regional and global forces.
- In tabling this Report Mr. Speaker, I wish to underscore that the Review was not intended to seek an exit from CARICOM and from various regional arrangements, such as the CSME, but to undertake a full review of the structure, procedures and practices that have not worked effectively in the national and regional interest. The recommendations and principles of results-based management and greater public scrutiny are carefully noted. In order to increase effectiveness; a definitive commitment by all Member States to a specific, time-bound, measurable and verifiable programme of action to fulfill all their obligations and complete all requirements for the CSM to be fully established and operational within the next five years must be in place. We believe this can be aligned and accelerated, where appropriate, in accordance with the shorter timelines in the current Implementation Plan, and otherwise adjusted. Failure to do so would at that time put into question the viability of Jamaica’s continued participation in what would then have to be recognized as an ineffective CSM process, lacking the true commitment of Member States. In such circumstances, one would then have to consider how best Jamaica would be situated in the CARICOM model.
- I attach great importance to bipartisan participation and support on these issues; however, Speaker it is not my intention to ventilate the issues today. I look forward to a substantive discussion through the means of a Debate on the Report in this Honourable House, as well as in further discussions that might be appropriate for inclusion in the Vale Royal Talks, preparations for which are far advanced.
- I also look forward to discussing the report with my CARICOM Colleague Heads of Government and to receiving their feedback as well as the feedback from the Secretariat.
- Speaker, the region must boldly reposition itself within the global context for greater economic cooperation to our mutual benefit as a collective force.
- Speaker, I am confident that in completing our collective review of the Report of the CCRC, we will be able to make the right decisions, and take the necessary actions to ensure the advancement of the region through CARICOM and continued cooperation with CARIFORUM States within the framework of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. This will be imperative to ensure that Jamaica optimizes our participation in and benefits from the regional processes, particularly in terms of improvement in trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness, job creation, and the free movement of people and capital across the region.