Perfecting regional integration
Guyana Chronicle
April 30, 2003

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PERHAPS THE best thing that could be said about the declared intention of the governments of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to establish an economic union and promote efforts for a common passport for their citizens is that they appear to be more anxious to attain such objectives than the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Beyond that, the economic union pledge in particular has become a sort of mantra for leaders of that sub-region before they conclude their summit meetings, the latest of which was held last week in St John’s, Antigua.

For them to have said, as new OECS chairman Chief Minister John Osborne of Montserrat did this past weekend, that they have “mandated technicians” to investigate and report on measures to be pursued, is merely to repeat what has been said so often. It is not the rhetoric, but the action that matters.

The wider regional economic integration movement, CARICOM, has been doing much the same with repetitious assurances of efforts being made to facilitate the larger issue of freedom of movement, with a right .to live and work, as well as the introduction of a common CARICOM passport .for intra-regional travel by citizens.

As it is with some governments of the OECS, so it is for governments of the wider community - failure to take relevant steps at the national level to give substance to regional initiatives.

Those who have become cynical over contradictory moves within CARICOM, are questioning the practicalities of the OECS working towards an economic union, when governments in that sub-region, like others in the wider community, are yet to effectively resolve issues for the implementation of the much talked about Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Too many CARICOM governments have to be constantly reminded of the need to expedite measures for the realisation of the CSME, which is expected to become operational in 2005.

The OECS, as part of CARICOM, is committed to the task, as determined at the 14th Inter-Sessional meeting of CARICOM leaders in Port-of-Spain in February, to consider recommendations on “how best to perfect regional integration”.

A five-member “expert group” of leaders has been mandated to come up with realistic proposals in time for the forthcoming annual summit in Jamaica in July.

What progress, if any, has been made in fulfilling that mandate two-and-half months later, and with less than that time before the July summit in Jamaica? And what’s the priority of an OECS economic union, for instance, in relation to getting all hands on deck for the operationalisation of the CSME in the context of the most recent mandate to “perfect regional integration”?

Answers to these and other questions are relevant to removing cynicism and generating confidence in the way forward for CARICOM to reflect the most “perfect” regional integration process in facing up to the immediate and longer term challenges. (Reprinted from yesterday’s issue of the Barbados Nation)

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