September 28, 2008

Caribbean lesson for Integration

US economic bailout – A Caribbean lesson for integration
Published :Friday September 26 2008
Source: Antigua Sun

NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis and its seven astronauts are now set to blast off late at night on 14 Oct., from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, for its last visit to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The flight was delayed due to Hurricane Ike. What is significant about this mission is the fact that it is the first time there is an emergency space shuttle ready to blast off if anything goes wrong. Endeavour will serve as the rescue ship for Atlantis, if there is a need.
Against the backdrop of this scientific and logistical achievement, the United States economy remains in an unfortunately precarious state of financial flux.

The US administration of President George W. Bush, has proposed a US $700 billion plan to rescue the economy. According to the President,”(the) rescue effort is not aimed at preserving any individual company or industry.” He said that government is the only entity that is capable of buying financial firms’ troubled assets, at their current low prices and holding them until their value returns to normal. His argument was based on the belief that foreclosures would rise, millions of people could lose their jobs and “ultimately our country could experience a long and painful recession.”

The desperate financial system in an election year has caused both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama to re-focus their campaign on the current crisis. Even though both say this situation should be above politics, the fact is that one of them will move into the White House in January and essential to their rise is proving to the electorate and indeed the world, that they are showing leadership during crisis by providing workable solutions.

As it stands now, more voters believe that candidate Obama has greater credibility on the issue of providing solutions for the economy. It is interesting that one of the candidates wanted to suspend their campaign because of the crisis. If this is really a proposition put forward in seriousness, then perhaps that candidate should reconsider their presidential aspirations. After all, when you are a leader you have to grapple with the most uncomfortable of situations, especially when you least expect them. My advice is to continue with the campaign and use this as an opportunity to debate the issues!

The man who is really in the hot seat is President Bush, who must find a way of convincing lawmakers and indeed the contributors to the Dow Jones index that the bailout is the approach that will work. He believes that this action will “send a signal to markets around the world that America’s financial system is back on track.” An important consideration should be that the bailout is controlled and monitored through oversight duties performed by the appropriate executive body, such as the treasury secretary of the United States, thus ensuring some degree of accountability to the taxpayers.

It would also be prudent if there is a limit placed on very large executive compensation for firms who hope to benefit from this initiative.

For Caribbean nation’s watching this dilemma unfold, it is an important lesson of what can go wrong in an open market system mixed with other variables such as bad decisions and speculations.

Within the context of the Caribbean Communities Single Market and Economy (CSME), the nations moving along this path must be mindful of the consequences of market forces and endeavour to put mechanisms in place, to address the challenges which come because of the ebb and flow of these “uncertain economic tides” in our Caribbean seas.

A significant starting point toward the regional integration of the region and financial security would be the implementation of the following recommendations:
1. The national budget for each member nation of Caricom should have an adequate allocation for the Caribbean Development Fund.
2. There should be the move to create one Caricom central reserve bank, within the next five years.
3. All member nations should implement the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal within three years
4. The process of harmonising all international economic treaties and agreements should be done within the next three years.
5. The police and other security services should be integrated to the extent of moving toward a centralised high command within the next five years.

These five suggestions are geared toward achieving the status of a unified state.

It is remarkable how we have advanced with the kind of technology which is present in the space shuttle, but we are unable to exercise the kind of business control which would lead to economic stability.

It is the hope of many, that the right decisions are made in Washington DC, to prevent the kind of economic melt-down, which would not only hurt it’s millions of citizens, but also it’s friends and neighbours around.

Clarence E. Pilgrim, is an environmentalist, advocate for human rights, educator, a senior officer in the Antigua & Barbuda Civil service and volunteer for various non-profit organisations.

His pen and speeches are consistent platforms for Caribbean integration, social policy issues, environmental protection, development of alternative energy and the careful management of our natural resources.

The above opinions are not necessarily those of the publisher, newspaper, its advertisers or employees.

September 23, 2008

Opposition in Opposition

Opposition in the Opposition
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
Published: September 21, 2008
"......Indeed, one clear example that the UNC-A is not yet ready for prime-time governance lies in the fact when the UNC was in government, it signed the document to esatabish the Caribbean Court of Justice(CCJ) but ironically, when it's role was relegated to that of Opposition, suddenly, it now refuses to support the very same CCJ legislation it previously sanctioned.The UNC-A cannot have its "cake and eat it too"; it cannot have it both ways...."
For full article see..
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

Immigration Debate

The immigration debate
Source:Nation News - Barbados
Published on: 9/21/08.

DR RALPH GONSALVES, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, last week responded to certain comments made by Prime Minister David Thompson in respect of Government's policy on the issue of freedom of CARICOM nationals to compete for jobs in Barbados.

Mr Thompson said he had already discussed the matter with the leadership of the Immigration Department as well as other agencies connected with immigration policy and practice "and I have indicated certain loopholes that need to be plugged right away". He also said unemployment in Barbados was much higher than the statistics tell us.

Dr Gonsalves, whose country is fairly high among beneficiaries of freedom of movement under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. described Mr Thompson's declaration as cutting across "both the spirit and letter" of the CARICOM Treaty and warned that the rationale for tackling Barbados' unemployment difficulties could result in serious problems for the CARICOM single market "of which Barbados is currently the major beneficiary".

Taken together, comments on both sides portend grave consequences for regional co-operation, even though several members of the CARICOM sub-sector are on course to shaping a separate alliance.

In respect of immigration policy, priority is now given to university graduates, media workers, sports persons, artistes and musicians, and provision is also made specifically for skilled workers such as reportedly constitute the vast majority of arrivals in Barbados for employment in construction and agriculture.

It has been argued, largely by proponents of a more open policy that our local labour force has not responded to opportunities in those sectors to the extent that they did in earlier times. The point has also been made that while most Barbadians maintain an excellent work ethic with high productivity and punctuality, standards have fallen to worrying levels among a growing number of employees.


Private sector employers cite those negatives as justification for hiring non-Barbadians. Some of them also argue that engaging migrant labour is less expensive than employing locals who are accustomed to a standard of living that can only be sustained by incrementally higher wages.
Mr Thompson makes the point that where local recruitment falls short, employers should turn to Barbadians living abroad instead of bringing in non-nationals. Barbadians fully support this principle in respect of qualified individuals.

However, the present debate is resolved, we should all make an effort to ensure that Barbados is never regarded as an unfriendly country in which to live, work and do business. Our country continues to encourage high net worth individuals and multinational companies to invest in this country and even to set up head offices here.

In our quest to look after our own, we must also be mindful of all those persons in our midst, who contribute substantially to our way of life. And we must exercise care in how we go about managing our industrial and investment culture and the signals we send to our neighbours and to the world.

Our CARICOM neighbours buy just over 50 per cent of this island's exports, compared with 12 per cent of Trinidad and Tobago's and four per cent of Jamaica's. These facts should not be lost on policymakers, especially now that members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are seeking closer economic ties and possibly eventual political union with Trinidad and Tobago.

It is reasonable to anticipate that such a development would indeed undermine the CSME which is already being buffeted by some members' approach to immigration policy, lack of commitment to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and conflicting attitudes to international trade relations such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).

Any further weakening of the CSME could do long-term damage to regional cooperation.

September 21, 2008

Will the New Leadership get the Region to think seriously about CCJ?

The challenge of renewal
published: Sunday September 21, 2008
Source: Jamaica Gleaner
Once the People's National Party's (PNP) leadership has settled in there are many questions to which it must turn its mind. The party has provided vital national, regional and global leadership in its 70-year history. It now has a choice between stagnation if it allows internal divisions to cripple its mission, and revitalisation if the new collective leadership can be moved by the inspiration of old.

The crises of our times require not stasis but activism. What will the winning team do about the critical situation we find ourselves in today? We live in a world where, for example, Haiti next door has to pay between US$5 million and US$6 million a month in debt service to rich countries, while the government can only afford to spend US$875,000 on the victims of four successive hurricanes/tropical storms that have killed many and devastated much. We need global economic reform as much now as in the 1970s, and Jamaica must re-establish its role in the reform movement.

In this absurd world, a food crisis exists and our own Caribbean governments are prepared to sign an economic partnership agreement with Europe to open up our economies in the same way that the IMF had forced Haiti to do in the 1980s, with the result that that country's rice industry was killed off by foreign competition, compounding its acute food crisis today.

We must not sign away rights to our markets before making ourselves more self-reliant in food. We need leadership that promotes greater self-reliance.


This global crisis has created a great strain on regionalism. How will the party's leadership mend the broken fences of CARICOM, so badly breached after just a year since the party was last in office? Different members are going their separate ways on the EPA, political unity, and food security.

Can the new leadership restore Jamaica's pride of place among the African and Pacific countries that want a better world order, now that Jamaica has decided to defect to the EPA and Europe's new global ambitions? Will the leadership elected today get CARICOM to think seriously again about the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Single Market and Economy, a CARICOM Commission, and those other vital institutions needed for mature regionalism? Is the new leadership going to reassess globalisation under the present crises of energy, food and climate change?

hard questions

There are hard questions to face about our domestic economy, as well. What will the new PNP leadership do about the all-inclusive tourism industry, which the Planning Institute of Jamaica, founded by Norman Manley, now shows to have failed the communities of these tourism parishes found to be among the poorest in the country? Will the new leadership recommit to making Jamaica achieve developed country status in a realistic time frame and, if so, how will it change our non-compliant society in which 50 per cent of property taxes, 80 per cent of company taxes and most individual income taxes, except for PAYE, are not being paid? What is the plan for the energy-efficient and climate-friendly re-industrialisation of Jamaica in which communities are integrated into production and benefit from the gains of production, and where alternative energy and greater food security are central to a sustainable economy?

fresh ideas

What new and fresh ideas will it come with towards the Jamaican diaspora and its investment potential, and how will it convert the high levels of leakage of our best educated and trained persons to overseas markets to our benefit? Can the party tap into the talents of Jamaicans in ways that show good financial returns on our investments in developing these talents so that we can produce even more talent?

What will the party's new leadership do to remove the suspicions of corruption among its ranks? How will the new PNP leadership fight to reform campaign finance laws that prevent parties from raising enormously unaccountable amounts of money in a world where transnational criminals and selfish business lobbies pervade government and politics, and where both of our parties stand accused of being caught up in that mess?

protecting social gains

How will the new party leaders protect the social gains in poverty reduction from the high cost of food and living expenses, considering that the Inter-American Development Bank has warned that the poverty rate could jump from 14 per cent to 26 per cent? Does the party have a plan to prevent social instability from breaking out, as has been the case in many countries as a result of these price rises? By what measures will the new PNP leadership cushion us against the energy and food crises without contributing to ecological disaster?

How is this new PNP going to deal once and for all with crime in all its aspects, the violent nature of society in the home and on the street, and will it take a position one way or the other on the death penalty? Will the PNP leadership restore a workable arrangement with principals for financing schools? Is the party going to emphasise family and community, and how to build peace and healthy relations between the people in them, as it has tried before?


Will the party's new leadership give better constitutional protection to the Public Service Commission from prime ministerial dictatorship, and will it stand firmly on dual citizenship so that politicians do not have a visa with which to flee to a foreign country should they be wanted to account to authorities here? Will a new-look PNP leadership restore the role of the ministry of local government and get local government reform back on track in such a way to make reform really matter to people's lives? How can the party make people have confidence in local government so that the system that Norman Manley defended 60 years ago is not abolished, as Alexander Bustamante threatened to do back then?

freshened up leadership

Will a freshened-up leadership of the Opposition produce plans to make government leaner and more effective? Will it limit the size of government to 16 persons, as it was a year ago, rather than giving jobs to everyone elected, or by nominating loyalists as a return for political favours? What plans are there for us to get more out of ministers and ministries? What plans does it have to make the executive less expensive, considering that it is the most expensive it has ever been? Does the new PNP executive intend to curb the power of its own executive in government, considering the aggrandisement of the power of the prime minister at present through the concentration of power formerly falling under separate ministries in the prime minister's hands?

scrutiny of parliament

Is the new-look PNP prepared to require that appointees to boards undergo the scrutiny of Parliament and to make sure that 'watchdog' agencies are not compromised by special interests in carrying out their responsibilities? Does it feel that it can wipe out corruption in pubic life, including that in the justice system?

Does this new leadership remain committed to its party manifesto plans of 2007? After settling its elections, the new leadership must answer these many and sometime difficult questions if it is to become a government-in-waiting.
Robert Buddan lectures in the Department of Government, University of the West Indies, Mona.

September 20, 2008

The Caribbean Court of Justice Headquarters Bill ( T&T)

1st Session of the 9th Parliament
The Caribbean Court of Justice Headquarters Bill, 2008
Source: 2008 Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

An Act to provide for the implementation by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago of the Agreement Establishing the Seat of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Offices of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission
Senate Bill 2 of 2008 ( Trinidad and Tobago)

September 10, 2008

Future of the CCJ?

Commentary: What is the future of the Caribbean Court of Justice?
By Oscar Ramjeet
Published on Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Source : Caribbean Net News
Print Version

It seems to me that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was on the back-burner for more than three years is no longer there, since it has been completely removed from the stove and is tucked away in some corner. At least the leaders of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are more concerned about OECS unity with the twin island republic, than to initiate steps to remove the Privy Council as the final court.

One wonders why so much time is being spent by Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning to jet to Jamaica, Bahamas, Belize and OECS to sensitise the leaders on his wider OECS initiative rather than to move to join the CCJ as the final court and encourage the OECS states to do likewise. Moreover, more attention is being paid on the implications of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) as to whether or not Caribbean countries should sign.
It was Trinidad and Tobago as well as Jamaica, the two largest Engllish speaking countries in the region, which were in the forefront for the regional court and both countries now seem to have little or no interest.
I recall in 1990, while I was Solicitor General of St VIncent and the Grenadines, the late Selwyn Richardson, who was the Attorney General of the twin island republic, and Bryn Pollard, former Legal Advisor to CARICOM, journeyed to St Vncent and the Grenadines to woo the James Mitchell government to join the court.
Now, after nearly 18 years, only two countries, Barbados and Guyana, enjoy the benefits of the Appellate Division of the CCJ.
Why? Is it that the governments are reluctant to take steps to put the mechanism in place to remove the Privy Council as the final court, be it by way of referenda or two thirds or three-fourths of parliamentary votes as the case may be, or they do not want to confront the electorates?
It seems to me that the governments will have to woo the opposition to support the move, but they are hesitant to do so. It should be noted that there have been changes in the administration of most countries in the region since the idea of setting up of the court was conceived.
Besides David Thompson of Barbados, there are at least four other Prime Ministers who are lawyers, Herbert Ingraham of Bahamas, Ralph Gonsalves of St VIncent and the Grenadnes and the two new leaders, Dean Barrow of Belize and Tillman Thomas of Grenada, and they should work assidiously to rid the Privy Council as the final court. The region does not only need political independence, but it is high time the Caribbean adopt a parochial approach to the development of Caribbean jurisprudence.
Caribbean jurisprudence and its promotion is not just about civil and criminal disputes and matters of public law, but the CCJ also exercises an original jurisdiction since the court is charged with the resolving disputes between Caribbean countries that are parties to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The Jamaica Labour Party was in government when the idea was mooted for the CCJ and they are back in power after more than a fifteen years and they are not taking taking steps to do so. Mr Manning is now busy switching his attention to greater heights, maybe to be the leader for the wider OECS, and is not pushing for his country to join the CCJ, although the regional court is based in Port of Spain.
The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica-born Justin Simon is advocating a joint referendum of the OECS states to determine if they should adopt the appellate jurisdiction. But this cannot be done since a decision has to be taken by each country. It might be a good idea for Simon to advise his Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer, who is now the Chairman of Caricom, to try to convince member states to join, and perhaps try to woo the Prime Minister of the country of his birth to do likewise.
In fact, Spencer told an interviewer on Observer Radio's Voice in Antigua that he does not think Antigua and Barbuda is entirely opposed to the Manning initiative. He added, "Our level of functional cooperation in the OECS is very, very high and good. As a matter of fact we have been applauded all over the world for what we have been able to accomplish at that level."
The CCJ was inaugurated in April 2005, more than three years and three months ago, with only two countries joinng, Barbados and Guyana, and there is no indication of any other 10 countries are taking steps to do so.
Besides the experienced and well qualified judges, the CCJ has an excellent support staff and top class facilties where audio files of court proceedings can be obtained hours after.
It is very unfortunate that the remaining 10 countries are not making use of the full facilities of the court, despite calls from several quarters, including the president of the CCJ, for the other countries to join, since the court is being under utililized.
I have written several articles about the CCJ, and even suggested that the authorities consider a lobbyist, perhaps an influential regionalist like Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary General, to woo the governments as well as the opposition parties to accept the CCJ as the final court of appeal in the region.

September 07, 2008

Cross- Purposes in the Caribbean

The Caribbean Pulling in different directions
Published: Jamaica Gleaner
Sunday September 7, 2008

Regionalists are confused. CARICOM leaders are supposed to be charting our future direction in a world of overlapping crises - climate change, energy, food, poverty, crime, HIV/AIDS, and unequal trade.

But, over the last year, the directions in which CARICOM governments have been taking us are conflicting and confusing. The Big Four - Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana - have failed to provide clear leadership in these troubled times.
Take these examples.

Barbados and Guyana have joined the Caribbean Court of Justice. Jamaica and Trinidad have not.

Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad want to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe. Guyana does not.

Trinidad wants a political union with the rest of the Caribbean. Jamaica and Guyana will not join.
Jamaica and Guyana have joined PetroCaribe but Trinidad and Barbados have not.


Rather than overlapping ambitions, CARICOM's Big Four are at cross-purposes.

Worse, the CARICOM project has been put aside. We have spent the past year consumed with the EPA rather than building CARICOM's structures.

The CCJ seems to be in abeyance. There is no new hope of a CARICOM Commission. The single market and economy (CSME) deadline has been put back to 2015.

One would think it makes good sense for CARICOM to deepen its own structures of political, judicial and economic unity before opening up the region to the global forces represented, say, by the EPA, forces whose benefit to the Caribbean are uncertain. We are doing the reverse.
Productive assets

We have the assets to do better as a region. Tourism, mining, oil, agriculture and manufacturing are valuable assets that the Big Four have. When we look to extra-CARICOM agreements like the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the EPA, it is because we have failed to bring these assets together.

Market access is important, but productive assets must be developed, and must be developed for our mutual benefit.

What is even more dangerous is when these extra-regional agreements undermine CARICOM.
The CBI was as much an ideological alliance that used trade preferences to divide CARICOM along Cold War ideological lines.

Now, the EPA divides the ACP and gives Europe the power to make trade rules for CARICOM.
For example, it undermines the two-year CARICOM single market and, as Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana says, fixes CARICOM's trade policy for decades to come with very little flexibility for our own management.

It is ironic that the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) should have made regional trade negotiations largely redundant and the RNM symbolic.

Jagdeo says that the EPA has altered CARICOM's foreign trade policy by compelling the region to offer the United States and Canada similar trade agreements to the EPA.

It has also locked the Caribbean into giving Europe any preferences that we give to our fellow developing countries like China, India and Brazil.

The members of the 'Little Eight' have sought their own salvation both within and outside of CARICOM.

But they, too, have been at cross-purposes. Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative of Latin America (ALBA) - Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Honduras.

Dominica subsequently joined ALBA. The Big Four have either not signed the MoU (Jamaica and Guyana) or not even signed on to PetroCaribe (Barbados and Trinidad).

Some of the 'Little Eight' countries say they will not sign the EPA in its current form (Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent, and Dominica), joining Guyana on this score, while most of the Big Four (Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados) say they will.


The latest regional scheme has also seen the same cross-purpose. Trinidad's MoU for political unity includes Grenada, Dominica, and St Vincent, but other countries are either taking a wait-and-see approach or have rejected the entreaty to join.

There are three discernible directions in which CARICOM is pulling at the same time. The Golding administration is leading the region down the path of a model of European trade and investment liberalisation that Guyana and others reject.

Trinidad is leading the region towards some appropriate form of political unity that Jamaica and Guyana are aloof to.

Guyana is charting a course of agricultural leadership under the Jagdeo initiative that the rest of the region gives little real support.

The Guyanese and Trinidad initiatives are driven from within CARICOM, while the Jamaican venture is driven by Europe. Furthermore, the first two initiatives are relevant to, and in fact, designed as responses to the global crises of energy, food and climate change.

The Euro-Jamaican venture is exactly what those initiatives are designed to mitigate. Guyana's strong objection is based on the threat to the food security of the region posed by potential European takeover of the Caribbean food market, which will increase the region's food dependency.

Regional agriculture

In 2003, Guyana took the initiative to move CARICOM's Caribbean Agricultural Policy forward, which the Heads of Government of CARICOM endorsed in 2004. Jagdeo is the CARICOM Head of Government with lead responsibility for regional agriculture.

His plan was to allow the region to achieve a reasonable level of food security in normal times and during disasters like hurricanes. The plan was also to raise the profile of sustainable agriculture and rural development in the construction of the CSME.

It was a response to the threat to the region's agriculture, particularly rice, sugar, and bananas, arising from EU/WTO trade reforms.

Finally, it sought to save foreign exchange spent on food imports, now some US$3 billion each year, but which will jump with the recent price increases, while earning foreign exchange from food that we could export. No one quarrelled with any of this.

Jagdeo says that the EPA will allow Europe to flood our food markets further. The EPA also overrides regional integration and CARICOM's authority on trade.

Once the EPA is signed, CARICOM cannot enter into any trade agreement that impacts on the EPA without the approval of Europe. CARICOM could hardly then describe itself as a community of sovereign states, since those states are signing away their external trade sovereignty.

The EPA also divides integration partners into separate and competing trading countries. This leads to further splits in CARICOM's directions. The EPA will undermine the CSME. Guyana will probably stay with the ACP to negotiate a better deal with Europe, while Jamaica and others lock themselves into the EPA.

CARICOM countries are going in different directions and the region needs leadership that can recreate the consensus that has been lost.

Under P.J. Patterson's influence, for instance, the emphasis had been on building CARICOM institutions and deepening integration. Current leaders must search for new consensus on what the priorities should be.

To me, it must be on continuing to build the foundations for a more effective CARICOM capable of addressing the crises of climate change, food dependency, energy dependence, crime, HIV/AIDS, poverty and democracy.

Robert Buddan lectures in the Department of Government, UWI, Mona.

September 04, 2008

No renegotiation of EPA with Europe

EPA talks will not consider renegotiation, says Barbados PM
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Source: BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC)
Barbados' Prime Minister David Thompson has made it clear that Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders will not be looking to renegotiate the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe at their special meeting here next week.

He told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that it is already too late to consider reworking the trade deal, and the focus of the September 10 talks, which he requested in a letter to Caricom Chairman Baldwin Spencer, will be on reaching a common position on the agreement.

"Renegotiation is not on the cards. The point is that I can't think there is anybody who believes it's a perfect agreement. Barbados has not said and we are not about to say that EPA is perfect, but we think that it's something we can work with and that, in the circumstances, it is the best that could have been achieved in the negotiations which took over three years," Thompson said.

"I can't believe that anybody could think, and I said so in my letter to the chairman of Caricom, that you can renegotiate in three weeks what experienced, knowledgeable negotiators took three years to come up with."

Guyana has been the most vocal government against the EPA, with President Bharrat Jagdeo insisting that the region will be left with a bad deal if countries sign on. Grenada and St Lucia have also expressed reservations, while the leaders of Barbados, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines have made it clear they were ready and willing to sign.

Prime Minister Thompson told CMC he is optimistic that despite the current inconsistencies, the leaders will eventually find a united position.

"What we can't afford is a scenario similar to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)," Thompson said, referring to the fact that only two Caribbean countries - Barbados and Guyana - have made the CCJ their final appellate court.

"Certainly Barbados is not going to be going along with any arrangement in which only two or three participants are serious about going ahead.

"On this occasion we must be serious as people of the Caribbean and I took the unprecedented step of writing to the chairman of Caricom because I felt that what was happening in our region actually was very embarrassing with all these discordant view points, coming from heads who just months ago met in Antigua and discussed the EPA and other issues," Thompson added

September 02, 2008

Trinidad's PM pushes for Union with OECS

Mr Manning's push for a political union
Source: Jamaica Observer
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A few weeks ago Professor Vaughan Lewis, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of the West Indies' St Augustine campus, advised member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to move out of their comfort zone and find new partners and arrangements in order to survive in the present global environment.

The Caribbean Media Corporation reported Professor Lewis as saying that it was becoming increasingly clear that the eastern Caribbean islands could no longer stand on their own in light of the economic, security and transportation challenges facing them.

Professor Lewis' advice was no doubt influenced by his assignment from the governments of St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago to prepare a study - in collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago diplomat Dr Cuthbert Joseph - on a possible political union among these countries.

In an apparent effort to bolster this proposed union, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has committed Trinidad & Tobago to joining the OECS by 2011 which, itself, raises questions.
As far as we are aware, Mr Manning has no mandate from the people of his country to include Trinidad & Tobago in any such arrangement.

In fact, Mr Manning, we are told, did not place the idea of a political union or OECS membership on his platform in the last election and as such is now being flayed in his country for what appears to be a personal adventure, the structure of which he is yet to share with his country.

Having not consulted his employers, Mr Manning, we believe, may find it difficult to convince the people of Trinidad and Tobago to give up their currency for the Eastern Caribbean dollar and subject themselves to the OECS' judicial system, as well as any other arrangement required for OECS membership.

But Mr Manning's larger challenge in forging a political union will lie in the inability of the region's leaders to deliver on some of the co-operation agreements made in previous years, a point that was clearly highlighted by senior Caribbean journalist Mr Rickey Singh in his Sunday Observer column this week.

Mr Singh pointed to the fact that Caribbean Community leaders have not been able to get their act together to advance arrangements for a Caribbean Single Market and Economy by 2015.

He also drew attention to the reality that, except for Barbados and Guyana, Caricom member states have failed to abolish the Privy Council in preference for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their court of last resort, even as they spend taxpayers' money to keep the CCJ functional.

That failure has resulted in even more scepticism of Prime Minister Manning's initiative, given that the CCJ sits in Port-of-Spain.

Added Mr Singh: "The region's people are being kept largely in the dark about the defaults by politicians and technocrats that have resulted, to date, in delivering only about one-third of approximately 330 of the required "implementation actions" to make a reality of the single economy."

Given that scenario, probably Mr Manning and his counterparts in St Lucia, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines would do better to expend their energies on strengthening Caricom as a viable integration movement that can better serve and protect the interests of the region's peoples.

September 01, 2008

The Poltical Union dance

This political union dance
Manning goes on defensive after "flying consultations"
Source: Jamaica Observer
Publication date: Sunday, August 31, 2008

As Prime Minister Patrick Manning spearheads official celebratory activities marking today's 46th Independence anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago, he would most likely be quietly reflecting on the clear disinterest by some of his Caribbean Community colleagues in any form of regional political integration.In his assumed high-profile jet-shuttle initiatives to spread the message in favour of regional and political integration, to which his government and three others in the Eastern Caribbean have committed themselves, in principle, Manning returned home last week knowing that, at best, he could count a so-called "coalition of the willing" on just one hand.

More likely perhaps no more than three. They would include his colleagues from St Vincent and the Grenadines (Ralph Gonsalves) and Grenada (Tilman Thomas). St Lucia's Prime Minister, Stephenson King, had participated in the August 14 meeting in Port-of-Spain hosted and chaired by Manning but it is doubtful that, given the precarious nature of his administration, he could be considered a serious partner in a political union initiative with Trinidad and Tobago.

Neither Haiti nor Suriname, with their different political history and culture was ever viewed as potential allies in a political integration process-except in a distant long term.

For its part, The Bahamas has remained under successive governments on the periphery of Caricom. It operates more as a partner in functional cooperation, with limited interest in the single market, but no interest in the single-economy dimension.

The two countries whose new governments are also yet to commit themselves in any serious way to the creation of Caricom's single economy, are Jamaica (under the leadership of Prime Minister Bruce Golding) and Belize (led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow). It was, therefore, quite puzzling that Manning should have extended his jet-flying visits to meet with his counterparts in Kingston and Belmopan. The situation became less puzzling when he finally felt obliged to explain why he had included Haiti, Suriname and The Bahamas in the process.

After much criticism by political opponents and comments in the region's media, the result of a poor, if not contemptuous effort to communicate with the public, Manning was doing some explaining late last week.

He had extended, out of courtesy, his "consultations" with Caricom counterparts outside of the trio of OECS heads of government that had signed with him a "Joint Declaration" (the text remained a secret at the time of writing) on regional economic and political integration. He never requested ANYONE, he insists, to join the Port-of-Spain initiative by four prime ministers for a limited political union projected for 2013.
Those who were aware of the disinterest by both Jamaica's Golding and Belize's Barrow in any form of political union, should now be more concerned in ascertaining the extent of the commitment of both to encouraging the transformation of Caricom into a seamless regional economy.

Such a course would, inevitably, involve a more centrally driven governance system, located in a proposed Single Caricom Act, and realised with a new administrative mechanism armed with executive authority to ensure effective management of the Community's affairs.

In the present circumstances, a Community whose members cannot get their acts together to advance arrangements for a single economy by 2015; nor (except for Barbados and Guyana) abolish the Privy Council in preference for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their court of last resort, seem to be "spinning top in mud", to borrow an expression of our Trini cousins, with the flow of "talks" about even a limited political union by 2013.

These days we are being exposed to strong negative vibes about the future of a once enthusiastically promised CSME (Caricom Single Market and Economy), the target dates for which have kept shifting and remains elusive, even as the political rhetoric continues to capture headlines.

The region's people are being kept largely in the dark about the defaults by politicians and technocrats that have resulted, to date, in delivering only about one-third of approximately 330 of required "implementation actions" to make a reality of the single economy.

In relation to the CCJ, all of our governments dutifully spend taxpayers' money annually to maintain but, shockingly, they fail to have it as their final court. Now, the new game in town is prime minister Manning's jetting around to talk about limited forms of economic and political union, without any road map made known publicly on the steps towards such a goal; and no move to promote national consultations on this vital issue.

Little wonder the deepening disenchantment and cynicism about Caricom's future as the viable economic integration movement which it was conceptualised and launched to be by its visionary architects.