The existence of Caricom (the Caribbean Community), the only organisation dedicated to the economic interests of the Caribbean countries, is at risk, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding has cautioned.
“There are a number of things that are happening now that are destabilising and threatening the existence of Caricom,” he declared at the launch of Export week at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. “The political integration that is being pursued by Trinidad and a number of countries in the Eastern Caribbean, may very well be commendable, but I believe that it is at the detriment to the deepening and strengthening of Caricom,” a release from Jamaica House reported.
Golding warned against the support of a rival organisation: “I believe that the membership of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), which now engages three Caricom countries, is going to have a destabilising effect on Caricom. It is going to distract, it is going to divert and it is something that I believe that Caricom leaders need to examine…”
ALBA is the brainchild of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was established based Venezuela’s oil income, on to challenge US economic influence in the hemisphere. It originated from a Cuba-Venezuela Agreement signed by Chavez and Dr Fidel Castro based on Chavez’s vision for as an alternative to the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
St Vincent and the Grenadines, and fellow OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) and CARICOM (Caribbean Community) member Dominica have announced membership in ALBA.
Noting that Jamaica was compliant with all aspects of regional integration and specially welcomes Caricom nationals, the Prime Minister said that he would seek clarity on the commitment of neighbouring governments at the next summit in Guyana in July.
“I am proud that Jamaica has complied with all of these critical obligations that we signed. I will go to that meeting determined to make whatever effort we need to make, to make this thing work. I do not believe that any of us can believe that we are going to be better off trying to swim in this Caribbean sea on our own, but it is time for us to stop playing games, for us to stop mouthing integration and professing our commitment to this process when the pragmatic demonstration of that commitment is so often not being brought to the fore,” Golding said.
Golding assured Jamaican exporters that his government would defend their interests within the Caricom bloc, even as it upholds the regional integration goals.
“We are at a point where we are going to have to either renew our commitment to this Caricom process or be honest and decide to what extent we really are prepared to commit ourselves…With all the good intentions that are behind the Caricom single market, that will never provide the kind of economic growth that we seek, because the market is too small.”
The Prime Minister repeated his budget announcement that business incentives that were created when markets were protected and current international trade agreements did not exist, are now being evaluated for relevance.
Cabinet, he said, had detailed Ministers Samuda, Tufton and Shaw to review the structure of incentives; and he remarked, “I don’t think that we have ever made a serious effort to measure the value of these incentives. We need to do that review.”