Last week the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks, commonly referred to as the “Golding Report” after the Commission’s distinguished Chairman, the Honourable Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, was debated and adopted by the Jamaica House of Representatives. We now finally have some idea of what is the official position by the Government of Jamaica on the report which was commissioned by the Most Honourable, Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica and completed nine months later in March 2017.
Initial fears that the report would serve as the basis for a Jexit (Jamaica’s exit from the CARICOM), akin to the country’s withdrawal from the West Indies Federation in 1961, have been allayed somewhat. Official statements from the Jamaican Government do not evince an intention to leave CARICOM and the Government appears convinced, at least for now, that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the best raft for navigating increasingly uncertain global economic and policy waters.
The 51-page report sought to examine Jamaica’s relations within CARICOM and CARIFORUM, but has presented another opportunity for introspection by CARICOM leaders and other stakeholders on what has been achieved, where we have failed and what is needed to move forward. The fact that consultations were held with persons not just from Jamaica, but also from across the wider CARICOM shows that the Report was not solely insular in focus.
The Holness Government has indicated that it would not push for the five-year deadline for full CSME implementation recommended by the Report, calling the timeline “unrealistic”. Instead, Mr. Holness stated that the Government would “get commitments from the various heads for the full and effective implementation of the Common Market, which are things that we can do within the five years.”
The Holness Government has also thrown its support behind a review of the CARICOM contribution scale of fees payable to the Secretariat and other bodies. Jamaica is currently the second largest contributor (23.15%) and is working to reduce its arrears of just under $500 million. Jamaica is not the only Member State to owe arrears, but the lack of information on the level of arrears owed by Member States was one of the transparency issues raised in the report.
In his contribution to the debate on the Report in the Lower House, Mr. Holness further noted that some of the report’s thirty-three recommendations were more immediately implementable than others, and there was need for some flexibility. The Leader of the Opposition, PNP Leader, Dr. Peter Phillips, also supported the report.
Disappointingly, there has been no public reaction by CARICOM leaders to the report so far, aside from the comments made by Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves. No reference was made to the Report in the Communique from the 29th Intersessional Meeting, but the report is likely to be one of the agenda items at the upcoming 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) carded for July 4-6 in Jamaica.
At the two-day Stakeholder Consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) held at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana June 8-9, the Honourable Bruce Golding, who was one of the presenters, noted that the CARICOM Secretariat was not to blame for the implementation deficit.
The Jamaica Government should be lauded for this effort. The Report, which has been the most comprehensive report on CARICOM since the Ramphal Commission’s Time for Action Report of 1992, also addresses issues such as transparency, financing and accountability. The report’s recommendations, most of which are not new, are however, far-reaching. Among the more novel recommendations are the proposed establishment of an Office of an Auditor-General, a Central Dispute Settlement Body, and greater involvement of the private sector.
More could have been said in the Report about ensuring buy-in by future generations by increasing youth participation and engagement in the regional integration process, such as through the expansion of the CARICOM Young Ambassadors Programme, the establishment of a CARICOM Young Professionals Programme at the CARICOM Secretariat or across its institutions, or at least providing greater opportunities for young persons to see first hand the work of the Secretariat through internships.
Like the many reports and studies before it, the Golding Report presents an important opportunity for conversation and dialogue, but talk must be parlayed to action. Jamaica will assume chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Government under its rotational system from July 1-December 31, 2018, and Mr. Holness will have an opportunity within his six month chairmanship to hopefully influence how much attention is paid to the report and its recommendations, and what should be the next steps.
It is hoped that the Golding Report will not suffer the fate that so many previous studies on CARICOM suffered, that is, being relegated to “File 13”. The report should provoke serious introspection about whether the CSME is really what we want. What concrete steps are we willing to take to implement the commitments made under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas?
Leaders of CARICOM countries must not just be willing to make commitments but be champions for their implementation domestically. The election result in Barbados, which under the quasi-cabinet has lead for the Single Market (including Monetary Union), presents some cause for hope. The new Prime Minister, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, has taken a more pro-integration stance than seen in the previous administration, and one of her first acts was to remove the visa requirement for citizens from Haiti, which is not yet a CSME participatory but is a CARICOM Member State.
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.