Sunday, April 14, 2024

EDITORIAL: Caricom, Haiti and rebuilding


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FINALLY, 11 years after becoming a full member of the Caribbean Community, Haiti is about to enjoy limited non-reciprocal free trade access to markets of the 14 independent member states of CARICOM, now entering its 37th year of existence.The Press statement from the recently concluded 13th meeting of CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) sought to put a bright face to this decision.The reality is that this development, this limited non-reciprocal trade access has been far too long in coming; and blame can well be laid, even if not proportionately, at the doors of Haitian administrations in Port-au-Prince as well as the rest of CARICOM for the snail’s pace in efforts for meaningful integration of Haiti; that is, long before the unprecedented earthquake disaster of January 12 this year.Haiti’s chronic governance problems are well known. But so too is the unflattering capacity for inaction by the rest of CARICOM administrations served by the Community Secretariat in Georgetown. It is, therefore, to be hoped that once the limited non-reciprocal trade access is endorsed at the coming 31st CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Montego Bay, more visibility would be given to the actual efforts by Haiti and the Community Secretariat to ensure more meaningful Haitian involvement in the region’s economic integration processes.This should perhaps be done in tandem with an audit into the functioning of the CARICOM Representational Office (CRO) in Port-au-Prince that was reopened in 2006, following the 2004 coup against President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government.While it is now moving to give substance to Haiti’s limited non-reciprocal access to markets in the Community, CARICOM should also clearly signal commitment to a sustained high profile role in lobbying the rich and powerful in honouring the firm pledges made for recovery from the earthquake devastation in “building of a new Haiti” as President René Preval has articulated.Collectively, CARICOM is hardly in a position to make a financial contribution of significance to the more than estimated US$10 billion in reconstruction aid required for Haiti.  The community does, however, have a moral obligation to make sustained effective use of the talents and expertise of Caribbean personalities to maintain appropriate reminders to the group of wealthy nations that have just concluded their summit in Canada of their generous pledges in the wake of the earthquake devastation. As Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive recently noted, governments that have made very encouraging aid pledges should avoid rushing to judge Haiti’s government leaders as not being sufficiently proactive and visible at home, considering they are yet to deliver on release of promised reconstruction aid.


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