CRIME and external economic relations are among top agenda issues for the 31st CARICOM Heads of Government Conference now taking place in Montego Bay, Jamaica. In CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet structure – which needs to be critically reviewed – Trinidad and Tobago holds lead responsibility for crime and security, while Jamaica has traditionally carried the portfolio for external trade and economic matters.Depending on how they prioritised their agenda at their first formal working session yesterday, crime and security could well be the major focus at today’s meeting when Trinidad and Tobago’s new Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is expected to make her debut presentation on the issue.Her Jamaican counterpart, Bruce Golding, could take the opportunity to expand on the idea he raised at last week’s G20 Summit in Canada for the world’s rich and powerful nations (G8 bloc) to seriously treat “crime as a development issue” for poor and developing states.It so happens that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are the two most major victims of endemic criminality and alarming murder rates, with Guyana and The Bahamas also revealing unflattering profiles in organised crime.One looks forward to the creative ideas Prime Minister Golding may have to share on dealing with organised crime as an economic development challenge, but he too would be aware that this concept has been variously articulated by other CARICOM leaders as well as those of the relatively new G20 bloc of states.The serious threats organised crime pose to this region’s efforts in coping with the global economic crisis are known to the governments of the G8 nations as well as the international financial institutions. What, therefore, is necessary at this time is to learn what new collective approaches CARICOM leaders would pursue following the conclusion tomorrow of the summit. Likewise, instead of the ritual lamentations about the crime epidemic in the Caribbean, and related threats to security, the G8 nations should consider what new practical partnership relations could be developed for social and economic development in this region to better address the crime and security challenges.Golding has, appropriately, recognised the assistance provided to the Caribbean by the European Union, Canada and the United States to help combat organised crime, much of it linked to drug-trafficking and trade in small arms. Since it takes two to tango, CARICOM and its traditional development partners, located within the G8 bloc, must together shape the action agenda to give substance to expressions of shared commitment to combat organised crime in the context of their mutual security interest We await the new initiatives.