Wednesday, April 17, 2024

RIGHT OF CENTRE: Not enough focus on achievements


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The following is an edited version of a presentation to the Inaugural National Services Week Lecture.
I’M OF the firm conviction that  the fulfilment of the objectives of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is something that is extremely important for our Caribbean civilization. It is something that is worth fighting for.
 It is something that is worth dedicating our energies, our intellects and our resources to ensure that, in the fullness of time, we will achieve what our older cousin the European Union has done.
My 15 months on the job as Ambassador to CARICOM and the Association of Caribbean States have given me the opportunity to reflect on the audacity of the imagination which is necessary to make regional integration a reality and the genius that is essential to help us drive the process forward.
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas of 2001 has provided ample architecture in relation to free movement. There are some who are of the view that too little has been done between 2001 and now and that somehow the regional integration movement is losing direction.
I do not know that the approach to measuring success or failure of the massive effort entailed in building a regional movement can be measured by benchmarks such as the [Shanique] Myrie affair or the time it is taking to complete negotiations of a fishing agreement.
These are things to note but not to judge a movement on. I really get concerned when we look so much at the minor things and not at the majors we achieved.
Instead, when I think about the relationship between Jamaica and Barbados I think more in terms of Facey Commodities Ltd making headway by bringing capital and services to Barbados and being able to stimulate the Barbados economy  in the way that it has.
I think of the investments of Sagicor in Jamaica, huge service developments there that are beneficial to Barbados and Jamaica.
When I think of our relations with Trinidad and Tobago it’s not about a single incident of trade; it’s about the fact that Trinidadians have invested in several areas of the economy while to the best of my knowledge there is no reciprocal success on our part but I have not been advised that we tried and we failed.
   Now we’re all aware of the present challenges to instituting the free movement regime.
   The implementation of the free movement regime requires a great deal of technical work in relation to certification, accreditation, definitions of occupational categories, provision of infrastructure in the various territories and defining the rights of those who are free to move and of their dependents whose rights are contingent on those of the principal beneficiaries.
It also involves providing administrative procedures and legislation in each territory sometimes by amending or virtually repealing legislation in each area, training of the officials who are engaged in the process of movement and providing education and information on what is required.
All of the above require constant negotiation among 15 countries, some of whom are very different, sometimes made more difficult by  changes in government fairly frequently and new officials coming in and as these changes have been brought about by bringing delegations together either physically or by video conference or other means change is both expensive and time consuming.
I hear people saying sometimes nothing is happening. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is not happening is that the masses of people are being really told and educated about the difficulty of the exercise that has to be carried forward. It is all right for Heads of Governments to say we want and they make a statement like that but to translate that into reality calls for a tremendous amount of work.


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