A journey back in time: 1989 Grand Anse in Grenada to rekindle the enthusiasm and promise of the then leaders of Caricom to establish and have functioning, the Single Market and Economy. It was the ideal, and remains so for the 15-member regional grouping to bring together individual resources, human and material, to achieve the best possibilities for the seven to eight million citizens of the region.
Yet, 34 years later the President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Hyginus “Gene” Leon can be calling on regional states to finish and implement the elements of the CSME left outstanding.
“Given the region’s experience over the 2020-2022 period, now is the time for us to re-imagine regional co-operation and integration. And what this can mean for us as Caribbean citizens,” said the president of the regional bank which has the responsibility to fund development projects in member states.
As conceived of and set out by the founding economists and early leaders of the regional integration movement, citizens of the ilk and commitment of Mr. William Demas, Sir Shridath Ramphal, prime ministers Michael Manley, A.N.R. Robinson, Owen Arthur, John Compton and their colleague prime ministers, the CSME was established to bring the resources of the region together to create value-added products to replace certain imports and to build an export platform.
“I therefore call for a renewed commitment to advance the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy through the increase of marketing access for goods and services and people providing opportunities providing economies of scale,” said the CDB President at the Bank’s annual news conference.
Dr. Leon noted that conclusion of the outstanding elements of the CSME such as free movement of skills and capital across member states “will offer greater employment and business opportunities and provide a platform for increased innovation and digitilisation.”
He identified the liquidation of the regional airline, LIAT in 2020, as leaving air transport in the Eastern Caribbean in crisis. From 500 weekly flights in 2019 to 50 in 2022 has been one result of LIAT’s demise. The CDB president has called on regional leaders to “reform air transportation environment,” adding that it’s desperately needed to transform several of the economies of member states.
As a result of LIAT’s absence, the CDB President says “80 percent of the food now consumed by citizens and our guests is imported; leaving the region open to food insecurity into the future.”
Once again, Caricom is being presented for a take off by a member state having the financial capacity, and on this occasion, the geographical and material base to spur meaningful development. Guyana now has the potential to unlock its physical environment, finance development projects across the region and engage member states to produce goods and services for internal consumption and export.
This is not about charity, but rather a means of harmonizing the resources of capital, land, skills, internal and external trade and developing products to achieve what the Single Market and Economy was envisioned for. In its own interest, Guyana has to be careful of merely covering the landscape with malls for the consumption of foreign goods.
New leadership impetus is desperately needed to revive the possibilities of Caricom.