Call for new approach to regional integration

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada: A reappraisal of the approach to the integration process is critical in the face of the “unacceptable progress” in implementation of the decisions, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman and Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has told his regional counterparts.

Thomas expressed his opinion at the 22nd Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, which concluded last weekend in Grenada. His remarks were prompted by what he referred to as the “skepticism” of the Community’s populace, and the significant economic challenges that Member States were currently facing.

“I am of the view that this scenario begs for a fundamental reappraisal of our approach, our management and our commitment toward the integration process,” said Thomas. “I submit that failure to engage in such an exercise will be detrimental and unresponsive to our people’s wishes and the gravity of the current environmental dictates.”

The Chairman referred to the vulnerabilities of the CARICOM Member States, in particular their susceptibility to natural disasters, and openness and intricate link to the economies of main trading partners and their economic fortunes. He told the meeting that Member States now find themselves grappling with the impact and consequences of crises they did not create.

“And, as if that is not enough, we are now confronting rising fuel and food prices once again,” said Thomas.

Regarding these vulnerabilities, Thomas said the Caribbean populace was “restless and concerned,” with many holding the view that the region appeared to be languishing in a state of “implementation impotence in our slow march towards the CSME.”

“Others suggest that our preoccupation with survival issues has led to a neglect of integration matters. Yet, some are also of the view that our actions sometimes contradict our public rhetoric.

“This imagery is quite vivid when one measures our unacceptable progress against the agreed work program for the advancement of the integration process in July 1989 at this location,” said Thomas in reference to the Grand Anse Declaration and Work Program for the Advancement of the Integration Movement, that put forward the advancement of the regional integration process through the creation of a Single Market and Economy.

Thomas added that the region must remain united in its conviction and commitment that the regional integration movement remained a “primary construct” and vehicle in the process of transformation and modernization.

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