Much to consider for Caricom heads of government

After the schedule of international meetings held this month engaging Caricom heads and ministers, the 43rd Caricom Heads of Government Conference will be hosted by the President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad (Chan) Santokhi, from July 3 to 5 in Paramaribo.

Suriname becomes Chair of Caricom on July 1, and this meeting provides an opportunity for this country, under its current leadership, to be showcased within the region.

Suriname is not always in the regional news cycle, but the country, along with Guyana, have oil reserves, and the focus recently has been on forging a closer relationship between both countries.

The Caricom heads meeting is usually organised around Caricom Day on July 4, which is only a public holiday in Guyana and only marginally observed in other Caricom countries.

This demonstrates the trend in Caricom that a decision agreed by heads of government is still not fully implemented throughout the Caribbean.

As is the custom, newly elected Caricom heads of government will address the cconference, including the most recently elected Prime Minister of Grenada, Dickon Mitchell.

He became leader of the National Democratic Congress party in St George’s in October 2021 and seems to be quite new to the political scene.

The NDC won Grenada’s general election on June 23, and Mitchell will be making his inaugural address, along with Philip Davis of The Bahamas and Philip Pierre of St Lucia.

The heads of government continue to have a heavy agenda before them that entails reporting on progress in the many actions emerging from the intersessional meeting held in March in Belize.

With the economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, climate change, and the war in Ukraine, the Caribbean is facing a grim economic situation.

A presentation audited recently on the impact of the Ukraine war, showed that the Caribbean is extremely vulnerable in food and energy security.

Therefore, it is expected that a major item on the agenda will be regional food and nutrition security, which Guyana has been spearheading, as the head with responsibility for agriculture.

It will be recalled that Guyana President Irfaan Ali presented his vision for agricultural development to the intersessional conference of heads of government in March.

Heads are also likely to assess the current state of recovery in the tourism industry, with reported positive indications of a rebound in this sector, including the return of cruise shipping, but challenges remain.

The seemingly unreliable transport situation in the eastern Caribbean with the demise of LIAT is one such challenge. In addition, there are increasing travel costs and the threat of recession in principal source markets, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The implementation of the CSME remains a principal item as there are heads of government and others now acknowledging that regional integration is critical to economic recovery and building resilience in the region.

At the intersessional meeting last March, heads of government agreed that immediate action on CSME implementation was imperative, and the endorsed the Action Plan for an Effective CSME with immediate action to be taken at the regional and national levels.

They also resuscitated the CARICOM Economic Recovery and Transformation (CERT) working committee.

Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley, who has responsibility for CSME and CERT, will be expected to report to the conference.

After all that has happened this month and in the past, Caricom heads of government have another issue, which must be on their agenda – that is foreign policy.

Cariccom heads of government need to spend some time on this issue beccause there seems to be too much discord in the Caribbean, though the Revised Treaty of Chaguramas does not require Caricom member states to harmonise their foreign policy.

The evident discord does convey the impression of a lack of cohesion within the group to the people of the Caribbean and the international community, and some guidelines need to be agreed.

Clearly, the questions of trust and quality of leadership are, for stakeholders, issues, which need to be confronted and interrogated if the region is to move forward with action on critical decisions aimed at achieving economic recovery and transformation, and reversing the implementation deficit.


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