‘CARICOM leaders doing more than talking’

Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) David Comissiong has heaped praise on regional leaders following their summit this week, saying he is satisfied they are serious about tackling the Caribbean’s challenges.

He expressed satisfaction that the 15-member bloc, chaired by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, was making headway in addressing issues such as crime, health and transportation.

Comissiong was giving his assessment of the two-day 31st CARICOM Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government, which ended here Wednesday.

Describing the summit as “very powerful”, the social activist said he was impressed by the “solidity and maturity to CARICOM” that was played out at the summit.

Comissiong said that “for the first time in a long time”, the regional leaders were talking about how to mobilize rather than looking for development finance from outside the region.

“We are proud nations with history [and] with sovereignty. The time we are in now is really challenging us. Do we take our nationhood seriously, do we take our sovereignty seriously, are we willing to stand up? And the message coming back from this meeting is yes,” the CARICOM Ambassador said as he evaluated the discussions.

During the closed-door meetings, several presentations were made on a range of issues, including health, crime and violence and blacklisting, and regional security.

Representatives from civil society organizations, labour movement and the private sector also had the opportunity to present to the grouping.

Comissiong said this was a sign that “CARICOM is on the verge of taking that next step where we seriously look at integrating the private sector, the labour movement and civil society into our structures of governance”.

This, he said, would allow those groups to take the lead on tackling issues with the help of the regional bloc and its various institutions.

“So we have private sector on board, not only at Heads of Government conferences, but in the different organs and councils of CARICOM, so they can be at the table to ensure that all of those issues pertaining to enhancing ease of doing business across the region [and] increasing industrial production in the region, that they are on board to drive those through and make sure that they implement it,” said Comissiong.

“Similarly, the labour movement can ensure that all those freedom of movement and movement of skills are driven. And then we are going to have to work at the rest of civil society, how do we organize them as well, to bring them on board,” he added.

Comissiong said he agreed with Prime Minister Mottley that CARICOM should not allow any entity or persons outside the region “to divide us or divert us from that unity of purpose”.

“We are family, and as family we have to take care of ourselves, and we are demonstrating that we have not wasted time over the decades of CARICOM,” he said.

He said it was critical that member states did not come to the table thinking “what is in it for me”, adding that Barbados was ready to take the lead on ensuring that the greater good for CARICOM was achieved first, even if that meant making some sacrifices.

“Yes, there will be benefits for Barbados but we understand too that we have to give, and sometimes may have to make a sacrifice for the overall movement to develop, and in the long-run benefits will come back to us.

“So we need to have this understanding that we are not a member of this integration process simply to say what is in it for us, for our nation, we want the benefits. It can’t just be about that. We have to see about the bigger picture – that if we help the collective organization to grow, those benefits will ultimately come to us. It must be a question of give and take . . .. That is the position of Barbados and we are committed and we are not going to drop the ball. We are going to make sure that CARICOM is a success,” Comissiong declared.