Updated: Mar 15, 2021
On 4th July, 1973 four nation states of the Caribbean (Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Jamaica) signed a treaty at Chaguaramus in Trinidad (The Treaty of Chaguaramus) establishing the Caribbean Community and Common Market, (CARICOM). The Treaty took effect just under a month later on 1st August 1973, setting in motion the way for a Single Market and Economy.
The intent of the drafters of this treaty at the time was quite clear, as they set out in great detail across its 240 Articles, what is still a masterful document by which the region can continue to chart a path towards improved management of our affairs as Small Island Developing States.
At the very heart of this treaty and indeed an oath of the original and later Member States signing the treaty, was the commitment to deepening regional economic integration through the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) for the purpose of achieving sustained economic development based on international competitiveness, coordinated economic and foreign policies, functional co-operation and enhanced trade and economic relations with third States.
They recognized at the time that globalization and liberalization had important implications for international competitiveness and consequently set in motion a process of restructuring “how things were done” to “enhance the participation of their peoples, and in particular the social partners, in the integration movement”
47 years has elapsed to the day, since the signing of this Treaty which was drafted with the conscious need “to promote in the Community the highest level of efficiency in the production of goods and services especially with a view to maximizing foreign exchange earnings on the basis of international competitiveness, attaining food security, achieving structural diversification and improving the standard of living of the peoples of the Caribbean”.
Let’s not be mistaken, we have done well as a region given our limited resources and exposure to several harsh vulnerabilities not of our making. Clearly, the region is made up of a very resilient people who are determined to succeed. It is however important ever so often, that we revisit what we had set out to achieve and who we collectively had intended to be as a region viz a viz where we currently are.
Premised on the content and intent of the Treaty when drafted we therefore cannot be afraid to reflect and ask ourselves questions specific to or within the context of our progress and in that regard seek to put in motion urgent actions to get ahead. It is never too late.
- We must without timidity question ourselves on the status of optimal production by economic enterprises in the Community and progress with respect to the structured integration of production in the region.
- Have we progressed as intended in the establishment of conditions that would facilitate access by nationals of the region to the collective resources of the region on a non-discriminatory basis?
- Are we still convinced that market-driven industrial development in the production of goods and services is essential for the economic and social development of the peoples of the Community and if so, where are we with this and what additional strategies do we consider vital to accelerating this to another level if indeed we are still of this way persuaded?
- It was clear when drafted that member states were well aware that a fully integrated and liberalised internal market would create favourable conditions for sustained, market-led production of goods and services on an internationally competitive basis and were very desirous of establishing and maintaining a sound and stable macro-economic environment that is conducive to investment, including cross-border investments, and the competitive production of goods and services in the Community. Are we satisfied with progress in this regard and what may be any hindrances to further accomplishments?
- There was a deep recognition 47 years ago that the potential of micro, small, and medium enterprise development was key to the expansion and viability of national economies of the Community. How enabled are these enterprises and have we seen the progressing of these entities in keeping with the original vision?
- There was a stated determined effort at the time to effect a fundamental transformation of the agricultural sector of the Community by diversifying agricultural production, intensifying agro-industrial development, expanding agri-business, strengthening the linkages between the agricultural sector and other sectors of the CSME and generally conducting agricultural production on a market-oriented, internationally competitive and environmentally sound basis. How have we performed in this respect? What are the hindrances?
- It was acknowledged back then that land, air and maritime transportation for maintaining economic, social and cultural linkages was vital. In fact, it was further identified as the basis for facilitating emergency assistance among Member States of the Community. We are in the process of restructuring the main inter-regional air carrier and important regional ferry services are not where we have anticipated. How quickly can we respond to this? Are there any cost ramifications to a less than optimum air and maritime transportation framework in the region?
The foregoing commitments and declarations along with several others were set out as noble strategies for bringing us together as a region and giving effect to our resilience as a set of nations and indeed as a people.
Much has changed and there is also much to distract us at this very difficult time. Reflecting and rebuilding and for that matter also building that which did not previously exist to position for success as a region is more important now than ever.
Utilization of our resources to appoint some “defenders of our cause” while others “build”, others as “strategists” while others “heal the bruised and hurting”, yet others as “lifters” while others “pull”, with the central theme of survival for all in the Community” is not beyond us nor should such elude us. The oneness of a region is greater than a crisis in a region.
Jerry DaC Blenman, Executive Director of the Caribbean Center for Organizational Excellence, is an experienced financial analyst and business development strategist.