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Patterson: “Decisive Steps Urgently Required to Rescue CARICOM”

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - January 30, 2013

Above: former Jamaica PM PJ Patterson (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

As the voices who question CARICOM’s relevance become “increasingly strident and vociferous,” action needs to be taken to prevent a “coma” for the regional integration system, former Jamaica Prime Minister PJ Patterson said this week.

The former Jamaican leader was speaking to the Rotary Club in Georgetown, Guyana.

“Let me make it clear – as of now, some decisive steps are urgently required to rescue CARICOM, or else life support may come too late to prevent coma,” he said. “Our leaders must take the helm of our regional ship and guide it through the choppy waters of this time.”

While Patterson pointed to what he called a “fine record” in areas like education, health, the dismantling of barriers to trade and commerce, the empowerment of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, he said CARICOM faced a number of serious weaknesses.

Among them: the failure to settle a structure for effective governance; moving at “the speed of a tortoise” to advance the rights of greater freedom of movement and the failure to tackle the “burning issues of concern to our people,” such as transportation within the region, energy, food and climate change.

Patterson offered several solutions for the region: using a collective approach to tackle regional problems; formulating a foreign economic policy and and building on the “knowledge economy.”

“Why should a region which has produced the only musical instrument of the last century – the steel pan – the song of the Millennium – Bob Marley’s “One Love” – a Cricket Team which conquered the world for 17 long years – an Earl Lovelace, a Martin Carter, an Eddie Grant, the world’s fastest human being – Usain Bolt – have a balance of payments or unemployment problem?” he asked.

He also urged the region to take advantage of the Caribbean Sea, “one of the most heavily trafficked seas in the world,” in areas like yachting and maritime training.

“Without the political will and the concerted action by Regional Stakeholders – Governments, Opposition Parties, the Business Sector, Labour, NGO’s, the media – CARICOM is in danger,” he said. “It needs concerted action, simultaneously on all fronts so that it does not dwindle or fall into desuetude.”

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