ST. VINCENT (FEB. 28):- the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is at risk of stagnation, say Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
He believes that some heads of government within the regional bloc want the group “to pause” but not for reflection before moving forward.
“I get a sense that though … all the leaders are committed to CARICOM, I get a sense that there are many who want us to pause where we are, rather than moving forward to deepen the process,” Gonsalves told reporters in Kingstown on Monday, Feb. 28.
He said those leaders do not necessarily want “to rest on our laurel, but simply to consolidate where we are.
“The problem with that is that it veers to a minimalist approach to integration and it allows for a resurgence of national considerations way and above a regional consciousness or a regional framework to solve problems. … I fear that that approach may result in a weakening of our very integration movement, including where we are at the moment,” Gonsalves said on the heels of a CARICOM summit in Grenada.
Gonsalves questioned talks of integration, using as an examples Barbados, where a Vincentian cannot access that CARICOM nation’s health care services “without making payments”.
He further said that individual CARICOM nations differ on what contingent rights should be accorded to certain categories of person who qualify for freedom of movement privileges.
Gonsalves said that the spouses and under-aged children of those qualified to move freely across the region should also be allowed to move and access education and other services in the host nation.
“…there is something called the spirit of our union,” he said.
“I think that the real future of the movement hangs on these kinds of very practical things,” Gonsalves said.
He mentioned CARICOM’s progress in coordinating health, education, foreign policy, and, among others, security and trade.
He, however, said that while the Jagdeo Initiative in relation to agriculture has “beautiful ideas”, it has not led to the planting of “one grain of corn in any country, maybe [except] in Guyana”.
He said there was a need for CARICOM to address the issue of food security, saying “the bills are mounting too much; we have to do something about this…
“We’ve got to be able to do some of these things better than we have been doing and that is where CARICOM has to come in and assist,” Gonsalves said.