KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he is optimistic that an 8-page letter he wrote to CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque about the future of the regional bloc will have a positive impact on the 15-member community.
“I am an optimist. I have to believe that we will make progress,” said Gonsalves, who is scheduled to meet with LaRocque today.
In the Feb. 9 letter, Gonsalves details his views on strategic directions for CARICOM. “CARICOM has achieved much but its extraordinary promise is yet to be fulfilled,” he said at the beginning of the letter.
“We have to always struggle to get things done …. Life in the world, you have always to be doing things,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “If you just don’t do anything, the world passes you by. You have to keep working, making recommendations, putting ideas on the table, and hopefully we will see some change,” he further told reporters.
“As I ended the letter with the book of Ecclesiastes… ‘He that observeth the wind will not sow. He that regardeth the cloud will not reap.’ So we’ve got to get on with it and do something,” Gonsalves said.
“We will have a further opportunity to discuss the matter. We are at the stage where we need strategic thinking on CARICOM. Not just one or two management changes here and there, important as … it may be in respect of lifting efficiency. We need to have a lot of new thinking on the strategic directions,” Gonsalves said.
He said that he has received “a very warm response” from LaRocque to the issues raised in the letter. Gonsalves has also brought back onto the CARICOM agenda a letter he wrote in 2005 to then Secretary General Sir Edwin Carrington.
The 2005 letter concerns “the functioning of the heads of government conference and some allied issues” and Gonsalves said LaRocque is “very supportive” of the ideas he has been putting forward.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has said he would write to LaRocque asking that Gonsalves’ letter be placed on CARICOM’s agenda, according to Gonsalves.
“But whether it is put in precise form, that letter would inform a lot of discussion, would come up in a lot of discussion of a wide range of issues because it touches on many, many questions. But we need that kind of strategic discussion,” Gonsalves said.
“I think it is a letter that should be made available to the press generally across the region. I don’t think we should hide it under a bushel. It has been sent to all the heads of government. Because we are at a critical confluence of event in CARICOM and in the world situation where we are.
“We have several crisscrossing currents of integration: CARICOM, OECS Economic Union, Economic partnership agreement with CARIFORUM, then there is the ALBA. Now, at these crisscrossing currents, CARICOM has to take certain strategic decisions as to how it is engaging all these varying crosscurrents.
“You can’t have all these cross-currents taking place in the real world and CARICOM continues as though it is business as usual. And that is what my letter to the CARICOM Secretary-General is dealing with fundamentally and raising some particular concerns of the OECS…”
Gonsalves said that he should have made public the letter he wrote to Sir Edwin in 2005 “because we have had discussions and things continue as per usual with a little change here and there.
“… there are several heads of government who can make important contribution on the strategic way forward. But I believe that my own experience in these matters, my research work, this matter is a matter which has consumed a lot of my professional attention. I think my thoughts on these subjects should be of some value to my colleague heads and to the people of the region and I should make those ideas available,” said Gonsalves, who has been prime minister for 11 years.