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Commentary: After the CARICOM saga in Haiti, what next for the region?
Published on March 11, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Ian Francis

Well, another regional gimmick made up of CARICOM leaders has concluded in Port-au-Prince after Martelly displayed his ignorance and insensitivity about the challenges facing his corrupt nation and the disempowered Haitian people.

ian_francis.jpg
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at ianf505@gmail.com
As a respected regional observer recently lamented, "Messier Martelly was prepared to turn blind eyes against the woes of his people in favour of the CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting.” To other commentators, the meeting has not changed the price of cocoa, given the growing doubts by foreign donors as to how hard-earned donated foreign assistance is being administered.

Recently, the government of Canada announced a review of its development assistance aid to Haiti in the light of corrupt irregularities discovered during a recent visit to Haiti by Canada's Minister of International Cooperation. Many other donor nations have expressed similar concerns and have since initiated action similar to Canada’s.

Last week, as the inter-sessional assembly was being wrapped up, there came the surprising news that the United Nations had rejected a claim by the government of Haiti with respect to the cholera outbreak in the failed nation, which resulted in the unfortunate loss of lives.

While the United Nations’ rebuke is unfortunate, the agenda of the inter-sessional gathering was quite disappointing. First, given the developmental and governance problems faced by Haiti, one would have thought that the agenda crafted by the Georgetown-based CARICOM Secretariat would have ensured that there would be a factual and non-compromising discussion with respect to Haiti's existing problems. In my view, given the apparent impotence of the Haiti-based CARICOM mission, the international session would have been the appropriate vehicle to address Haiti’s pervading ills.

As the various inter-sessional speakers lined up to deliver their traditional regurgitated speeches, in taking the podium, Dr Kenny Anthony, prime minister of St Lucia and outgoing chairperson of CARICOM embarked upon an address that targeted the European Union and described the relation between CARICOM states and the European Union as "one-sided". It was extremely difficult to pinpoint what led Anthony to such a comment except to speculate that he is frustrated with his nation's inability to have functional bilateral relations with the European Union. As a long time regional observer and commentator on Caribbean affairs and after much discussion with other regional colleagues, I was able to accurately pinpoint Anthony's comment about the European Union.

Unfortunately, I could not concur with Anthony's position as I have been convinced for a very long time that the fault is not with the European Union. It is a well known fact that the European Union is more inclined to adopt a multilateral strategy in CARICOM nations. Given their choice of multilateralism in the region, many regional multilateral agencies like the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the CARICOM Secretariat have grasped the European Union modus operandi in the region, as the strategy seems to ensure their survival through the funding of many projects that afford them the opportunity to reclaim their administrative recovery fees.

Anthony's attack or perception about the European Union is very unfortunate for several known reasons. St Lucia, as an independent nation, has ultimate responsibility for managing and directing its foreign policy. This includes its bilateral and multilateral mandate as it deems necessary. Unfortunately, there is a very sad spectre about foreign policy management amongst CARICOM nations. The local public servants entrusted with the responsibility of managing the process remain very much inculcated in the deep and unfortunate mysticism of neo-colonialism. With such entrenched and unfortunate behaviour, they become somewhat reluctant and resistant in understanding their role within the ministry of foreign affairs.

At the same time, some of the appointed foreign ministers share the same neo-colonial thoughts as their advisers. The end result is that the foreign ministry becomes an avenue and pawn to the regional multilateral agencies where the Europeans and other multilateral players find solace.

Therefore, it shows clearly that Kenny Anthony's perception about the European Union government is incorrect and maybe the time has arrived when individual CARICOM governments should begin to monitor and understand the regional multilateral environment.

Digressing from Anthony's ill-conceived comments about the European Union, one cannot ignore the massive electoral victory by Grenada's New National Party (NNP) during the recent concluded general elections. The Barbados general elections that followed two days later and saw regionalist Owen Arthur’s Barbados Labour Party (BLP) being defeated by only two seats to the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) defied polling logic, as Owen went into the elections with great momentum. Although Owen has since decided to take a back seat, there is no doubt that he will continue to advocate and support a strong regional movement.

As Grenada's Mitchell enjoys his comfortable parliamentary majority, the defeated National Democratic Congress (NDC) remains in a state of denial and continues to hurl unfortunate insults at voters who supported the New National Party (NNP). It was quite unfortunate that in a recent NDC electoral post mortem, deputy chairperson Kent Joseph alluded to the NNP success as "convincing gullible youths". In my view, such a comment was quite insensitive to the young voters of Grenada, given that they comprise 50% of the population and they face the brunt of social ills created by Joseph and his team.

Returning to the regional CARICOM Secretariat, the political movement and its sustainability, I cannot share the sentiment of regional commentators who have expressed great cynicism about the future of both entities. It is clear that the region's elected officials are ageing and, at some future time, they will have to be replaced by younger politicians.

However, while age and youthfulness might be evident, we must remember that nothing new is likely to be proposed. The days of Gairy, Bird, Bradshaw, Joshua, Le Blanc, Bramble, Barrow, Burnham, Manley and Williams are gone for good. May they continue to rest in peace and thanks for their strong anti-colonial and imperialist position.

Finally, as I return to the Georgetown Secretariat, my optimism tells me that things will continue to run, as the multilateral grants and contributions remain accessible in Canada, the United States, the European Union and some other nations who have contributed to the multilateral trough.

The Secretariat bureaucrats will continue to protect their turf by producing realms of useless technical documents, which still fall short of telling our governments how to overcome the economic malaise they are faced with.

Grenada seems to have taken the correct steps, newly elected Prime Minister Mitchell found the money and public servants were happily remunerated on February 26, 2013.

I cannot remember at any time when the Castries-based Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) or the CARICOM Secretariat have had to tell staff and consultants that salaries were not available.

Regional elected governments continue to be challenged with this monthly recurring problem.
 
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