By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Since the Golding Report on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was tabled in the Jamaican parliament in February, subsequent to which the Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, assumed to rotating chairmanship of CARICOM, there has been little or no apparent movement on the recommendations set out in the report for the reform of the regional bloc and its organs.
The Golding Report laid out several key issues for the reform of CARICOM, including more monitoring mechanisms, the institution of an auditor general to account for the funds spent by CARICOM, a full commitment and focus to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and other initiatives that would bind countries into a greater buy-in to the regional body as a whole.
The CARICOM Secretariat, when approached by Caribbean News Now, said it would make a full statement in acknowledgement of the report by former Jamaican prime minister, Bruce Golding, when it had a chance to digest the content and implications.
According to the official releases posted by CARICOM, no one has spoken about organisational reforms as a focus since 2016 when the president of Guyana, David Granger, was set to take the helm as chairman at the end of 2016, let alone acknowledging the issues outlined in the Golding Report.
Meanwhile, it is clear to say that CARICOM is operating under the same mechanisms with Holness in charge as it was previously under his predecessor, Haitian president, Jovenel Moise, and others before him.
After his report was released and tabled in the Jamaican parliament by Prime Minister Holness in March, Golding went on record stating: “Let’s not pretend and stop tinkering around if it is that we say something is not working. I think it’s workable, but it requires significant commitment on behalf of member countries, and until they are (committed), this is where it stops…”
However, some of the other regional leaders, including St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, said that Golding’s recommendations laid out in his report were too unrealistic and asked too much.
Issues such as a proper accounting system in that of an office of an auditor general, a greater emphasis on project monitoring and how funding is spent and to what efficacy, is something that can and should be priority for CARICOM, some political analysts state.
The Office of an Auditor General is common practice in most Caribbean countries, particularly those that are former British colonies and that this is not a brand new idea.
In addition, services on negotiating processes are placed in kind in many respects, so in some instances it is not a matter of funding, but a matter of re-aligning staff to continue with the negotiations process of CARICOM and, to a great extent, the CSME and other regional sub-bodies.
CARICOM has been faced with human resource challenges, despite its heavy staff complement. Also, CARICOM has been plagued with “response time” issues when matters are drawn to the Secretariat’s attention such as private sector enterprises using CARICOM’s image and domain name online to promote their business interests, which may deceive investors into believing that they somehow linked to and endorsed by CARICOM, notably the Sweet Homes company out of Dubai, involving Antigua and Barbuda, which CARICOM has yet to deal with despite several requests for clarification.
Nevertheless, while CARICOM may be challenged and the need for reform is ever-present for regional cohesion, CARICOM is still considered the premier agency for regional negotiations and cooperation for the time being.