February 16, 2007

Rise to the challenges


Leaders of the nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) would by now have returned to their respective homes and jurisdictions after the completion of their 18th Inter- Sessional Meeting which concluded in the host country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Wednesday of this week. Following the usual high-profile opening, the focus was largely on a number of in-house matters, tackled in retreat-style caucus by the leaders.

There was, as usual, no shortage of issues demanding urgent attention consolidating the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) and its expansion to a common economy; the formidable challenges of negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union; regional social problems such as violent crime, violence, the nefarious drug trade and HIV/AIDS; and the bold yet just call for reparation for the crimes of colonization, subjugation and genocide, slavery and indentureship-were all on the table.{{more}}

They, in turn, brought into sharp focus an over-arching approach, that of governance within the CARICOM structure. It is no secret that CARICOM has long been plagued by the twin weakness of decision-making and implementation. While analysis and diagnosis have been in no short supply, the region has often lagged behind when it comes to clear decision-making, putting these decisions into practice and sticking to time-lines. It is left to be seen whether under the leadership of the Vincentian prime minister, which ends with the annual summit in July, if much progress would be made in these vital areas.

Perhaps the most outstanding example of one cross-cutting issue which encapsulates the whole range of matters thus raised is the Caribbean’s hosting of World Cup Cricket 2007. It represents not only the largest single undertaking of the Community as a whole but typifies the highs and lows of the regional integration process. That the region, at least the English speaking, cricket-playing nations, could not only agree to the hosting of cricket’s premier event, but actually find the resources including huge financial outlays to make it possible, says a lot for the Caribbean resolve.

Yet there has been the downside as well. The failure to meet deadlines especially in regard to infrastructure development, the gaffes over the regional visa, the inconsistencies over security issues and the apparent disconnect with some serious concerns of the tourism industry are examples of these. Both cricket and government officials should share the blame for some of these but are they not very typical of our community as a whole? Do we, the people of the region, not also exhibit this double-faced approach to World Cup 2007? Proud of hosting but indecisive in support?

Whatever our views, the World Cup is at our door. For us in SVG, this weekend’s hosting of the final stages of the regional one-day tournament, the KFC Cup provides an opportunity to test our final readiness. Not only will the facilities be under the spotlight, but the hosting and above-all security arrangements as well. It is no secret that the requirements of the so-called “Sunset Legislation” and security and traffic regulations will cause disruptions and inconveniences to many. Perhaps we have left it too late to explain, been too sparing in information, but as a nation, we are exposed to the world. As a region we are called upon to show our mettle. Whatever our shortcomings, we must rise to the challenges, just as our leaders are called upon to do.