Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Editorial | Gov’t must now unbundle Golding Report

Published:Wednesday | July 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Prime Minister Andrew Holness could justifiably claim much of the credit for the discernible energy among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders during their Montego Bay summit to complete the transformation of the regional customs union into a single market and economy. It is now necessary for the PM to offer clear guidelines for Jamaica's negotiating position and what Kingston now sees as its engagement with the Community.

Not only did the heads of government publicly talk a lot about the issue, including past failures to follow through on commitments, they agreed to meet again in November, especially to deal with the issue. In the meantime, the prime ministerial subcommittee that deals with single-market issues, chaired by Barbados' Mia Mottley, was mandated to meet quarterly "to guide and invigorate the implementation process".

Additionally, regional finance ministers were told to, over the next 12 months, develop model securities legislation and policies necessary for the creation of an integrated CARICOM capital market.

 

Establishing a Commission

 

This impetus would have come, in part, because of Mr Holness' consistent declarations, since coming to office two and a half years ago, of the region's need to follow through on its obligations to establish a CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) by establishing a commission, led by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, to review Jamaica's relationship with CARICOM and its future therein.

Significantly, the Golding Report is to be taken into account by Ms Mottley's group, although the heads of government offered no opinion on its contents in their post-summit communiquÈ. Notably, Ms Mottley was told by colleagues - presumably including Mr Holness, given CARICOM's unanimity rule on decision-making - to concentrate on what is "practical and achievable over the next 12 months".

Mr Golding's task force had recommended that CARICOM complete the transformation to a single economy within five years, in the failure of which Jamaica should withdraw from the Community's single market and economy component, but remain part of its functional cooperation arrangements.

 

REVAMPED Governance Structures

 

The Golding Report not only calls for revamped decision-making and governance structures in CARICOM, but for the removal of the more- and lesser-developed country designation among members.

The administration, on the basis of the prime minister's intervention in the parliamentary debate on the Golding Report and the resolution that underpinned that discussion, is not in full embrace of its proposals - or at least their timing.

For instance, macroeconomic convergence, as implied by a single economy, would be impractical at this time, as would be the substantial overhaul of the CARICOM treaty that would be required to change the Community's governance arrangements. Furthermore, more of the ideas were not considered feasible.

Mr Holness, however, insists that having the single-market arrangements in place is sine qua non for CARICOM and Jamaica's place in it. The resolution he took to Parliament also repeated the Golding Report's time frame for that destination.

What is not clear, though, in the absence of a total embrace of Mr Golding's proposals, are the detailed and specific principles on which the Jamaican Government wants CARICOM to move and how these should be sequenced. It appears that Ms Mottley's committee will have to unbundle these in its sessions.

That, at best, is messy and time-wasting if the Government is really in a mood of urgency. We believe that the administration should, at the very least, outline its takeaways from the Golding Report and for these to be discussed with stakeholders, including the private sector, trade unions and civil-society organisations - the same parties with which the regional leaders urged domestic governments to consult in advancing the CSME agenda.