Caribbean leaders return empty-handed from crucial talks

As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges poor nations to consolidate their efforts towards a common appproach to the rest of the world, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders still appear adrift after 33 years of existence of the institution, established in July, 1973.

After meeting last weekend at a special session for two days at a western Guyana jungle resort to discuss pressing issues, including the appointment of a new chief executive, CARICOM say they will put plans to have a European Union-styled single trading currency on hold for now while working to strengthen the single trading market.

The two-day meeting outside the gold-mining river town of Bartica ended late Sunday with an announcement that no real effort will be made to pursue the enactment of a single currency because they are struggling with some aspects of the single trading market, the official communiqué stated.

“They agreed it may be best to pause and consolidate the gains of the single market before taking any further action on certain specific elements of the single economy, such as the creation of a single currency,” the announcement said.

Leaders have struggled to get some aspects of the single market system up and running, particularly issues dealing with free movement of people as Barbados and some other countries which fear being swamped by immigrants, have put restrictions on free travel within the bloc.

Tourist paradise, The Bahamas, has said from the outset it is not interested in free travel, while some widely reported negative incidents involving immigration authorities in Barbados appear to have dented the level of faith ordinary people have in free travel. The government there recently said non-citizens and visitors must pay for health care except in cases of emergencies.

Meanwhile, the grouping of presidents and prime ministers say they are also holding back on appointing a permanent council of ambassadors from each of the 15 member-bloc states, to follow through on decisions of heads of government and ministerial conferences because they are waiting on the completion of a review of the functioning of the Guyana-based secretariat “before taking any firm decisions” in that area.

The meeting also held back on appointing a new secretary general to replace Tobago-born Edwin Carrington who quit after 18 years last summer, saying that their early July conference in St. Kitts will deliberate on that issue.

Ten of the 15 leaders attended the meeting. Trinidad, the bloc’s largest economy and biggest donor, did not send any representative, blaming preparations for the first anniversary of the coalition government this week for its absence.

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