ADDRESS BY THE MOST HONOURABLE ANDREW HOLNESS
LAUNCH OF CARICOM REVIEW COMMISSION
Tuesday, June 28 Executive Lobby, OPM
Members of the cabinet, the Honorable Bruce Golding- former Prime Minister, and chairman of the CARICOM Review commission, Excellences and members of the Diplomatic Corp, members of the commission, senior government officials, members of the private sector, representatives from CARICOM, and related institutions, representatives of academia, members of the media, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
I decided to set up this commission because after 50 years of independence as a nation and after more than 30 years at attempting regional integration, I believe it is time that we take a second look at the institutions which framed architecture of the Jamaican state. It is pure coincidence that having established the commission, United Kingdom has gone and left the European Union. It has sparked a debate locally; one would even want to say a movement on the ground called JAEXIT, JA-XI.
We cannot preempt what the commission will say but it was never the intention to lay any groundwork or chart any path out of CARICOM. This is about strengthening Jamaica’s position within the regional integration process which is absolutely important to Jamaica’s economic growth and development for the next 50 years. As I have said before a weak Jamaica does not make a strong CARICOM.
CARICOM has had its successes. The sharing of cost for regional negotiations, we only need to look as far as the University of the West Indies which is recognized worldwide for the work it is doing for the standardizations right across from areas of skills, health practices, and governance practices in regional security corporation. We have done well but on the issue of trade there is significant concern.
One of the lessons that we learnt from the recent referendum in the United Kingdom is that governments must pay keen attention to what their citizens are saying. There are some who would be critical of Prime Minister David Cameron for calling a referendum. Some say it was unnecessary but such is democracy.
There is clearly in Jamaica a perception, a view of CARICOM and the solution which I believe works for us is for us to investigate that view to create the forum in which those views can be given voice, the issues articulated but that there are persons who can give context, direction, interpretation, lead opinion, analyze and chart a course forward. And that is the approach that I intend to take to get the expert opinions, to interface, interact, interrogate, exchange the views with the Jamaican people as where it is we want to go, to have that conversation, to guide our path for the next 50 years.
I believe that former Prime Minister Golding is an excellent choice in leading this commission. And I want to thank you sir for agreeing without question when I posed this opportunity to you. I want to thank the other members of the commission. I was about to call out all the names but at least two persons are overseas and have not been able to respond to us and so I’m going to not call the names at this point but simply to say that we have selected carefully to ensure broad representation so we have members from the private sector, from academia, from business, and on that score I want to say that I’ve invited the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago to come here and he has said “yes of course I will come and when I come I want to see one man in particular, that William Mahfood”. I will ensure that the (foreign) Minister is there to be the referee.
We’ve also ensured that the various political views are represented, the trade unions and small business. We’ve been very comprehensive in the commission that we’ve put together and I want to thank those members who have accepted and your names will be published as soon as we have those last two acceptances from the members who have been selected.
I want to give one more element to the commission. Recently we’ve also launched the Economic Growth Council; the remit of that body is to look at our internal structures to see what is it that is creating an obstacle, threats, what are our weaknesses, and at the same time to come up with what are our opportunities, what are our strengths, what are the solutions to make our economy and our public sector robust, responsive and resilient. When you put that alongside the CARICOM commission you will begin to see a strategy being developed of trying to ensure that Jamaica is internally strong with its systems, its regulatory environment, governor structures, but also regionally strong not just on social or cultural integration but on commerce, finance and trade levels as well.
This is all about securing prosperity for Jamaicans. Prosperity is not some ephemeral dream, a nebulous idea. Prosperity is within our grasp, we just have to reach out and grab it like we want it and to do that we have to contend with our lack of growth over the last 40years. We can blame no one else but ourselves. I don’t take the view of looking at all the exogenous variables, all the history and all the things that have gone wrong. I start with me. I start with this beautiful country of ours, Jamaica. The solutions are right here with us and we collectively together must put our minds to those solutions whether it is in the Economic Growth Council or in the CARICOM Review Commission or in Parliament or in the Cabinet or at Belmont Road or at Hope Road; we must put our minds to the solutions and so this is what we’re doing.
We’re strategically going institutions by institutions reviewing Jamaica to make sure that we are in a position to respond to the new threats that are emerging in our environment and to find the new solutions and opportunities that are also emerging to ensure that we can bring economic growth and prosperity to the people of Jamaica. So with those few comments it is my great pleasure, my distinct honor to launch officially the CARICOM Review Commission.