MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The global recession is having a severe impact on the nations of the Caribbean Community and hampering efforts toward regional integration, but the bloc must remain united to weather the economic storm, Caricom leaders said during a summit in this Jamaican resort city.
The need to persevere with integration even as some developed countries seem at risk of being overwhelmed by the crisis was a theme of Sunday’s speeches at the conference in Montego Bay.
Caricom’s current chairman, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, said the region’s economies have been “severely dislocated by the global recession” and that their governments lack the resources to fund stimulus measures.
“Our economies are naked, shivering for warmth in the blizzard of the global crisis,” he said at the regional gathering, which comes not long after Jamaica entered into a $1.2 billion stand-by agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The world recession has also eroded some of Caricom’s progress, made “at considerable effort and sacrifice,” toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals, Golding said.
After the recession, the international situation could evolve in ways that are not favorable to the small, open economies of the Caribbean region, the Jamaican leader said.
“We are pressed to enter into trading arrangements in which we are ill-equipped to compete. We delude ourselves if we think the world owes us anything, a world that believes that it has more than repaid whatever debt it might have owed,” he said.
“Our reality check is that we are on our own and we must decide whether in the journey that we must make we will walk alone or walk together,” Golding continued, advocated a renewed commitment to regional integration.
Caricom’s secretary-general, Edwin Carrington, sounded the same note: “If any lesson needed to be learnt regarding the imperative of regional integration, this last decade has reinforced it.
“It is one in which the most powerful nations in the world, meeting in fora such as G8 and the G20, have been seeking to forge a common front to stave off the worst effects of these crises,” he said. “Who are we to do less? Indeed what we need is more, not less regional unity.”
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the first woman prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said the country’s commitment to Caricom “remains unchanged” under the new administration.
Also present for the summit in Montego Bay was the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, who promised support for Caricom’s efforts at integration.
Ban, the first U.N. chief to address Caricom leaders then quoted the lyrics of late reggae superstar Bob Marley, exhorting the people of the Caribbean to “get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.” EFE