Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, yesterday, launched his promised Caricom Review Commission and immediately dismissed speculation that Jamaica is preparing to pull out of the regional economic bloc.
Speaking at an official ceremony at Jamaica House attended by a throng of senior State officials, diplomats, representatives of Caricom institutions and the private sector, Holness noted that the Caricom debate was triggered by last week’s historic referendum in the United Kingdom (UK) – known as Brexit – which has resulted in the UK opting to leave the European Union after 43 years.
However, he said there are no plans for a so-called “Jaxit”, a phrase coined by those speculating that Jamaica could be looking to follow in the UK’s footsteps.
“We cannot pre-empt 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 over the next 50 years,” he stated.
The prime minister argued that Caricom has had its successes in the areas of education, health, governance practices, the sharing of costs for regional negotiations, and regional security co-operation, but matters of trade – which have often been the source of contention between Jamaica and some of its Caricom partners – are still wanting.
“One of the lessons that we have learnt from the recent referendum in the United Kingdom is that governments must pay keen attention to what their citizens are saying… there is clearly in Jamaica, a perception of Caricom, and the solution which I believe works for us is to investigate that, to create the forum in which those views can be given voice (and) the issues articulated, but that there are persons who can give context, direction, interpretation, lead opinion, analyse and chart a course forward. That’s the approach that I intend to take – get the expert opinions to interface, interact, exchange the views with the Jamaican people as to where it is we want to go,” he said.
Holness also defended his selection of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding to head the commission, saying that he was “an excellent choice”.
He declined to name the other members of the commission, noting that two are left to be appointed, but assured that the selections had been “carefully” made and wide ranging to include representatives of the private sector, academia, business, Government and Opposition, and trade unions. (Jamaica Observer)