On May 1, 1974 Belize became a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). CARICOM is an organization that seeks to integrate cooperation among its member countries in various sectors including but not limited to education, economics and trade, among others. With Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow recently taking over the Chair of the CARICOM Secretariat, the Secretary General Irwin LaRocque was in Belize on a short visit. Whilst on the Morning Show today, LaRocque spoke of the purpose of this visit.
IRWIN LAROCQUE : “I’m here primarily to brief Prime Minister Barrow who is the chairman. He assumed the chairmanship on the 1st of January and the tenure is for sixth months. As is normal the chairman is to be briefed on what is happening and also to hear from him what are the proposals for the next six months as we go forward. Prime Minister will be hosting the intercessional meeting of the heads of government for Belize on the 16th and 17th of February we expect a very good and reasonable turnout of our heads of government to discuss a number of issues going forward and the chairmanship does not end with chairing the meeting there are a number of meetings that from time to time that the chairman has to attend to on behalf of the member states so I will be working very closely with him and hopefully I will be visiting Belize in the next six months from time to time. The Prime Minister is no stranger to matters CARICOM. We have an arrangement in CARICOM where each head of government have a portfolio assigned to them on a particular are of interest that they have political oversight on in terms of giving guidance so if something happens between a session in a particular area I know who to call to speak with. Prime Minister has a portfolio of Justice and Governance which entail our general governance arrangements of the community, it entails issues pertaining to our treaty and of course he as a particularly keen interest in the CCJ which is one of our premier institutions of which I am very proud.”
There are several areas in which the CARICOM works towards; among them being the improvements in standards of living and work, sustained economic development, expansion of trade economic relations as well as international competitiveness. According to Secretary General LaRocque, there are four main pillars that the organization is built upon.
IRWIN LAROCQUE : “CARICOM covers quite a broad area of issues. The Caribbean Community first of all is not just the CARICOM secretariats. We are made up of the secretariat which is the administrative organ of the committee but there are also a number of specialized institutions in CARICOM such as the climate change sector which is located here in Belize. We cover four broad areas. One is economic integration which deals will all matters of trade, agriculture and services and the like. We also human and social development which covers education, health, culture and youth. Another pillar of our work is in foreign policy coordination where we seek as best as possible to represent ourselves collectively overseas not in terms of physical but in terms of our joint policy and joint approach and that sort of thing. Finally in terms of security cooperation and coordination that is the fourth pillar. It’s quite a broad area, we are tend to be known for trade but a lot of good work is happening in the other areas and I think if you were to do a proper score card of what CARICOM is you need to take all of those into account.”
With fifteen countries forming the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Secretary General says reform is essential. It is on that platform that LaRocque came into office in 2011.
IRWIN LAROCQUE: “I came on board on a platform, a reform of the community and secretariat to try to be more effective and more relevant in the direct challenges that we face in our day to day lives so that we can be more relevant to our people. We prepared a five year strategic plan for the community, not for the secretariat but for the entire community. I took part in the consultations that took place here in Belize in early 2014 and had a wide range of consultations with every single member state. We have this plan which is guiding us for the next four to five years and we highlighted four or five areas that we want to focus on; economic resilience, environmental resilience, we need to strengthen our human and social development HR and a number of other these areas we have identified and are focusing on coordinating these activities with not just the secretariat but with the member states as well as with the various institutions. We all have to work together in terms of being able to deliver more to our clients.”
The fifteen states that form the Caribbean Community are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, St. Lucia, Suriname, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. LaRocque left Belize today and is scheduled to return next month.