I arrived early expecting the meeting to start on time, and given the fact that I had two other meetings scheduled for the day. As I entered the improperly lit conference room, fifteen minutes before the scheduled start, only three other persons were present. To pass the time I engaged in small chitchats with the buxom lady from NWA and another lady in the bright orange from an agency I cannot now recall. The chitchat lasted until other participants started to drift into the room half an hour after later, the CARICOM Consultation on the Regional Procurement System started.
The officials from the Ministry of Finance were late, but the moderator decided in the interest of time to start the proceedings. It was touted as a high level consultation meeting, but as I glanced around the room, I never saw the people present who would have made this meeting the high level one it ought to be. The discussion reached a point of applicable threshold for market protection. My stomach churned as I listened to the various speakers, ranting I would say about the Jamaican threshold for market entry being too low. I wondered to myself, if we are speaking about creating a single economic space, then why are we speaking about threshold?
During the administration of Owen Arthurs, while sitting one Sunday morning browsing through the Sunday Gleaner I saw an advertisement that caught my interest. It was an RFP for MEP consultants for an educational project in Barbados, aptly named EduTech 2000. The following Tuesday I was on an Air Jamaica flight to Bridgetown Barbados, my first trip to another Caribbean Island, to meet with the project manager at the Ministry of Education in Barbados. They were quite receptive and never for one moment considered me or my company a foreigner. To them I was a Caribbean national seeking a business opportunity. The proposal was submitted and my firm was successful with one of the consulting contracts was awarded to us. During the negotiations, “threshold” was never mentioned.
The framers of the US Constitution dream were the creation of a Union free from the “tyranny of the Crown”. Over two hundred years later, for the people of the United States, it is still a work in progress. One of the dreams of the framers of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is the creation of a single economic space for CARICOM, where all the factors of production move freely, without any barriers. However, for the people of the CARICOM it is not a work in progress, but “a talk in progress”. Hence, my personal despondency on the path the discussion was taking. I wondered to myself as I sat there listening; Why do we as a people refuse to grab the opportunities, as I did with the Barbados project? Why?
I left the meeting feeling defeated, because this Caribbean dream will remain just that, a dream unless we can find the political will to make this dream a reality. This was further compounded by the fact that the vote in the Jamaican Senate on the three Bills to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final Appellate Court is heading for failure. The Opposition senators remain stuck in their partisan tribal twilight zone, and refuse to support the passage of these Bills.
I looked right and left before easing my way into the late morning traffic on Lady Musgrave, heading to my next appointment.