Feb 08, 2012 News
Aimed at helping to improve the life of those within the Caribbean Community, the CARICOM Secretariat has found itself in a predicament which could see it becoming more inefficient than it already is. At least this is according to Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Speaking at the opening of the 29th Meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council of Ministers at the Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, CARICOM Secretariat yesterday, he revealed that the budget of the Secretariat has been frozen from 2008 through 2010 and then further reduced in 2011.
Ambassador LaRocque took up the reigns of the financially-frail body in August of last year. He revealed that while the Secretariat has been able to maintain a level of service, “We have had to undertake cost cutting measures, including not filling posts as they become vacant, some of which are necessary for the efficient management of our institution and the delivery of its work programme.”
The Ambassador further pointed to the fact that “should we endure any further cuts in real terms without prioritizing mandates and an already over ambitious work programme, we will become that more inefficient, given the resources that are available to us.” The Secretariat, he said, is threatened by the rising arrears which restricts its cash flow and further limits its ability to perform.
This state of affairs, he warned, should not be allowed to continue even as he pointed out that in the process of change, reform and restructuring, the Secretariat must be equipped to be the change agent that it is required to be.
In addition to a number of other issues, yesterday’s meeting was designed to look at the Secretariat’s work programme and budget.
“Today we receive a presentation on proposals for restructuring the Secretariat and I have no doubt that changes will flow from the recommendations of that report and we must all be prepared to welcome those changes,” Ambassador LaRocque said.
He opined, though, that change will have to be managed even as he pointed to the fact that it will not be easy and it will definitely require a new mindset and a new way of doing things.
Directing his concerns to the Chairman of the proceedings, Suriname Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Lackin and other Honourable Ministers and delegates, Ambassador LaRocque highlighted that ‘there is a long day ahead and it is my fervent hope that at its end, we would have advanced this process of change.”
He also noted that while it can be declared that the staff of the Secretariat is hard working and committed to their task, there is yet need to organize what is required. However he questioned, “Do we have our priority right? Are we capable of rendering the service that our member states and associated members require, given the resources at our disposal? These are some of the tough questions that face us that need answers as we go forward.”
According to Ambassador LaRocque, there must be a clear understanding that the Secretariat can no longer be all things to all persons if it is to be both efficient and effective irrespective of the role identified for it to play. Prioritization and resources, he noted, are two words which must go along with results, accountability and value for money in reference to the Secretariat and all of the Community’s institutions in going forward.
The Secretariat’s organisational review, he disclosed, is the first of such reviews which are to be conducted of all Community Institutions, adding that the review of the integration structure and operations does not end with the Secretariat and the Institutions. He noted that the role and functions of the Council are pivotal to the efficient operation of integration arrangements, pointing out that it is an issue that the Council has previously sought to address as it grappled with matters related to its functioning with a view of fulfilling its role as envisaged in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“Your discussions today will benefit from a review undertaken by the Community Council in 2004 at a Retreat. There is no doubt that many of the recommendations from that 2004 review remain valid and relevant. It is necessary that this Council, a vital cog in the Community wheel, must once again consider its role and functions as we go forward in this current restructuring process.”
He stressed too that “as the Revised Treaty mandates, it is within this Council that resides the authority to give the strategic direction to pursue the policies enunciated by our Heads of Government. Article 13, from which that mandate derives, also places upon you two essential tasks for the efficient conduct of Community business. The first, of ensuring timely implementation of Community decisions can best be achieved, no doubt, through prioritization, which in turn will influence the other task of mobilising and allocating resources for the implementation.”
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