The effects of the ongoing global financial crisis have intensified the existing economic issues facing the Commonwealth Caribbean, including declining investment, productivity levels and employment opportunities for its citizens. Although the current crisis presents challenges for governments in the region, it also offers an opportunity for these countries to implement innovative solutions to contend with the short-term effects of the financial crisis, while addressing long-standing problems. A solution that has been successful in Botswana, Ireland and Barbados, is the use of social partnerships. Undertaken while these countries were facing economic and social crises, social partnership as a specific governance model allowed them to achieve levels of development and stability that other states yearn to attain.
This paper evaluates the value of social partnerships as a governance tool for the Commonwealth Caribbean by examining the experiences of Botswana, Ireland and Barbados, as well as the less-than-successful attempts to implement a social partnership in Jamaica. The analysis offers key considerations for small developing states in the Caribbean for implementing successful social partnerships, including the importance of strong decisive leadership; transparent and accessible rules of engagement; clear, measurable goals; and the recognition that social partnership is both a practical and philosophical experience. The wider lesson to be drawn for the Caribbean is that any development reform needs to be sustained with some degree of flexibility and responsiveness built into the reform process.