June 20, 2008
Our own Economic Union

Europe has its EU (Economic Union). CARICOM is moving in that direction, albeit not as fast as necessity demands. Now the smaller countries of the Eastern Caribbean, grouped under the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are about to take their integration process to a deeper level with their small-island EU. In preparation for this, a series of high-profile Consultations on Economic Union for the OECS are being launched, the third of which took place on Monday of this week at the Peace Memorial Hall.

In what was a fairly high-powered event, the gathering was addressed by our own Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir Dwight Venner, among other officials. Dominican Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerritt, who was due to deliver an address as well, was unfortunately not able to make it. Most welcome, though, was the presence of Opposition Leader, Hon. Arnhim Eustace, sharing the head-table and his thoughts on the Union with the audience.

The consultations on this important development are a most necessary requirement for both promoting the concept and, moreover, allowing the people to shape it. The integration process, though rooted in our historical experience, is still not grounded enough in our psyche as a people. The narrow-mindness of self-serving politicians still permeates the region with false images of a supposed nationalism that has little bearing on current global or regional realities.

Prime Minister Gonsalves had made a strong appeal to public servants in particular to attend the launching. This is good. Yet it is equally important that the vast majority of our people do not get the false impression that integration is a bureaucratic exercise, only for public officials. Indeed economic union can only succeed if it is firmly rooted in the everyday activities and practices of our people. Thus, seeking to draw on the experience of organizations and groupings, from different sectors, which span the sub regional space, can make a vital contribution to the process.

If there is one thing we should have learnt from the CARICOM integration process is that you cannot leave it up to politicians and bureaucrats alone. The people must feel the process. It must touch their lives. They must see hope and a future in it and so be able to articulate the vision around which the project will be built. Our young people are key to this. Mobilizing them must take account of relevant communication strategies which can galvanize them. The old worn-out approaches will not work.