February 1, 2013
Call for political cohesion in the region

Fri Feb 01, 2013

It was no surprise that in his Annual Report on the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), Governor Sir Dwight Venner’s overriding emphasis was on the urgent need for unity and collective action on the part of governments, the private sector and civil society throughout the eastern Caribbean. Indeed, though his jurisdiction resides in the OECS, it is a theme which is equally applicable to the wider Caribbean.{{more}}

Sir Dwight has long been preaching this theme though being met with a certain degree of lip service on the part of governments and scepticism by many of us. Yet the successes of the institution he heads and the very dynamics of the integration movement in the smaller Caribbean islands give validity to his continuing call.

In his latest Report, for 2012, delivered on Tuesday of this week, the Governor gave a realistic assessment of the economic situation in the region. While things are far from being healthy, Sir Dwight did not sink into the doomsday scenario, typical of too many of our leaders and bureaucrats. He instead made it plain that we can ride out the crisis, but only if we are prepared to meet the formidable challenges confronting us.

Foremost among these, he pointed out, “……is the return to growth at a sufficiently high level to reduce unemployment to reasonable rates, to lower poverty levels and to assist in maintaining human development indices at current levels and improving them where warranted”. This is indeed a tall order for small, underdeveloped economies with populations filled with high expectations.

Placing all this in its correct context, Sir Dwight argued that in order to overcome our difficulties, the economic union (of the OECS) arrangements and their successful implementation are “critical to growth and stabilization”, and that “….the coordination of policies, programmes and projects across the single space are vital to improvements in the productivity and competitiveness of our economies”.

It is reasonable to assume that this message must have been delivered at the very highest levels before. But it does not seem to be falling on fertile ground, at least where our politicians are concerned, whether in or out of office. There is a vast disconnect between the economic imperatives and existing political practice, right through the region. At a time when we need solid consensus, political partisanship and division are undermining our hopes of recovery.

There is so much pettiness and bitterness across the aisles in the respective Parliaments, with political parties seemingly more interested in jockeying for power than in acting in the national interest. Worse, even among governing parties, political in-fighting is sabotaging efforts at economic survival. The examples of St Kitts/Nevis and Grenada are the most glaring in this regard.

Having inherited the Westminster parliamentary system from the former colonial powers, we seem either not to understand its relevance or the need for radical constitutional and political reform. We have failed to master the art of political competitiveness while maintaining a national focus and have thus been unable to embrace the measures necessary to assist us in realising our strategic goals.

We must not let the Central Bank Governor’s exhortations go to waste.