Full Disclosure
January 13, 2006

‘Embracing a new vista – our culture, our people, our region’

Some Social Implications of the Caricom Single Market and Economy

Part 1

The people of the Caribbean have been successful in engendering a culture which is unique. This is shown clearly in our music, modes of interaction, norms, customs and lifestyle. January 1, 2006 marked a very critical date in the historical development of our region. In fact, it is the beginning of a “New Time.” What is more, is that it appears that many who actually see the writing of History never fully appreciate the dynamics and importance of the moment as do readers studying the very topic many years after. {{more}}

In this regard, the sensitization of our people as it relates to issues touching and concerning the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) must be addressed urgently since we must all play active parts in the drafting of the geometry of our History.

The present analysis of the issues is pursued with a sense of optimistic criticism. This is indeed opposite in every respect to the normative “Dooms Day” approach adopted by many of our local and regional chronologists concerned with similar issues. Indeed, it would be an error of neglect if in any assessment of the implications for the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) we fail to look beyond the economy and politics of the intended configuration, and in so doing overlook the many sided social implications for our Vincentian society and people.

The people of the Caribbean can, without doubt, be categorized as a migratory people. Our people have been brought together through various modes of inward migration, thus shaping the demographics of the region. The periods of the Amerindian movement linking our region with South and Central America, European exploration, the Slave Trade connecting the New World with the Majestic Lands of Africa and the indentured labour system all brought the peoples of the region to one common space.

Migratory patterns have however changed since then. In fact, today’s migration is characterized by outward migration mainly to North America and Europe.

Further, as the processes of the CSME mature, one can anticipate an unfolding of new patterns of migration. A migration of an intra-regional type would become more apparent. This may in fact develop into one of the most organized movements of people ever in the region over the past 100 years. One can therefore envisage the social implications for such a mass movement intra-regionally.

The general aims and aspirations of the CSME are not new to the region since there are both historical examples in the form of the Federation and the working organization of the OECS presently, the latter being a more successful attempt at integration than the former.

In the birth of this new era, are we to expect the development of a new morality overwhelmed by a deep-seated sense of secularization? The increased intra-regional traffic of people by and large will invite new trends. The upshot of this is that many old and static restraints will be swept aside by the oncoming tide, causing changes in some circumstances of evolutionary or revolutionary proportions to well-aged social institutions and established forms of power structures. Needless to say, we have to prepare for the changes now.

The social realities which developed as a result of the movement of Guyanese workers to Barbados is a case in point of possible social disruptions which may occur as a result of the movement of people through the region. The issue has become a fertile sparring ground for the media, reporting on issues ranging from the dark side of race to matters concerning discrimination in employment. This has shown that the movement of people and their culture within the region is one on which we must educate if we are to effectively address the resultant implications. It will be interesting to see how issues affecting very sensitive areas of religion and the Church, and other aspects of social interaction which are culturally sensitive will react when they do meet.

Capitalism which I describe discreetly as a “restless dynamic”, will in its bid to seek new sources of profit in trade and commerce not hesitate to transform social life in the region in order to ensure sustained levels of economic growth. With increased levels of commerce in the region, our traditions may be traded for the production of goods and services on “economies of scale”.

It is clear that integration once strategically organized will bring many positives for us as a people. In a dispensation of organized integration within an increasingly globalized world economy, the role and function of the CSME would act as a further expression and deepening of our political independence and sovereignty both for each nation individually and as a regional embodiment.

In looking at the entire process however, one must never think that integration is to be viewed as a short cut to a Vincentian success. More importantly, the successful way forward will, and forever, remain dependent on the collective hard work of all Vincentians. We must at all times remember that no other nation regionally or internationally can take the Vincentian developmental ambitions to a successful end in a more proficient manner than we ourselves. It must be kept alive in our minds that the true energy needed to take our country forward begins and ends with us.

The successes of the integrative process provided by the CSME may only assist along the way and no more. In short, integration is the way forward, but we must be well braced for the journey ahead.