Our Readers' Opinions
November 29, 2013
Whither Caricom?

Fri Nov 29, 2013

by Kezron J.S. Walters

I have always been a strong supporter of regional integration. It has always been my belief that in this age of trade blocs and regional groupings, the Commonwealth Caribbean ought to band together to stave off the trying times, strengthen one another and formulate solutions. I believed that our common backgrounds made us alike, and even though the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas makes distinctions between More Developed Countries and Less Developed Countries (MDC’s and LDC’s), that the development of our economies was more or less similar and intertwined. We are all (perhaps except Trinidad and Tobago) still actively engaged in the process of self-definition.{{more}}

All of the countries, barring Trinidad and Guyana probably, still do not have a defined national industry, bouncing back and forth between agriculture and tourism. St Vincent and the Grenadines is now constructing an international airport. When complete, Dominica will be the only country not serviced by international airlines. Jamaica is contemplating moving towards being a logistics hub in the Caribbean. Some countries, including St Vincent are investing in cocoa and others are finding creative ways to market their tourism product, e.g. the nature isle, the Caribbean you’re looking for. The banana industry is crawling along and the sugar industry is painstakingly grinding to a halt. The point I am making is that in moving towards a “modern post-colonial economy”, all of our Commonwealth Caribbean countries (save for Trinidad and Tobago) are still taking baby steps, and in in light of this quite apparent fact, I hoped that we would find the well needed motivation toward integration. For Pete’s sake, we all still practically use those inherited independence constitutions and the Privy Council, much to its own dismay is still our final appellate court.

I hoped that we would find the well needed motivation in the national debt. Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and Grenada are all among the top 10 countries with the greatest debt to GDP ratios. St Kitts and Nevis was also the smallest country with the worst ratio. Something may need to be done soon to rescue our sister island from destruction. Jamaica has gone to the IMF and is executing the plan on the road to recovery. But again, maybe I was deluded. I thought that with the fragile state of our economies unable to withstand or bounce back from ever threatening natural disasters we would band together; but again, I am deluded. After all, some countries are not to be considered an ATM for the rest of the Caribbean.

I thought that with the close proximity of our borders, freedom of movement, ably conquered by the much larger European Union, would not be a problem. Then came Shanique Myrie versus the state of Barbados and the recent slap in the face of the CCJ by the Trinidadian government refusing to land 13 Jamaicans. Jamaica has since issued a travel advisory on Trinidad, and Jamaicans are up in arms over a boycott of all Trinidadian goods imported to that country. Over the years the cry has been that Trinidad has been practising unfair trade practices, extending to goods not of Caricom origin the Trinidad brand, therefore bringing them under the protection of the Common External Tariff. Trinidad exported to Jamaica TT$4.5 billion worth of goods in 2012. Less than one third of that figure was exported by Jamaica to Trinidad in the same time period.

I thought that with the similarities of culture we would band together, have a drink, thief a wine, argue over cricket, then go to church on our respective days of worship, but again I am deluded. Sadly, for Caricom to work, ALL countries must be on board and I cannot foresee this happening. Governments seem unwilling to make the tough decisions needed to play fair, or to extend a hand in brotherly love. We need to root out settled predispositions, insularity and superiority complexes and get to a plain where we are all equal.

But then again, I surely am deluded if I think this will ever happen and I am supported by the recent statements of Barbadian Minister Donville Inniss in this regard telling Jamaican editors to focus on the “rot” in Jamaica in regard, to statements made in the Jamaica Observer about the recent arrests of Barbadian journalists. Will the Caribbean ever be truly united? Whither Caricom?