CARICOM – An Effort In Futility?

Out of challenges grow rich ideas. The thought came to my mind today as I scanned a local online headlines of my county’s oldest newsprint. Following the emotionally charged debate among Jamaicans regarding CARICOM and its relevance, four of the country’s economic enablers, the public sector and academia arrived at an intervention into what is threatening to drive a deeper wedge between Jamaica and its Caribbean partner, Trinidad and Tobago.

Retrieved from Google Images, December 8, 2013

Carried on the second page of the electronic source, the story submits that “a collaborative effort by four powerful local private-sector bodies, the public sector and academia is expected to give birth to ‘The Trade House’ in January 2014.” The Trade House’s (absurdly named in my opinion) role is to address those concerns arising from the misalignment of the treaty that informs CARICOM and the actual behaviors in the market. The report suggests that desks will be established in both Jamaica and the twin island Republic, since much of the finger-pointing plays out in this space. It is interesting to note that this initiative appeared to have been born out of the raw expressions of perceived and alleged ill treatment of  thirteen Jamaicans who were denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago. The ensuing outrage spawned local efforts calling for a boycott of goods and services coming out of the sister island. I could be wrong, but isn’t it rather strange that for years, the imbalances in trade and the aesthetic type relationships among Caribbean partners, were allowed to continue on auto-pilot under the guise of protecting the romanticized ideal of a single Caribbean Bloc. As the world turned and changed, CARICOM failed to grasp the implications associated with stagnation. Archaic laws, ridiculous focus on historical successes, rigidity in paying homage to defunct ideologies and rampant corruption across all borders have stunted our abilities to seize opportunities that are in front of our faces.

A common history has done nothing to bind our decisions for future. Instead, designated leaders trod the familiar paths even as the results prove disastrous. Meanwhile other western cultures, with of course their own challenges, similar in some respect to those of the Caribbean, experience favorable returns on political, economic and social goals.  Elitist posturing dogged by ethnocentric values continue to undermine the pursuit of real rewards. Barbs and insults fly across the divide with no clear articulation of direction. The offended and the offenders dig their heels in, licking wounds but failing to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Every State has the right to protect its borders. These are articulated in the instruments that are legislatively approved and endorsed. Every citizen should be made to understand the terms and conditions that are associated with gaining entry into another’s jurisdiction. The failure to meet the explicit requirements, barring the allegations of unprofessional conduct, should not be used as a mask in treating with the deficiencies of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. Instead, it bodes well for diplomacy to be pursued in aligning old paradigms with the new.

I offer that the recent pronouncements of a Trade House, is a step in the right direction. It is time that sanity returns to the adults of the respective countries. They are called to lead and lead they must. The stakeholders to the process continue to bleed from a wound that is self-inflicted and the pretty bandages of all but lost their usefulness. The failure to act decisively WILL BE injurious to the region irrespective of where the greater economic strength resides. Our diversity is a tool that if used strategically has the capability of encouraging innovation. We lose many of our undeniably brilliant minds to developed nations because of the unattractive options that are available in the Caribbean.  Those who remain, strain against political strong arm tactics that render their efforts marginal at best, impotent at worst.

The Trade House must not only seek to address concerns about trade and open and frank discussions should be pursued in the interest of Caribbean harmony. Tempers can be cooled when rhetoric matches action.  It is left to be seen if the tail wags the dog.

Copyright Suzette Henry-Campbell 2013

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