Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse has come up with a new mechanism for making CARICOM Work. “Wealth-sharing” among member states is what Bouterse says is the answer. The one-time coup leader turned democratically elected President is reported to have said at the gathering of Heads in St. Kitts that in the same way that Suriname had shared its gold wealth with Canada and the United States so too ways must be found to have these resources shared with other CARICOM Countries.
At a glance Bouterse’s idea that the region should share de wealth an share it good resembles the kind of grand, big-hearted socialist ideal that Forbes Burnham would have put forward… except of course that it simply doesn’t wash in these days of insularity and putting country first.
Certainly, the idea of one big, happy family does not appear to sit well with the Bajan Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who told the St Kitts Heads of Government pow-wow that as much as Barbados was committed to the lofty ideals of the Single Market and Economy the CSME had to queue up behind the national interests of his country in terms of where Barbados has placed its priorities. In other words it’s Barbados first and CARICOM second.
The Bajans have, of course, attracted a whole heap of bad name from the rest of its CARICOM brothers and sisters for not being nice to visitors from other parts of the region. Free movement of people might be one of the tenets of the CSME but at the St. Kitts meeting Prime Minister Stuart certainly came out to bat for his country in no uncertain terms. The Bajans have taken the position that free movement or no free movement Barbados is attracting far too many foreigners from other parts of the Caribbean and that the CSME never said anything about opening Barbados’ doors to whomsoever may come and for whatever motives they might have. As for a CARICOM Single Economy Stuart declared that “we cannot pretend that our efforts at macroeconomic convergence have reached a point that would allow us to create, and more importantly, to sustain a single economy.” Apart from wondering aloud as to exactly what “efforts” Prime Minister Stuart is talking about it has to be said that he is right in his assessment that a Single Economy is light years away. The region is still too disparate and divided and the governments of CARICOM remain too obsessed with their individual sense of self importance to have any desire to indulge in the kind of surrendering of sovereignty that is necessary to bring about a Single Economy.
As for President Bouterse, his fanciful theory about wealth-sharing can perhaps be excused on the grounds of his newness to CARICOM. Imagine engaging Trinidad and Tobago on the grand idea of sharing its oil wealth with its struggling CARICOM brothers and sisters or asking our own miners here in Guyana to share their gold with the less fortunate territories in the Region! Certainly not with gold at US$1,500 an ounce. Mr. Bouterse may mean well but his grand plan for wealth-sharing is probably not likely to get very far particularly among those CARICOM member states that see themselves as having much to share and nothing to receive.