(Barbados Nation) Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur is again warning that Barbados has the most to lose from the failure of the regional integration movement.
His word of caution comes on the heels of a recent CARICOM study, which shows that the 15-member grouping is at breaking point and in need of rapid structural and operational reform.
But addressing a regional conference in the Cayman Islands on Wednesday, Arthur argued that while there may be cause for anguish, there was definitely no need for despair.
He highlighted the challenge of heavy indebtedness faced by Caribbean economies, which he said were grappling with “anemic levels of performance and new levels and forms of dysfunctionality” on account of the global economic crisis.
However, Arthur insisted that the situation was not as bad as that confronting Greece, adding that “our economies are neither systemic threats nor basket cases”.
Nonetheless, he stressed the need for greater regional cooperation, pointing out that Barbados derives between 15 to 20 per cent of its tourists from CARICOM and remains heavily reliant on the regional market for more than 50 per cent of its commodity exports.
“Our region has truly been Barbados’ oyster,” said Arthur, in his address to the opening ceremony of the UCCI/UWI/ICCI Caribbean Conference, themed Towards A More Perfect Union.
In identifying areas of serious challenge for the Community, he pointed to a worrying communication deficit which stymies its advancement.
He said: “While the triumph in the Caribbean in the last 50 years has been one of insular nationalism, the concept of The Caribbean Man resides largely in rhetoric and the popular imagination.
“In addition, in the Information Age, the ordinary Caribbean citizen is better linked into media and information networks that expose him to developments in the global society than in the Caribbean.
“These deficiencies reflect the absence of a genuine regional media, and the absence of effective and cost efficient regional communication arrangements at all levels, especially transportation,” Arthur said. He also stressed the need for common ground on important matters.