From the inception of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) in 1973, economic integration and a viable trading bloc were the incentives behind the regional integration. Like the West Indian Federation and the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement (Carifta)–two of Caricom’s predecessors—whose early demise would arguably be the weak link connecting a vast geographical region, modern day Caricom has the same physical problem. While more regional guidelines are being implemented to help support this effort politically and socially across the Caribbean, let’s face it, it has been 40 years.
Forty years on, Caricom has not seen any marvellous accomplishments in the region, but it is still that foundation and building block for an economically united Caribbean. Fifteen members strong with five associated supporters and more international recognition than ever, we have to ask ourselves, in order to promote a single market and economy which angle should the organisation take to move from a foundation idea to a fundamental reality?
Forty years on, even intra Caricom trading has its deep-seated problems. For example, Guyana now sells more rice to Venezuela than within the region. Trinidad and Tobago has oil, yet there’s no TriniCaribe, but there is a PetroCaribe on which several regional economies depend to a great extent. All countries in the region, especially those geared mostly towards tourism, still import Artichokes, Blueberries and Carrots (among other foreign-grown foods) instead of Ackees, Baigan and Cherries from right here in Caricom.
Forty years on, there’s the Antiguan-based Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), Suriname Airways and the new-born Fly Jamaica offering feeble, token competition to the huge T&T-subsidised, yet still cash-strapped Caribbean Airlines.
Is it not time for the Trinidadian airline to wave the white flag as Air Jamaica did? And instead of the Trinidadian government struggling to keep its flag carrier alive, should it not be a real ‘Caribbean Airlines’, which would be answerable to, administered by, and (really) serving all 15 member states?
Forty years on and free movement is still not free. In view of the touted ‘Caricom nationality should there really be a ‘Guyanese bench’ at two Caribbean international airports? What would it take to solve this? And why haven’t we just sat down and solved it yet?
Forty years on and 15 nations that together could have formidably controlled a huge chunk of the traditional and eco-tourism markets; exotic fruits and herbs markets; rice, sugar and gold markets are still floundering separately. So much so that it sometimes seems our only links are a common climate and proximity. When will we pursue the joint economic and social strategies that might really work in our favour?
Forty years on and we don’t have 40 reasons as a region to celebrate. Whose fault is it really? Caricom? The organisation can only do so much. Caricom is only as strong as the nation-states want it to be; which brings perhaps the most important question out of all that remains unanswered: Should Caricom be an association of sovereign states or a sovereign community of states?
I guess that is up to us, the people, to decide. And while we continue to consider it: Happy 40th Anniversary to all of us.
NB: A final note on The Lion King production
My opinion published on June 15 which dealt with the Theatre Guild production of The Lion King was ill-informed as it blamed the Theatre Guild for poor sound quality. I have now been enlightened and the facts are: 1. Actors at the Theatre Guild, for the most part, use the acoustics of the building rather than microphones. 2. Knowing that the children were too young to use acoustics, the directors of The Lion King hired someone named “Kirk” to provide mics and sound. But the man did not show up for the grand rehearsal on June 3, the day before the play nor did he show up on the night of the play.
Cathy Hughes stepped in and helped with 3 microphones and another person helped as well, but the mics weren’t hooked up to the children before so show time was hectic. 3. To sum it all up: the Theatre Guild had advised the directors of the play about sound and they made the necessary preparations but the person they hired fell short.
I apologise for unnecessarily lambasting the Theatre Guild.