The Caribbean Community is currently characterized by acute unemployment, underdevelopment and heavy indebtedness, with poverty levels among the lowest in Latin America. Regional leaders must now dance to the same rhythm to ensure national progress, forgoing sovereignty for development. The solitary approach to development has been attempted during the last two decades yielding only minimal results.
It is time for a genuine effort towards integration; lip-service to the movement must be scorned. Regionally governments should be placed under the spotlight examining their willingness to seriously contribute to integration and the development of our people.
Development in the region is dependent on the success of the Caricom Single Market, and thus the consultations by the Caricom Secretariat on establishing a single jurisdiction for business must be commended. The single jurisdiction would facilitate opportunities for companies, creating possibilities for economic growth beyond the boundaries of individual territories, and stimulating increased employment in member states.
As the consultations take place during this first phase in St Lucia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, I urge the business community to truly consider the pros and cons of operating outside the limitations of national boundaries. Prepping for the second phase is scheduled to begin during August in the remaining territories, and the respective chambers of commerce should take the time now to have a national conversation and awaken the ideas of entrepreneurs willing to seek out the potential of regional markets.
Mr Roderick Rainford wrote in the Journal of Caribbean Affairs 1992 Vol 5 No 1, “It is this creation of a single domestic market of the whole Caricom – from Belize to Guyana – that needs to be conveyed and demonstrated to the business community of the region, current members of that community as well as new entrants alike.”
At the time of his article there were 12 member states, two decades later, there are 15 member states; there has been a widening of the region but no significant deepening has taken place over that period. Regional governments have failed to create the enabling framework for a common economic space and have restricted entrepreneurial talents to narrow boundaries. The presence of this failure is most evident in the region’s high unemployment.
Entrepreneurs should view these consultations optimistically, understanding the economic implications of doing business within a wider geographic space, with greater access to traditional and non-traditional financing, increased availability to human capital and access to technology from more advanced territories.