There’s an old saying that “there’s none so blind as those who will not see!” When thinking of those who have held political leadership positions in the Caribbean over the last forty years, it would seem that most would have fallen under the “will not see” bracket. It baffles me that although we are now in 2017, Caribbean leaders are still paying mere lip service to the worthy vision of a Caribbean Single Market Economy and that so very little has actually been done towards its achievement.
As Guyana’s President Granger noted in his address to attendees of the recently concluded Georgetown hosted CARICOM Summit, it’s now been well over forty years, forty-four to be exact, since the four founding fathers – Barbados’s Errol Barrow, Guyana’s Forbes Burnham, Jamaica’s Michael Manley and Trinidad and Tobago’s Eric Williams – first brought forth the lofty idea of a single Caribbean Community.
According to President Granger, “The ‘Founding Fathers’ recognized that, given the deformed character of our colonial economies and the small size of our markets, integration would allow for a larger and safer market and for a louder, stronger voice in negotiating with other countries and regions.
The ‘Founding Fathers’ were convinced that, if the Caribbean was to “fulfil the hopes and aspirations of their peoples for full employment and improved standards of work and living,” regional integration was an obligation, not an option, for governments.
If such wisdom was plainly evident to Messrs. Barrow, Burnham, Manley and Williams over forty years ago, the question now surely becomes why has it taken so long for anything concrete to be done towards its manifestation.
There’s unemployment throughout the Caribbean, yet over 80% of Guyana remains largely undeveloped and there’s enough agriculture potential available to feed the region’s entire 7 million plus population. Trinidad has sufficient natural pitch reserves to pave all the island roads in the region, yet there are pot holes galore to be found everywhere. In Antigua, most residents now opt for four-wheel drive vehicles, some of the roads are so bad.
These are just two poignant examples that readily come to mind, when one thinks of the obvious benefits that Regional integration would provide, if pursued through a Single Market Economy. What makes it even easier is that globally, there are several existing examples of Single Market Economies, some obviously more successful than others. The point being that all the Caribbean leaders would have to do is to adopt the best practices of the more successful examples in fashioning their own model.
There’s another old saying that “what doesn’t happen in a year, could happen in a day!” Maybe now with Guyana’s President Granger having urged them to do so, our previously seemingly blind Caribbean leaders will finally begin to see the light and engage themselves, post haste, in making the Caribbean Single Market Economy a reality.