August 27, 2008


Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines sign MoU
Tuesday, August 26 2008 @ 06:00 AM AST
Four regional Prime Ministers sign a Memorandum of Understanding last Thursday at The Diplomatic Centre, Prime Minister’s Residence, St Ann’s, pledging to establish a political and economic union among their countries. (L-R) Prime Ministers of Grenada, Tillman Thomas; ;Trinidad and Tobago Patrick Manning; St Lucia, Stephenson King and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
In 1962, one country, Jamaica, withdrew from a budding West Indian Federation, inevitably leading to its collapse.“One from ten leaves nought,” was the prophetic declaration by T&T’s then Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams.With T&T following Jamaica’s lead, the initiative established just four years before, was history.The Federation was established by the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 with the aim of executing a political union among its members.It comprised ten territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica (to which were attached the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands as dependencies), Montserrat, Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla (present day Saint Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla), Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and T&T.

Patrick Manning, Prime Minister, profound integrationist. That was how Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, described T&T’s leader last week as four regional prime ministers talked about Caribbean unification.
Manning is attempting to resuscitate this initiative, which began in 1958 with the formation of the West Indian Federation which ended four years later.The announcement was made last Thursday at a meeting at the Diplomatic Centre, Prime Minister’s Residence, St Anns.Manning has already courted the prime ministers of Grenada, Tillman Thomas; St Lucia, Stephenson King and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Gonsalves.
The four prime ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding backing Manning’s ambitious plan: to establish a Caribbean Single Economy (CSE) x modeled after the European Union (EU) by 2011 and to have political integration by 2013.By 2011, he will still be T&T’s elected leader and quite possibly the CSE’s champion.
Political journalist, Ricky Singh, said the announcement could be viewed with a “wide yawn.“Needless to say, none of the quartet that commendably favours regional political unity is known to have a national mandate to pursue political union in any form - confederation, federation, unitary state or else,” he said.
Is the time right for the Caribbean to be regionally integrated, politically and economically?
The “dust has cleared” from regional elections over the past year with new leaders being elected in Jamaica (Bruce Golding), Barbados (David Thompson) and Grenada (Thomas). Gonsalves has been in power since 2001 and King since 2005.“It is clear for the first time that we have leaders in the Caribbean who want to commit to political integration as opposed to anything else,” said Manning.
Asked government’s view on Jamaica, which would not agree to a political union in Caricom, Manning said:“We said that we don’t think that we will get to Caricom economic integration by 2015 in the form in which we want it to.”
Manning added that the issue was not just with Jamaica, but “several other countries.”Gonsalves noted that while some people may have “integration fatigue” it does not diminish the nobility of the cause.But the cause, 46 years in the making, is loosing the lusture of its nobility.
In 2003, Manning began looking at options to enhance regional integration. A consultation on Options for Governance to Deepen the Integration Process was held in T&T in February 13, 2003. This consultation yielded several recommendations which were considered by the 14th inter-sessional meeting of Caricom Heads of Government.
A major recommendation called for the establishment of institutions required to accelerate the pace of integration, in particular a Caricom Commission-type arrangement as proposed by the West Indian Commission in 1992. An expert group, chaired by Gonsalves, was established to make a proposal on how best to deepen relations.Manning’s announcement comes at a time when regional integration appears to have stalled somewhat as islands pursue their own nationalistic agendas. Caricom, one commentator noted, is little more than a “community of sovereign states.”
In June, Gonsalves said Caricom would soon be forced to transform itself from “a ramshackle political-administrative apparatus” that allows “several of its member states (to) jealously guard a vaunted and pristine sovereignty.”He blamed the “politics of a limited regional engagement in Jamaica, shackled by the ghosts from the Federal referendum; the politics of ethnicity in T&T and Guyana; a mistaken sense of uniqueness and separation among large sections of the Barbadian populace; the peculiar distinctiveness of Haiti and Suriname; and the cultivated aloofness from the regional enterprise by the Bahamas” for the present situation.
He said the realisation of a common monetary policy for Caricom, similar to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and an integrated judiciary, is a distant dream as well.Manning said T&T “could not stay aloof” from the OECS countries as they make steps toward establishing a single economy.
Eric Williams, at the first meeting of Heads of Government of the Commonwealth Caribbean, held in T&T in 1963:“Small countries like ours encounter great difficulty in establishing their influence in the world dominated by power and regional associations. This general difficulty is aggravated in our case by centuries of subordination to outside control which has given rise to a view not uncommon outside of the West Indies that we are satellites by nature and exist only to serve as pawns to outside countries. We have, therefore, no alternative but to seek against the background of our common history and traditions, to make common cause against the unfortunate tendency to regard us for all time as hewers of wood and drawers of water for other people.”
“What we put to the meeting is that all the countries that so desire should seek to move to the creation of an economic space in the Caribbean by 2011,” he said.
Norman Girvan, international relations lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), agreed that Manning’s initiative was a “rather ambitious one.” He said that the region needed to co-ordinate macro-economic policies, establish a monetary union, harmonise policies in labour and establish company law. This, he said, is difficult to achieve in the short space of time as wide consultation is necessary.
He said the lesson to be learnt from the establishment and success of the OECS, is the need to involve the population to the maximum.Girvan, in an article published in Antigua on June 30, titled “Caribbean: Regional unity losing steam, critics say” warned of a possible collapse of Caricom, if regional leaders failed to put in place mechanisms to enforce decisions regarding the integration process.
Girvan was quoted as saying that the 15-member grouping had become stagnant due mainly to a lack of implementing decisions.“I’ve been a committed integrationist all my life but I have to call it as I see be brutally frank and realistic about it, I see a real danger of disintegration. We are at a juncture,” he had said.“We’re still clinging to the insular sovereignty that, in my opinion, is largely fictitious because in the modern world, states of our size simply cannot expect to have any real sovereignty.“The forces of globalisation, the fact of our small size, the fact of our trade dependency, the fact of our military weakness, all of these things make it virtually impossible for our small island states to have any real sovereignty,” he said.
He admitted on Monday that Manning’s timing was a positive step.“It’s a start. It’s an intention to start. If you looked at the EU, it started with a couple of countries and different countries signed in at different points in time,” he said.Manning was expected to travel yesterday with Thomas to Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica in a bit of shuttle diplomacy aimed at persuading their leaders to sign the MOU.
Professor Vaughn Lewis, former secretary general of the OECS, said that in the movement to Caribbean integration there were a long list of unavoidable errors.Lewis’ perception is that these errors can be avoided 40 years later.“All the odds are open. We have to investigate. Some of us have ideas about certain things and see what is the most appropriate at this time,” he said.
He said a political apparatus needed to be established to manage the single market and economy.“My own view is that the single economy we are looking for will not be able to proceed if we are using the same decision making tools of Caricom.”
He said that a political union, not envisioned until 2015, would revolve around two issues: how to make decisions effectively and how to present the region to the international community.
“The issue is whether we will have the ingenuity like the EU years ago to find an appropriate way to instigate a unified implementation apparatus,” he said.
Dr Kerry Sumar-Rai, lecturer at the University of the West Indies(UWI) said that while the talk of regional integration is being bandied about, there are several advantages and disadvantages to being economically and politically integrated.
Consider that in 1963, Jamaica’s reasons for withdrawing from the Federation included its geographical location, the fact that its share of the seats in the Federal Parliament was smaller than its share of the total population and it was believed that the smaller islands were draining Jamaica’s wealth.In 2008, T&T’s economy supercedes that of its neighbours and while the majority of them depend on Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s Petro Caribe Initiative, T&T is energy-independent.Gonsalves has criticised reports that the OECS is “ milking” T&T.Sumar-Rai said that the Government’s support of the Eastern Caribbean Gas Pipeline (ECGP) was a tool it could leverage to its neighbours to break Chavez’s stronghold on the Caribbean.
The US$550 million,176-mile pipeline is expected to be built from Cove Point, Tobago, to Barbados with the intention that it be continued through the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe and St Lucia, the other destinations for the pipeline.First mooted in 2002 and described as a pipedream, the pipeline was conceived to serve seven Caribbean islands: Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica all stressed by high fuel prices.
Manning has assured that a political union with countries of the OECS would not be inconsistent, although such countries have signed on to the PetroCaribe Initiative.“It is not inconsistent. T&T took actions to facilitate the signing on the PetroCaribe,” Manning said.Sumar-Rai said that issues surrounding economic integration would have to include a meaningful dialogue on sharing of resources.Politically, he noted that several of the Caribbean countries have both a prime minister and a president while Guyana has an executive president.He pointed out that if the Caribbean was united in the 2008 Beijing Olympics rather than entered as individual countries, it would have present a formidable team.The most obvious issue, for Sumar-Rai, though, is how would the smaller islands react to T&T’s entrepreneurs having access to their markets.
“How do we find a balance?” he asked.Lewis said that there needs to be a rationalisation of what exists: air travel, security and maritime relations.“These are the realities of changing regional economy,” he said.
Canute James, acting director of the Caribbean Institute of Mass Communications (Carimac), University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica, and former Financial Times writer, said that regional integration would work efficiently if there is:
1. Free movement of capital: for example, getting the regional stock exchange up and functioning properly;
2. Free movement of skills: which would create a region-wide job market;
3. Investment treaties and common fiscal incentives so businesses can find the optimal location based on the type of business they do;
4. Intellectual property rights agreements;
5. A single currency managed by a regional central bank or currency board. Ironically, the OECS has this with a common central bank.
6. Common exchange rate policies. Caricom countries now have a range of free floats (Guyana), managed floats (Jamaica) and fixed parity (Barbados and OECS).
7. Eliminating wide economic development differences. Per capita income of $7,500 in Barbados is three times that of Jamaica and 30 times that of Haiti.
8. A body to arbitrate on trade disputes among members. This is established with the Caribbean Court of Justice, to which T&T is not fully signed.

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