Monday, April 15, 2024

Time to make CARICOM work


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I HAVE HAD A DREAM since I was 17 years old of parking my car in Barbados on a ferry that was destined for another Caribbean island, and several hours later driving it off onto the streets of that country.
This dream was fuelled by my first trip aboard a ferry between Tobago and Trinidad back then.
I was fascinated how my friends were able to take their car from home in Scarborough, so that we could have it while in Diego Martin for the weekend. I thought then that that was the way it should be between all of the islands. 
My fascination with ferries grew when in Guyana I travelled across the river to New Amsterdam, with the car I had hired in the ferry’s bay. I’ve taken ferries too, but minus a vehicle, between mainland St Vincent and Bequia, mainland St Kitts and Nevis, and between Antigua and Montserrat.
The icing on the cake, though, was in 1996 when I travelled on the now defunct MV Windward from here to Trinidad for Carnival with stops in St Lucia and St Vincent.
I particularly enjoyed that experience because I got a chance to see vistas of those countries that one would never see by air. Besides that, it was relatively inexpensive. That further convinced me that sea travel, even though it takes longer, is the one aspect of intra-regional travel that should be vigorously pursued as we would be able to move more people and cargo.
These experiences, together with my work through the years from Belize in the north to Suriname in the south, have made me a strong supporter of, and advocate for, a Caribbean single market and economy.
It is the only avenue for our development as a people and a region that really makes sense, because we have more that unites us than divides us.
The way I see it, if the western European countries who all speak different languages, have unique cultures, and have been slaughtering each other for centuries in various wars could join together, adopt one currency at the expense of their individual centuries’ old coinage, and freedom of movement, then why can’t we?
We have not taken this leap because there is no political will to do so!
Our political leadership, for the most part, wants to be large and in charge of their very small stage, rather than being a small player in a bigger arena. And the insularity arguments pushed by many in the various territories only serve to strengthen the hands of such politicians.
This attitude, though, has certainly not stopped entrepreneurs and skilled professionals from quietly but profitably carrying on business in the various territories. It has also not stopped the drug gangs and human traffickers from organizing very profitable criminal networks. And it certainly has not stopped the cross fertilization between different nationalities through friendships, marriages, children.
Where am I going with this?
Given my ‘one Caribbean, one people, one destiny’ philosophy, it pains me that today I find myself in complete agreement with former Jamaica Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s assessment of CARICOM. Responding to a question on a Jamaica radio station about CARICOM’s ability to solve the current impasse between former West Indies captain Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board, he said:
“CARICOM, right now, if you take an assessment of it, is a failure. It has no single economy, which was the main play. It has no single foreign policy; it has no single air transport policy; it has no single court of appeal; it doesn’t even have a single procedure (for) the freedom of movement by members of the CARICOM community; and it can’t even find someone to run it. So, it’s CARICOM that needs the help, not cricket.”
It pains me even more that I would have to take sides on a regional issue along nationalistic lines. But I throw my support totally and unequivocally behind Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on the matter of REDjet. I agree with him that Trinidad, in particular, is “playing games” on this matter.
For me, REDjet is a test case we cannot afford to buckle to Trinidad on.
If we allow them to have their way on this matter, only God knows what else they will be trying to shove down our throats later on. Mr Stuart understands this and has signalled it will not be so.
I am with you on this one, Freundel!


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