FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Future of the Caribbean

In 1958 C.L.R. James declared that “Federation is the only means whereby the West Indies can accomplish the transition from colonialism to national independence and by reorganising the economic system and the national life, give us our place in the modern community of nations.”

The Federation failed?it was a poorly designed instrument anyway. But has insular statehood for CARICOM countries brought the kind of independence that people expected?

Caricom economies are probably more dependent, with less autonomy in policy-making, than fifty years ago. One consequence is that the global economic slowdown hit regional economies harder than many other developing economies.

Four Caricom countries are now in IMF programmes with varying degrees of policy control. The IMF agreement with Jamaica is one of the most stringent cases imaginable of international financial supervision of a sovereign state.

Caricom economies are among the most highly indebted in the world. The debt burden of the majority of the countries has been declared ‘unsustainable’ by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

When Caricom governments balked at the EU’s unreasonable demands in the EPA negotiations; the EU threatened to impose tariffs on their exports; and they caved in.

Food dependency has grown to the point where imports are three times the value of agricultural exports.

Most Caricom countries are energy dependent. They are only able to pay their oil bills thanks to credits from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe.

The level of brain drain from the Caribbean is the highest in the world. Tertiary level emigration rates averaged 65 percent for thirteen countries in 2000.

There are also new challenges.

Global climate change threatens a fragile, tourism-dependent economic base with the effects of increasing frequency of storms and flooding, beach erosion, coral bleaching, pressure on water resources and sea level rise.

Transnational criminal organisations command resources that dwarf those of small states. Its regional spin-offs have pushed violent crime to alarming levels. Homicide rates in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are 25 times that of Canada.

The criminal underworld has become a corrupting force in government, politics, security and justice system and public administration in many countries.

A vicious cycle is looming. Shrinking economic resources mean that governments don’t have enough money to invest in climate change adaptation, crime fighting and human resource development?which in turn impedes economic growth.

How much real independence has insular sovereignty brought? Has not regional integration become an imperative for the exercise of some degree of autonomy; indeed for our survival as functioning societies?

Ever since the Federation broke up Caribbean countries have seen the necessity of constructing an economic federation of sorts. We have gone from Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) to Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) to Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Functional cooperation has broadened and deepened. Foreign policy coordination and security complete the four pillars of the Community.

Most of the present challenges have been the subject of technical studies that demonstrate how joint regional action can serve as an instrument of ‘survival with dignity’. Regional strategies have been agreed by governments for adaptation to climate change, improved security, reducing food and energy dependency and promoting economic transformation.

The problem is, and has always been, with implementation. Caricom decisions do not have the force of law; and there is no real machinery to ensure implementation.

And at the root of this is the reluctance of member states to share their insular sovereignty with the community of all regional states acting collectively.

But this is to confuse the shadow of sovereignty with the substance.

The wheel has come full circle. A Caribbean Community where sovereignty is exercised collectively, as well as by its individual members, must now be seen as unavoidable.

In James’s words, it is the only means by which our region ‘can claim independence and take its place as a modern community living a modern civilized existence’.

Failing which, he predicted, the consequences for these islands would be ‘dreadful’.

This commentary is a synopsis of my C.L.R. James Memorial Lecture delivered at the Cipriani Labour College in Trinidad on Thursday May 12, 2011.

Norman Girvan can be reached through his website.

 

 

More articles by:

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail