Caricom crabs in a barrel

Thursday, June 20, 2013

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WE have never for one moment deluded ourselves into believing that the signing of the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas -- that governs Caribbean Community (Caricom) relations -- would have ushered us overnight to the Promised Land of regional integration.

In fact, we knew clearly that we would only achieve the ideal of a single economic space, binding these disparate current and former colonies, through an evolutionary process demanding nothing less than the absolute best of our collective Caribbean genius.

What we never expected, however, was that 40 years hence we would still be a fragmented bunch of islands, fighting against each other like crabs in a barrel, while clutching --
like a drowning man to a straw -- to the illusion of sovereignty.

This editorial is a cry of pain because we have unapologetically promoted the concept of Caribbean integration, even at the worst of times when shallow men would see us dismantle the regional bloc and leave ourselves to the mercy of the unassailable winds
of globalisation.

Yet, for the salvation of this beautiful enclave we call home, we must face the facts and speak truth to ourselves. Caricom has failed this region in the worst possible way.

Quarrels over things like the Jamaica-Trinidad trade surplus and the alleged finger-raping of Ms Shanique Myrie in Barbados are really examples of the decaying entrails of the Community, papered over by fancy words from two-faced diplomats with forked tongues.

We have very little regard for each other as Caribbean people. We know this by experience with the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)
which, though not a member of Caricom,
seeks its support conveniently in the current Administration's fight with Britain over Independence.

We can't help noticing how the Rufus Ewing Administration cosies up to American and European investors while dishing dirt to Caribbean investors who set the island on the road to development, long before others knew it existed.

We can cite other examples, but so as not to embarrass anyone, let us use Beaches
TCI which is owned by the chairman of
this newspaper.

The power of the Beaches/Sandals brand has taken the TCI from a little known archipelago, known for salt mining, to a thriving entity now able to attract top-of-the-line airlines,
hotel chains, financial houses and build
modern infrastructure.

Beaches TCI is now the largest private sector employer, the largest earner of foreign exchange, is responsible for nearly half of the flights into the island and is the biggest promoter, by far, of the island's tourism.

But despite all this massive investment, its presence is merely tolerated and
every imaginable obstacle placed in its path
to growth.

Jamaicans there are generally not embraced as brothers and sisters, despite the fact that we represent the most sophisticated example of multiculturalism as a country. The TCI would choose Asians and Europeans over us any day.

Frankly, freedom of movement is still the biggest regional joke.

But our leaders will meet every year at their well-fed Caricom Heads of Government summit to sign the usual communiqué in which the only differences are a minor change of issues or freshly elected actors.

We must ask ourselves, urgently, is this all we are worth?




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