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Caricom meeting in Ja is time for frankness, Holness

Franklin Johnston

Friday, June 29, 2018

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If Prime Minister Andrew Holness fails to represent us well at the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) meeting he will merit the anger of many yet unborn. He was not among West Indian students in London who took oaths to merge our islands, so he may speak frankly.

A union of West Indian islands is a British idea modelled on the European Union, and they allowed their citizens a referendum (1975) before they went into the union, but our leaders “diss” us and took Jamaica into a post-Federation union by stealth.

If Holness came to Parliament with a proposal to merge our market and economy with poor, small islands thousands of miles away; a South American country; and the poorest nation in the West, he would be laughed to scorn. Yet, this happens if he affirms CSME. Our proclivity is usually to neighbours, so every union is started by grass roots people and small traders. It did not happen in Taino, colonial or modern times — an ocean blocked it. So CSME is impractical, high politics and not from our masses!

Bruce Golding should have told you Jamaica is an anomaly in CSME. There is no precedent for a union of non-contiguous islands in which the population giant is far from the core and has a sick economy. None in CSME can help, yet Jamaica pays billions to stay in CSME. What's the benefit?

Why lock out 'brownings' of the Dominican Republic yet call them racist as they lock out Haitian blacks?

Cuba helps us and the Dominican Republic has the fastest growth, yet both stand alone. So why this febrile Anglophone union? Well, our ancestors were slaves of one empire; all spoke English; adopted the Westminster model; black nations with black leaders; none achieved sustainable growth but live on aid since the 60s — and seem happy to do so. The hypocrisy is palpable; the independence is risible — live on white aid yet sing Bob Marley's 'song of freedom'?

Caricom morphed into CSME, and in future some may be tried posthumously for treason. In 1962 we exited West Indies Federation — the right move for the wrong reason. Back then leaders were riled up, anti-colonial activists, and none demanded feasibility, sustainability, or viability plans. Now Andrew Holness, a youth of the 21st century, handles his personal finances impeccably to assure his kids' future and must do the numbers on CSME to assure the nation's. Rock the boat, Sir, or history will not absolve you.

Golding did a good report, but after 40 years we need to be visceral: What's in CSME for us? Why five more years? A single market is where members only trade. So Spain, Germany, France, Britain are in the EU single market and all benefit. How? It is 20 times the size of the smallest, and five times the size of the biggest member, so all can grow. In CSME all have a market multiples of their size, but not us, so we are their single market. Listen to Audley Shaw in 'Shaw says Jamaica cannot become Caricom's single market'. ( Jamaica Observer, June 22, 2018, Balford Henry reporting)

There is no hope for our economy in CSME. Our logical single market is Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Cayman, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands — some 50 million people in our backyard. If a single market in our beautiful Caribbean has no Ferrari, Rolls or Lambo dealership; no Northrop & Johnson yacht agent; no Rolex, Gucci, Miu Miu, Chlo, Armani, Louboutin, Chanel, Jimmy Choo factory store, where's the excitement Minister Edmund Bartlett? We too are fashionistas!

A single economy means economic and political union as in the EU, USA or Canada. Do we want this? The federal government in Ottawa; Washington, DC, controls the economy, currency, banking, security, migration; and we surrender autonomy to CSME so bureaucrats in Guyana send regrets on our behalf to US President Donald Trump on the mass shootings — impudent! Sir, you don't find it strange that after generations no Jamaican is in politics in Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana? Why merge our politics and economy with them? Why not a single market with Canada where our Diaspora are in politics, business, and other areas upstanding society? Sir, Trump's loss may be our gain, so talk to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Jamaica has spoken! Selah.

We love Caricom and will stay as affirmed by Holness. We love the collegiality, culture, sport; jointure in negotiations; and to vote as a bloc, but these do not need union. Small islands are in an Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States union — one currency, security, final court, central bank, and we love them. Our fishermen's canoes land in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Central America, and some have second families there; but none reach Barbados, so our grass roots do not know yours.

As we seek to cut the public sector, let's start with CSME headquarters in Guyana. Until we make travel cheap and shopping attractive we go North for fun. CSME is not for us as we love flexibility, and the islands do not have mass to float our export boat, but we will give them access.

Edward Seaga was active from West Indies Federation and should speak to us. He is doing an excellent job distracting Cabinet's most acerbic critics, and they are the more foolish to follow him. Sir, do you support this unfeasible and unfair union of one country one, vote whether, 60,000 or our 2.8 million people?

Holness, let's spend the billions to be saved on early childhood education. If you are frank on the July 4, 2018, the Caricom meeting should be a tonic to all members. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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