Old Caricom vs CSME and a single market with America

Franklin Johnston

Friday, February 23, 2018

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Caricom is a fine neo-colonial forum which celebrates the best of British and the African diasporas. The Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) is overtly economic, excludes brown nations, taps poor black Dutch, French nations and is woefully short on finance and managerial muscle. It reprises West Indies Federation our fathers rejected, so our leaders signed us on by stealth. It was a wrong move, but recently former Prime Minister Bruce Golding gave it a health check and reported, so let's talk frankly.

Caricom is collegial — sport, culture, jointure in negotiation, bloc voting. CSME is radical — one economy, one market, high politics, big titles; union with people we don't know, never met; a shotgun wedding? The Golding report is well written but does not answer the fundamental question: Is CSME good for us?

It posits financial success and that it is run by politicians and bureaucrats who also run small, ailing member states, so what do you expect? Profit? Efficiency? No way! Former Secretary General Roderick Rainford laments Caricom is not feasibility driven. ( Jamaica Observer, February 17, 2018, Peter Richards). But, Sir, politics never is.

The report cites implementation deficits — surprise! Did you see business plans, accounts, targets? What did prime ministers see as the value of CSME to us? For Trinidad, Barbados, et al value our big market; they mine for decades. Each has gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in excess of or multiples of ours, and while all suffer now, at US$25,000 GDP per capita for years, to be poor in Barbados is heaven — to be poor here at US$9,000 is hell!

Why didn't we grow? Fact is the prerequisites for union are not met and Jamaica is the misfit. Union works for contiguous Eastern Caribbean islands. We are too far from the core, too poor, too big for them to aid, and we do not know them or them us — sounds like an arranged marriage?

We should exit CSME. Joining was ill-advised. Others knew but kept quiet and got rich selling us stuff while we had less than one per cent growth over the period. We suborn our vote to a dozen who are not in sync with our mission a la Norman Manley. Is CSME a parallel universe where leaders gallivant and act as King of Winterfell? This is not for us!

CSME is crucial to others, not us. Donors call the shots and will not deal with one-one micro states. Its union or no cash! Also, members' votes are leveraged — we vote yea or nay and get stuff in return.

Then, CSME is race profiled. Despite this, the European Union bankrolls it and violates its rules. It wants to be the “United States of Europe”, but “carry belly” for the brash USA, which joined wars late yet saved Europe. It is mad at Brexit as they lose 80 million people. But CSME is an ally with 15 votes — global politricks!

CSME with us in it will fail. It can't fight geography — a wide sea separates us from them. Our members are poor but in the European Union six rich nations support 17 others. Also, a union of non-contiguous states is dicey. The USA federation was born small; added members by war, treaty, purchase; each has its laws intact but gave a federal government certain powers — for border control, etc. In America and the European Union people crossed borders, had friends and lovers, work, and trade before union. This is not our reality.

Golding says leave CSME after five years. Is 35 failed years not enough? We should exit their politics, single economy; stay in the single market as our market does for them what theirs can't do for us; no grudges. Caricom's bureaucracy is wasteful so move the headquarters to Jamaica or Barbados; then ask Jimmy Moss-Solomon or Richard Byles to run things — transparent, accountable.

Caricom agencies mimic the European Union but most areas can be covered by ours — disaster, security, trade at a cost increment, build empires on the backs of our poor? For years we asked for accounts — income, debt, salaries, contracts. As friend Bruce Golding said, “None of you could go to the Web now and download Caricom's budget, it's a classified document.” ( The Gleaner, February 18, 2018) Andrew, we want a forensic saudit of Caricom and its agencies now!

What is our future? US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said we were their southern border. Prime Minister Andrew Holness must call his bluff ASAP! We want a single market with the USA; now Trump has everybody off balance. Why USA? Two generations of steady aid; they took our poor illiterates for decades; half our people live there; 80 per cent of those here want to go there; we quarrel, expel ambassador, then make up. We're friends forever? We invest billions in publc relations, hotels, attractions to entice Americans to visit and two million come a year. We want 20! Argument done!

Let's act now. We live next to the fastest-growing economy in the Caribbean and, thanks to Andrew Holness, the Dominican Republic is in our sights. Set up a JAMPRO or University of the West Indies (UWI) office there; service Haiti. Holness, please visit Puerto Rico, as federal student loans will allow UWI (accredited by CAAM-HP) to earn US dollars from its new medical building. We also want to bid for the new car assembly plant against “freedom to work” states Georgia, Tennessee, and pip them by giving citizenships to investors of US$1 billion. We also want them to pre-clear our goods and people; find the guns there, and the drugs here. Our folk will walk off the plane to their cars in Miami — no problemo! We will play our part in Caricom, but economic independence is a sacred commission. No political unions for us. Jamaica first! We are strong as one! Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, DPhil (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 the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or




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