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The CSM is poor example
Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2006

By George Alleyne,

While the recent establishment of the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) should be viewed as an important step forward for the Caribbean Community of Nations (Caricom), nonetheless, the fact that its being set up took so long and its benefits distinctly limited somehow diminishes it. The Caribbean should not claim that it reached the stage of creating a Single Market in a relatively short time, particularly when the Montego Bay Conference held in September of 1947, which would later lead to the shortlived West Indies Federation of 1958, had pointed the way to a Single Market and Economy. In turn, the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 had called specifically for a Customs Union embodying internal free trade in the shortest possible time.

The Act, along with the several meetings, Governmental as well as labour, would lead to the giving birth on April 22, 1958 of the Federal Parliament of the Federation of the West Indies. The year, 1958, the Federation of the West Indies apart, is not without significance as this was the year that Western Europe established the European Economic Community (EEC) a mere 13 years after Europe had ended the second of two disastrous World Wars, both started by Germany vs the rest. And it was only after the end of World War 11 in 1945 that Western Europe, viewing itself as under threat both by the then Communist Soviet Union and the tacit Common Market set up by Soviet dominated Eastern Europe, would take the first tentative steps in 1948 toward a Common Market with the creation of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation. Ironically, the Federal Republic of Germany, part of the German State which had waged war against much of Western Europe was accepted as a member of the OEEC the following year.

Four years later - 1962 - the West Indies Federation collapsed, even as the OEEC, by then with the first of several name changes, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, strengthened its base admitting Germany and Japan, which had been on the opposite side of the fence in World War 11, and the United States of America, Western Europe’s long standing ally in both of the Great Wars. Europe, which had been divided by two World Wars, had understood the need to come together for the economic and social advance or its people, while Caribbean countries, several of which at one time or the other had been colonised by one or more of the European nations, continued to tarry in the integration and, particularly, the Common Market and/or Single Economy vineyard. The European Union which grew out of the OEEC, has for the most part a unified currency, the Euro, today worth approximately TT$7.73. Of interest, is that all African, Caribbean and Pacific raw sugar purchased by the European Union under the Convention of Lome has been paid for in Euros since 1999.

I referred earlier to the Montego Bay Conference and the birth and demise of the West Indies Federation. But moves to federate the English speaking former Caribbean colonies, admittedly not all of them at the same time, began much earlier than 1947, indeed from the early 1830s even before the end of slavery. Admittedly, these were to be imposed by the Imperial power, the United Kingdom. Yet had we run with the integration baton as vigorously after 1947, or at least after we began becoming independent in the 1960s, Caricom would have been far stronger, economically, today. Europe understood clearly the need for a Single Market, save perhaps with the exception of the United Kingdom and its perpetual game playing, that of a Single Economy. The economically stronger units in the Region should have moved with despatch decades ago to strengthen the lesser developed Member States, first of CARIFTA, then, later, of Caricom. The only exception was that of Trinidad and Tobago.

Indeed, late Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, had proposed in 1977 a Caribbean Aid Consortium whose donors would have included, as he stated in his 1978 Budget Speech delivered on December 2, 1977, Trinidad and Tobago and "the metropolitan countries associated with the Caribbean - United States of America, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands". It is a matter of record that his proposal was rejected by "the metropolitan countries associated with the Caribbean". But even as the politicians tarried in the vineyard, corporate Caribbean has in a sense integrated the Caribbean, at least economically.

Leading corporate houses in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados have invested throughout the Region, with many having subsidiaries in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Belize, St Lucia, Guyana, Grenada, the Turks and Caicos Islands, for example, and in each of the three principals, leading to the strengthening of the islands’ economies.. There is cross listing of shares, facilitated by Governments of the Region, and an exchange of corporate human capital. So that today an investor, large, medium or small, in one Caricom Member State assists in the development of citizens in, along with other Member States. The average citizen/investor has not tarried, only his/her Government.

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