Time for Regional Cooperation on a Scale Never Seen Before

THE decision last month by the BRICS alliance – composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, to invite six other nations to join them, should make CARICOM pursue even more vigorously, the Single Market and Economy component of its plan to unify the region in ways that would bring sustainability and economic progress to its member states.

All the BRICS countries, even the new members, are far more powerful in terms of arable land, population, economy size, natural resources, technological advancement and more than the countries under the CARICOM umbrella, yet they find it necessary to band together, in such a short time, to forge stronger strategic partnerships, through solidarity and cooperation, that could only redound to the benefit of their already growing economies.

The Caribbean Community has been pushing for a similar type of cooperation and solidarity amongst countries within its borders for decades. The Community, after much discussions, agreed on an integrated development strategy for the region. This was seen as a good idea, brilliant in its purpose, therefore when it was envisioned at the 10th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, which took place in July 1989 in Grand Anse, Grenada, everyone at that meeting embraced it.

But for the strategy to be fully effective it needed a certain component known as an economic space within the region which caters for the free movement of goods and services, hence the creation of the CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy) on January 1, 2006.

The argument back then was that by creating this component of the development strategy – this single market space where trade can flourish between countries – without barriers being put up to hinder trading, where the nationals of those countries can move about freely within the economic space created, where services, capital, technology and free movement of skilled professionals are allowed, member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) would be more economically progressive, their economies would become more sustainable and more socially advanced.

Sadly, years have passed, talks and more talks between Heads of Government have taken place, today we still have not fully implemented the Caribbean Single Market and Economy component of the integrated development strategy for the region.

Why, we ask, is it that the CSME, which was intended to be fully in place by 2015, has not evolved into what it is supposed to be? The answer lies in the refusal of some governments within CARICOM to commit to the fundamental philosophy  of oneness necessary for the integration to work, such as removing impediments to free trade and freedom of movement within the national economic space. These governments talk the talk, but decline to walk the walk.

The world is evolving in ways never before witnessed. Countries are forming alliances for their economic and military survival due to the critical juncture the world is at. CARICOM cannot afford to wait any longer.  Cooperation and solidarity among the island states of CARICOM must be implemented now if Caricom is not to be remembered as an historical irrelevance  with the concomitant disadvantage to its people.

The bigger marketplace the full implementation of the CSME would create within the CARICOM space could only be to the advantage of nationals and entrepreneurs be they small, medium or large. This would lead to a bigger pool of capital -both money and human skills the region could draw on.

While there may be some perceived short-term disadvantages to the implementation of the CSME such as workers migrating from the poorer to the richer countries, overall, the region stands to gain, particularly now – a period of uncertainty where food security is under threat and citizen insecurity being much more than an anticipated threat, but now an “in your face” reality.

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