“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” – Psalm 23:4
The Caribbean Community consists of an archipelago of islands and a couple of mainland territories all of which share a British Colonial past. It is a region with only six million people but must be the one with the highest number of sovereign countries per capita in the world. There are some cities in the world, with a greater population than the Caribbean, that are managed by a mayor, but yet in the Caribbean it takes 14 Prime Ministers and about 250 Ministers to perform the same task. If we were one sovereign country we would still be small and managed by one Prime Minister and less than 20 Ministers.
There is no likelihood of such rationalization and hence we have to attempt to increase our governance efficiency through various Caribbean integration exercises. Some have been successful and some have been failures. Let us look at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where Emirates Airlines is based. Dubai’s population is less that one and a quarter million and their airline is the fastest growing airline in the world bringing tourists from every conceivable destination to enjoy the features of the fastest growing city in the world. In the Caribbean, we have LIAT, Caribbean Airlines and Air Jamaica, all under stress of one kind or another with little hope of integration which would have been automatic if we were governed by one single administration.
There are attempts to formalize freedom of movement within the region through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, CSM(E). Whereas some progress has been made in terms of freedom of movement of goods and people, it is still fairly painful to effect freedom of movement of business establishments and money. In my opinion, the “E” of CSME will always remain silent because it cannot be defined without the existence of a supranational body such as Federation in the case of the US and a Commission in the case of the EU. To achieve this in the Caribbean, each sovereign country would have to give up some aspects of its sovereign policy to the supranational body. How can this be achieved?
We have been successful in establishing the Caribbean Examinations Council which underpins our educational testing system and which is a truly pan Caribbean exercise and from all reports works extremely well and is very cost effective.
West Indies cricket, notwithstanding its current world rating in all forms of the game, is still a common thread which has preserved the integrity of the regional integration fabric, albeit not from Sea Island Cotton yarn. The latest WI cricket intervention has been Stanford 20/20. One of the readers of this column commented “when will we hear from you on the just concluded 20/20 tournament in Antigua?” The verdict is still out but the one thing that is evident is the smart partnership that exists between the talent and the business approach. After two years of this innovation, it has already become a television spectacle for over 200 million viewers.
As Daren Ganga, the Trinidad captain, said after winning the 2008 20/20 tournament “with the advent of 20 professional teams, around the region, you will find that there is a lot of time dedicated to cricket by young players – something that is lacking in the Caribbean – it is going to bring about a more professional approach to the game and improve players”.
Stanford 20/20 has certainly contributed to an improvement in the fielding culture of the teams and slow bowling seems to have been given an unexpected boost. If these enhancements are extended to other forms of the game cricket would be the winner.
Another success story is the University of the West Indies now in its 60th year. The latest initiative of the UWI is the launching of its “UWI Consulting” company at the Barbados Hilton on March 5th 2008 at 5 p.m. UWI Consulting, the main vehicle through which it provides professional advisory services to clients, aims to be “the first port of call for Caribbean businesses, government and agencies that need in depth expertise on management, planning and development issues”. As a pioneer in management consulting in the region and, more recently, as a promoter of the CBET Shepherding Model™ for enterprise and institutional development, this is music to my ears.
The first registrar of the UWI is none other than my uncle the Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Springer. My wife, Kean, has just completed a biography of Sir Hugh, “Truly a Gentleman”, which is crafted with the sensitivity of her musical talent to chronicle his exploits from his advent into politics and trade unionism in the 1940s through his stewardship in Barbados, the region and the Commonwealth leading to the culmination of his career as the holder of the highest post of the land. This book is scheduled to be launched on April 28, in Barbados, and in Jamaica in the middle of July 2008.
We have a lot to be proud of in the Caribbean but we have barely scratched the surface of innovation and creativity in our quest to achieve the full potential of our people.