“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” – Matthew 11: 29-30
Last week I attempted to put the record straight regarding what I was reported to have said, at the recent CAPAM preconference meeting, in contrast to what I was trying to convey. The headline on page five of the Daily Nation for Monday 20 October was “Call to break from CSME”. The first sentence of the story was “Business consultant Dr. Basil Springer has suggested that Barbados break away from CSME”. I attempted to explain my position by saying that whereas I thought that we should expend our energy on making CSM work, I thought that it would be better to place the “E” on the shelf and await divine intervention.
I supported this by saying that, even though I would be pleasantly surprised, I did not expect many sovereign Caribbean governments to give up the power associated with this “E” policy space to a supranational body in my lifetime or in my children’s lifetime.
As would perhaps be expected, I received many deliberate email responses and other more casual and fortuitous reactions to this column. The feedback was varied and I shall share some of them with you as follows:
(1) “It is good to know that someone shares my opinion. Barbados has proved that it requires no one in the Caribbean to look after it’s affairs, indeed we never really had any friends to offer assistance…CSME will never work, just take a look at the African concept and you have the answer. Power must be taken, never surrendered…The economy can only improve if we focus on what is good for us and forget the Caribbean brotherhood ideas…the same way that all developed countries cater to themselves first and last, and only address foreign nations when there is a political gain or economic benefit…We also need to address the escalated illegal immigration, and the deportation of all caught in this activity. As you stated, it drains our social services…There is also the need to critically assess our banking and information sectors, which seriously lag in the global market place…We need to be highly competitive in the international arena, we also need to rethink our education system…Finally it is nice to know we still have a few good men to say or to do, since all it takes, is for good men to do nothing, and evil will be the victor. Barbados needs to replace the pride with focus, decisiveness and performance and we will always be ‘Better than the Rest’. We need to be our brother’s keeper as a nation, and only our interdependence as Barbadians will see us through”.
(2) “I am a huge proponent of the CSME and I believe it’s the only way we can realistically compete in the globalised world we are already living in. However, one way to speed things up would be to go directly to the people, the average worker, and explain how the integration movement and fluid economy of an 8 million consumer market will benefit him/her and their families…employment opportunities, more competitive prices, less travel restrictions, etc. Enough time and energy has not been expended in explaining the idea and working reality of a CSME to the average person across the Caribbean. They in turn would put pressure on the politicians to engage and move more quickly towards the full CSME”.
(3) “Do I detect a note of pessimism dear Basil? Heaven forbid! That is not like you, nor should it be…Remember, Europe took more than 40 years to get the EC, now the EU, more or less right. It wasn’t until the 1993 implementation of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that the Europeans really began to get their economic act together and that supranationalism, via a European parliament, really began to take hold…And you’re right, we do need some kind of supranational, deliberative body that can handle the policy issues related to the realization and results of an eventual CSME”.
Feedback #1 is a “go it alone” perspective, if ever there was one. Feedback #2 is an integrationalist perspective, if ever there was one. Feedback # 3 elicited the following impulsive response from me which was well received. I said: “I am not giving up, just trying to shift focus. The mere fact that the EC took forty years should be a lesson to us – it may take us one hundred years. It would be useful to research the gradual progress that the individual countries made over those 40 years which led to the stage of development of their individual countries when the EU was formed. They certainly nurtured their nations to a status of respectability in terms of social welfare and economic growth to the extent that they were all ‘developed’ nations when they entered the EU”.
I continued “In the context of the Caribbean, Barbados stands out both in terms of GDP per capita and Human Development Index. The other countries within Caricom, for the most part, are trailing badly both from a socio and/or an economic perspective. The disparity in the socio-economic success of our nations is too great at this time, we need to narrow it before we attempt an economic union. This Single Economy drive is being hastily driven by emotion, it is not sustainable”. Feedback and food for thought!