Case for a Federation

Submitted by The Barbados Lobby
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur Mr. Arthur’s recent view that the CSME needs to be scrapped

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur Mr. Arthur’s recent view that the CSME needs to be scrapped …

A few days ago in his column, Craig Harewood wrote an article entitled “How to get reparations for dummies.” He had a brilliant idea that instead of asking for reparations that the Caribbean Community


should seek to have a single currency that has special drawing rights from IMF and he was sure that Britain would be in support of this. I was definitely not in agreement with this in any form or fashion because the quest for reparations must not be watered down from the complete package that is presently being sought from Great Britain. The article however, provoked my thoughts concerning the single currency because I remembered the former prime Minster of Barbados, Mr. Arthur’s recent view that the CSME needs to be scrapped in its present form and started all over again.

I agree with Mr. Arthur’s views that the CSME must be scrapped after taking so long to self-actualize. About 13 years or so ago I attended an interview at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and I was asked a question relating to my views on the CSME by the Permanent Secretary. I told him that I did not see it to be running effectively before my son had become an adult. He did not agree and needless to say I did not get the position but now I am positive that I was more right than wrong. My son is now 19 years old and CSME has not achieved the gains in economic development that were anticipated.

I differ from Mr. Arthur’s views on what should replace the CSME. I am of the opinion that a political union should come before an economic union for this region. As far-fetched as it may seem, it can work this time because the early attempts at the West Indian Federation did not collapse because of its inability to work but due to internal political conflicts. There are different leaders in the region now and we are living in a completely different era with information on models to draw from to create a federation that will suit the needs of these territories.

We can also remember the famous words that were uttered by Dr. Eric Williams that predicted the death of the early West Indian Federation “one from 10 leaves zero,” when Jamaica pulled out of the federation. The future of 3.5 million people took another turn that changed the course of history that was leading toward economic stability. The collapse of the West Indian Federation has been the biggest injustice that has be done to the region by Caribbean politicians because it has limited the growth of the region.

The concept of a federal government can work within CARICOM work. The problems throughout the region are the same, the history of the people are the same, so too is the socio political background. Given their economic woes none of them can be classified as rich. The predominant difference is the size of the islands. Right now we have politicians who are making economic decisions for the CSME based on politics and not economics. Those decisions have created too many market access problems, problems that have caused more setbacks than movement forward. LIAT is a glaring example. The politicians should stick to what they know best, which is politics. They should create the federation leaving the economists to work on the single market after the federation has been creation.

It has often been said that the people of the Caribbean have no problems with one another; that their problems are created at the political level. One such act was the free movement of people that placed greater restrictions on people entering other islands than ever before. If the region was under one federal government all the market restrictions and movement of people regulations would simply disappear.

The very fact that a formally structured Caribbean Court of Justice is functioning is evidence that a regional body can work. If the informally structured religion of Rastafarianism which started on the fringes of society can grow and flourish in the Caribbean why not a federation? Perhaps it is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse because the CSME has become a talk shop of working groups, revolving meetings and policy papers that seem to have become pointless.

The EU has been able to create an economic union without a political union which works well for them. This has not been the case of CARICOM. Our leaders need to step back and look retrospectively on what caused the West Indian Federation to collapse and why the CSME has failed. One hopes that they will see the big picture and realize that the federation must be revisited. Their predecessors gave up on the federation without giving it a chance to succeed. I am of the opinion that at this time a political union will give the single market and economy, as well as a single currency every chance to succeed.

For Barbados, a federation will mean a greater market to sell goods on a level playing field and it will create a class of entrepreneurs as it will be a stimulus for the creation of endless possibilities for goods and services. Given the high level of unemployment now, creation of a federation may be the best thing to happen in last two decades. A federation that includes the Dominican Republic would resolve the problem of expelling Haitians from that country. Since their recent benevolence to Dominica, I would even go so far as to extend an invitation to Venezuela; for all we know it could be the solution to the long standing territorial dispute between that country and Guyana.

10 thoughts on “Case for a Federation

  1. This is a fine time and opportunity for Caribbean leaders to remodel their systems and stay focused on what is really important, looking out for their people.

    With the various agencies now paying close attention to the leaders and their activities, the only thing left to do is put all that fine education, knowledge and skills to work for the good of the Caribbean and it’s people.

    This is a different ballgame, the world has moved on to bigger and better things.

  2. The suggested West Indian (and Pan Caribbean) political unity will require aid flows from the More Developed to the Lesser Developed Caribbean states, which will stifle local initiatives and participation everywhere. European leaders that once ridiculed the idea separateness are now terrorized by their new model.

    “ . . . there seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Oversimplified as this may seem, we shall find the idea more easily acceptable if we consider that bigness, or oversize, is really much more than just a social problem. It appears to be the one and only problem permeating all creation. Whenever something is wrong, something is too big. [. . .] And if the body of a people becomes diseased with the fever of aggression, brutality, collectivism, or massive idiocy, it is not because it has fallen victim to bad leadership or mental derangement. It is because human beings, so charming as individuals or in small aggregations, have been welded into overconcentrated social units.”

    This extract from “The Breakdown of Nations” written in 1955 by Austrian political economist Leopold Kohr summarizes a philosophy our regional integration advocates ought to consider. Kohr was a professor of Economics and Public Administration at the University of Puerto Rico between 1955 and 1973. His “Breakdown of Nations” was followed by “Development Without Aid”(1973); and eventually, “The Overdeveloped Nations”(1977). They all argued against the cult of bigness and unbalanced economic growth, and advocated rather the concept of human scale and small community life at local levels. One of Kohr’s students, Ernst F. Schumacher gained prominence among world economists with his bestseller “Small is Beautiful. A Study of Economics as if People Mattered” (1973).

    • What can we learn from the EU experience to avoid hurdles associated with Unions. Leave the ideological bullshit at the door.

  3. That is why the small island states should find it much easier to transition to a more feasible and progressive form of governance, it’s because they are so small.

    The bigger the countries, the bigger the problems…….but again, human nature being what it is, they eventually find ways to self-destruct, though small and all they need is focus, they already had access to all types of loans and grants, but obviouly nothing is ever enough.

    There is a lesson in there somewhere.

  4. Absolutely David, “Leave the ideological bullshit at the door.”

    There are so many dead trees as a result of the voluminous reams of paper used to pronounce on the WI Federation specifically and political and economic unions generally that I am shocked that the author could present this without at least some hard, economic and other details to strengthen his position.

    Why another layer of political elite talking shop and simply creating more opportunity for graft?

    What has always been needed is the ‘WILL’ to move these islands forward. Like was seen in Europe in 2002 when the Euro was unfurled. That type of collective will is not present now – still – as it was not when Williams created his impressive mathematical equation.

    In fact one can argue that the fractious insularity is now more pointed and nonsensical.

  5. Another Federation? Look at the chronic disunity among the Caricom “Federation”. Member nations at loggerhead with each other. A common market with one member nation banning , or severely restricting goods from another member nation.
    But the worst part of it all ,is that a member Caricom nation, namely Guyana is having a real border dispute with its neighbours Venezuela and Suriname. Well Suriname do not have much clout, but President Maduro of Venezuela is at present on a whistle stop tour , wooing Guyana’s sister Caricom nations . These countries will in due course pay lip service Guyana and its predicament, while Maduro pay them their , cap-in-hand, pieces of silver.

  6. Hey Heather,

    I did follow up that article with this one. …

    I did so since I realized that I should clarify a few points given the feedback from the first article (the one you cited). Basically my “plan” if you can call it that would be to do one thing that Great Britain and a few other countries would actively support and that would enable us to do the 10 point action plan outlined by CARICOM.

  7. NO NO NO NO

    The only thing that the Caribbean could seek unity on in administrative terms is regional Head Of State that replaces the queen and has real oversight authority over the various territorial administrations.


    BAF dismissed CSME as it was no more than a precursor to the US lead FTAA (the modification of NAFTA). Had Owen not been a US sycophant, and a regional separatist in disguise, he would have gone after a CSEM which would have meant a unification of economies under ONE common currency … Craig, sorry but you now come

    • Thanks for you comments @bafbfp . However, please note what I am saying versus what the author is saying. I have only suggested how a regional currency could be used to help in reparations, nothing else. The administration of such is up to smarter minds than my own.

  8. The Gorilla understands, Craig … ha ha …

    As to your comment on the admin of such a currency … well there is years of evidence right here in the Caribbean that it is very doable and by people who are probably not even in your league …

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