Case for a Federation
Submitted by The Barbados Lobby
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.