The George Brathwaite Column – Renewed Thrust for Functional Cooperation

“Not in numbers but in unity that our great strength lies.” – (Thomas Paine).

Traditional and non-traditional threats, in addition to the vulnerability and dependence of Barbados, and the geopolitical paltriness of most if not all Caribbean countries, are still matters that should grab our attention. All of these countries have been ‘cruelly exposed’ to the vagaries of stagnant or weak economic growth, declining terms of trade, insufficiently diversified economies, precariously perched foreign reserves combined with economic volatility, the need to borrow to cover public expenditure coupled with incidences of mountainous debt, wide fiscal deficits pre-empting forced structural adjustment and austerity measures, the gifting of extravagant concessions to transnational business magnates, potential minefields in tourism, high unemployment or vast underemployment, trajectories of declining social nets paralleled alongside increasing poverty and myriad forms of insecurity, glaring everyday exposure to climate change and other environmental hazards, and instability in several institutions that are badly in need of major reforms, and circumspect practices that undermine good democratic governance.

Against this host of problems afflicting and challenging Barbados and the region, there is still optimism born out of the resilience that characterises the region, and a sheer desire to survive. Indeed, recent occurrences in Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, and now Barbados ushered in a renewed thrust to push back against the lethargy that lingered for too long in the region since the first decade of the twenty-first century. Deepening functional cooperation is once again topical; if only that Barbados and the regional entities comprising the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are actively revisiting their ties and approaches to both safeguard and assure mutual survival.

Often, the region’s concept of its security or insecurities is contested. But clearly, Caribbean populations shape their security narratives to discursively enhance a shared sense of safety. Many of these small developing states declare or show a willingness to counter the devastating threats or looming dangers by relying on discourses of commonality and shared concerns. In one sense, Barbadians for example, talk in security terms as a set of attempts to impose order, stability, and to ensure well-being since failure is not an option for the nation or region.

Under the proactive leadership of Barbados’ first female prime minister, there are clear indications that her Barbados Labour Party (BLP) embraces and is committed to regionalism. Prime Minister Mia Mottley, in her verbal communication and hands-on decisions, already has demonstrated that her Cabinet is eager to offer researched, informed, and practical solutions to several perennial economic, social, environmental and logistical issues faced locally and throughout the region. The English playwright and poet, Alan A. Milne once contended that: “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” Barbados is taking the right posture and the Government stands poised to utilise both traditional and new ideas.

Barbados is again immersing itself in regional affairs at the leadership level via effective interactions and the engagements that are facilitative for fermenting tangible and intangible successes necessary for regional survival. For instance, while speaking in St. Lucia before the Heads of the OECS, PM Mottley alluded to the concerns faced by our regional people transiting through the region. Miss Mottley, who later received agreement from St. Lucia’s Prime Minister the Hon. Allen Chastanet, highlighted the plight of regional travellers who are in-transit. This category of travellers is precluded from leaving the airport and the sea port although a ‘wait’ can be of several hours duration. The Barbados leader surmised that the “inability to be able to clear Immigration … continues to be of major concern to many of our citizens” and this legalistic conundrum that is manifested throughout the region, need to be eliminated.

Indeed, PM Mottley insisted that the prohibitive practice “makes no sense because it limits the extent to which those who visit our shores are capable of adding to economic activity in our countries.” Hence, the Barbadian prime minister posed a rhetorical but questioning summation: “what are the legal obstacles preventing the movement of people who are within our jurisdiction?” Surely, Miss Mottley is correct that “the only way we [in the region] can move forward … is by recognising that our fragility requires of us [leaders and legislators] an effort and a commitment that goes beyond anything that we have seen thus far.”

To reinforce the earlier point of support for strengthening Caribbean integration, the newly elected Mia Mottley-led administration has abolished the visa requirement for Haitian nationals entering Barbados. Barbados has moved to abolish the ‘illegal’ provision because not only was it inconsistent with the ‘spirit’ of CARICOM, but in fact, it should not have been a requirement given that Haiti is a member of CARICOM. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas compellingly demands non-discrimination and equal treatment for CARICOM member states and their nationals. The substantive Minister responsible for Immigration in Barbados, the Hon. Edmund Hinkson queried how can you have … visa requirements on Haitians? Why do we do this to our own people?”

Early next month, CARICOM meets for its annual conference of CARICOM Heads of Government. This year’s meeting is potentially inspiring and should be sufficiently forthright that the leaders redouble their efforts for the implementation of decisions. The former prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding contended that: The implementation actions required of each member state are not in all cases simple matters; some are very complex, requiring far-reaching policy changes, legislative processes and executive action. Stakeholders have to be sensitized and persuaded to buy into the process. Many of our member states, too, are constrained by capacity and resource challenges. Yet, the list of matters that are yet to be actioned and which the report so helpfully identified on a country-by-country basis is distressing and embarrassing. Hardly any plausible excuse or explanation has been offered by any of these member states for its inaction. Indeed, hardly could any be proffered, given the length of time that has elapsed.”

Certainly, if integrated development is to benefit the region’s people, regional prime ministers must lead by adopting more cohesive approaches in their ‘Community’ discourses and in their social, political, and economic, interactions. Barbados’ plans of maritime expansionism should also encourage enthusiasm for other littoral interests in the Caribbean’s geospatial spheres. Additionally, it is crucial that the regional leaders discourage having a one-dimensional understanding of security and our common problems. Regional agreements and obligations must amount to meaningful actions.

Immediately coming to mind within the scope of transnationalism, are issues of regional transport and cross-border networks. LIAT, although being at the centre of deliberations, does not preclude the realisation of an ‘inter-island ferry’ service. Greater shared ownership ought to exist with LIAT and the proposed ferry service must consider the regional needs to gain overdue population currency. Therefore, the regional zeal to achieve must not be ‘inadequate’ if the Caribbean populations’ expectations of safety, hassle-free travel, and prosperity are to be fulfilled.

Furthermore, these small countries of the OECS and CARICOM are implanted within under-explored economic maritime zones. The message emerging from Barbados for example, presupposes that perennial lack of critical thought and sluggishness to action, must be replaced with innovations, technologies, and the political will to maximise such untapped elements as our maritime resources. The prioritisation of efforts, assuming the scholarship for gravitating to informed positions on policy and implementation, should enhance regional sustainability. The gravitas and spill-over effects can deepen functional cooperation in terms of both integrated development and national/regional security.

The practical demands of affective and efficient governance must regain cross-border significance. Already, Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda has heralded the entry of Prime Minister Mottley. PM Browne assuredly says that Mia Mottley’s “reputation as a champion of Caribbean causes is renowned, as is her understanding of the value of the Caribbean’s unity in its global affairs.” Although not elusive to the many difficulties hampering the noble project of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, PM Browne rests confidence in PM Mottley’s capacity to be “constructive, practical and visionary.” In several forums, PM Mottley has communicated that Barbados must work with its neighbours to create and help shape the felicity conditions for national and regional progress. She sees the sharing of information with colleague Caribbean leaders to be a vital communicative segment that can prove amenable as the region copes with similar challenges and options.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and a political consultant. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com)

18 comments

  • Tired of Politricks and Endemic Corruption

    @ George Braithwaithe

    What are your thoughts on George Payne and corruption in your Party hierarchy?

    Like

  • Bernard Codrington

    A timely and instructive submission.There is a new wave of protectionism in the Geo- political economy which small states such as Barbados have to navigate as we go forward. We therefore need regional solidarity. CSME has to take fresh guard.Unity will give us a stronger voice in negotiations. Should we take a second stab at political union?

    Like

  • @Bernard

    What are the signs to show that our countries have come to appreciate that functional cooperation is the way to go?

    Like

  • pieceuhderockyeahright

    @ Mr Bernard Codrington

    Be careful with that which you entertain for sometimes you entertain angels or demons

    It rather IT is now clear which route this party is taking to de ole man so let me continue to be the lone voice in the wilderness crying “beware ye, beware…”

    I am going to transmit the game plan here for you so ghat you and others of the coolaid party can watch this space in motion.

    Observe this banter from this idiot George who is only a footservant set a task of acclimatization

    “…Hence, the Barbadian prime minister posed a rhetorical but questioning summation: “what are the legal obstacles preventing the movement of people who are within our jurisdiction?”

    I will answer this because I am very knowledgeable of the answer.

    The ONLY legal limitation preventing people from moving through the region is their legal status or the associated law enforcement notification associated with the individual FROM YOUR PLACE OF HABITUAL DOMICILE cross referenced against your country of origin.

    Do yo understand that?

    In simple terms what all of wunna is being set up for is the phase II of a regional cross border clearance system which will obtain various funding from international agencies.

    And all wunna sheeple lapping this up like if this is the Oracle of the Delphi.

    George is just a messenger and this CARICOM arena and speech is just a set-up for ignorant bajans and even more ignorant CARICOM denizens

    Wunna been duped by watch muh now

    Ibutcoukd nit jnferstand where obling head kerrie Simmonds got the island ferry initiative from.

    I said this man is an idiot and could not tell the northbound end if a South bound cow.

    But it was the spiteful vindictiveness of the one called de Hood that made me aware of IT all but all that changes now.

    You haven’t a clue about most of what I am saying but as long as you understand the destination and what is being done to shore up the totally depleted reserves then you will see the dots because you are z man who is au fait with the incredibly deep pockets of the EU as it relates to funding regional integration programs.

    WE GOT THIS….

    Like

  • Well Well & Cut N' Paste At Your Service

    “Ibutcoukd nit jnferstand where obling head kerrie Simmonds got the island ferry initiative from.”

    Parroting Kamla Persad of Trinidad who never delivered on the ferry service and trinis are still cussing her today about that false promise she made to them which helped her get kicked out of parliament, she is lucky that is all they are doing..

    .., let’s hope Symmonds is not just blowing smoke up bajan’s asses with ferry service talk talk, 5 years is not as long as he thinks, a week is a longer time in politics…..no one wants to hear in 5 years that it will take another 5 years in his head to get a ferry service up and running…..so he better produce….within this 5 year period.

    Like

  • Piece what you smoking?Why don,t you give Ms Mottley some space to implement her plans?All of a sudden you on here attacking Ms motley,now you attacking Mr Brathwaite.Chill out man.This Government is a month not year old.The DLP made a complete mess which has to be cleaned up.The South Coast is being worked on,the NSRL tax has been abolished,they are looking at Whitehill,all in a short space of time what more you want?Maybe the return of the Dems.Take your time ,with proper leadership we will bounce back.

    Like

  • Does it look like Barbados is courting the sub region? If yes what will we have to give up to be accepted to the party?

    Like

  • Functional cooperation? That’s UWI, CARDI, CXC etc. We need fully integrated economies, period! It is how we perceive and use OUR space, not spaces but SPACE! If you doubt me look no further than Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture Audley Shaw’s comments in today’s nation, including this one:
    “For instance, it is an affront to the peanut farmer in Jamaica not to be able to sell his peanuts when a manufacturing entity elsewhere in CARICOM can simply put a pretty package on extra-regional peanuts and sell it to our markets as a product of community origin duty-free”.

    Liked by 1 person

  • @enuff

    Why are respective governments not paying their subscriptions read UWI, read LIAT, read RSS etc. we talk a good talk. See Mia has hit the ground running in this regard. Let us see if the cynics will reinforce their views.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Only the Bahamas has had the decency to not indulge in the hypocritical talk about regional integration. Barbados, after the very sorry embarrassment that was the administration of Freundel Stuart, showed that isolationism has its supporters here.

    Like

  • Bernard Codrington

    @ Pieceuhderockyeah right at 1 :17 AM

    Thanks very much for your words of caution. Ever so often I do let my guard down. But in this particular instance I posed an open question, not a rhetorical one.

    The implication was that only a federal political arrangement can adequately address the problem of unified positions in dealing with the concerted moves to shut us off from the benefits of free flows of capital, labour and goods.
    Piece , it is good that you are more clairvoyant than I. But we do have the advantage of having been there and done that. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Like

  • Just as we have forge ahead with ditching the Privy Council for the CCJ, we should do likewise in other areas, especially immigration and with programmes encouraging our citizens to invest in industries within other Caricom states that could flourish independently or part of a model where the inputs can be sourced outside of Bim for final production in Barbados. Remember Jamaican farmers got peanuts but Trinidad importing from outside Caricom and labeling with “pretty” paper.🤣🤣

    Like

  • NorthernObserver

    I think the area, and I use that term loosely, must look at options of working more closely. I hesitate to title it, for fear the interpretation of that title, based on others, maybe provoke negativity. A struggle between all these fiefdoms, replete with the burdensome, frequently unsustainable, costs of running them; but confirming independence, nationhood and pride.
    Our traditional financial model seems under siege, and >1 bank would like to exit. We have multiple stock exchanges, when one would be fine; the trading costs have to drop.
    One thing is assured, we cannot continue running huge deficits.

    Like

  • I have a great deal of admiration for those who can read the full text of this guy.
    No matter how hard I try,I cannot get beyond the first word.
    I would like to comment, but somehow the word traditional does not alarm me.

    I cannot contribute…

    Like

  • Tired of Politricks and Endemic Corruption

    Almost 48hrs and this BLP partisan joker cannot provide feedback on his pal George Payne and he has a PhD.

    It shows what is the real problem in Barbados way too many people have sold their souls to be in the midst.

    Like

  • @ Tired of Politricks and Endemic Corruption
    Does you mother hold a PhD?

    Like

  • David

    “Why are respective governments not paying their subscriptions read UWI, read LIAT, read RSS etc.”

    Because that is functional cooperation as opposed to a functioning single economy. Note that the Pan-Caribbean businesses pay their dues and make decisions that are best for their finances not their home country.

    Like

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