Caribbean Political Economy

Labouring in the Vineyard, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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The 2012 Eric Williams Memorial Lecture by the eminent Caribbean elder statesman provides hitherto little-known facts as well as instructive insights into the tortuous course of Caribbean regionalism over the past 50 years.

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Symphony or Dirge? Vaneisa Baksh Trinidad Express 30 May 2012

10 – 1 = 0? History’s big what- if Lennox Grant Trinidad Express 3 June 2012

Vision and Leadership: The Infinite Unity of Caribbean Needs, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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In the inaugural G. Arthur Brown Memorial Lecture of the Bank of Jamaica, Sir Shridath points to the failure of Caribbean leaders,  to,  rise to the regional challenge, fixated as they are with retaining the vestiges of ‘local control’—a hangover from the colonial era.,  

To have been invited to deliver the G Arthur Brown Lecture is honour enough; to have the opportunity of inaugurating the Lecture Series that memorialises this great son of Jamaica and the Caribbean is beyond deserving. …

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Is the West Indies West Indian? Sir Shridath Ramphal

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In the Tenth Sir Archibald Nedd Memorial Lecture delivered in Grenada on January 28, 2011, the eminent Caribbean statesman has pointed to the ‘grave and present danger’ of demise of the Caribbean Court of Justice and with it, of further consolidation of the regional movement and a West Indian identity.

As all Grenadians know, it was here in St. Georges ninety-five [95] years ago that T.A. Marryshow flew from the masthead of his pioneering newspaper The West Indian the banner: The West Indies Must Be Westindian. And on that banner Westindian was symbolically one joined-up word – from the very first issue on 1 January 1915. What was ‘Teddy’ Marryshow signaling almost a century ago? …

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Careless with CARICOM, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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As ‘West Indians’, as ‘Caribbean people’, we face a basic contradiction of oneness and otherness, a basic paradox of kinship and alienation. Much of our history is the interplay of these contrarieties. But they are not of equal weight….Today, CARICOM and all it connotes, is the hallmark of that triumph, and it is well to remember the processes which forged it – lest we forget, and lose it…

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Wither the Caribbean?

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An exploration of the future of the Caribbean in the aftermath of the current global recession

by Sir Shridath Ramphal

Presentation at The Roxborough Institute; Jamaica, 29 July 2009

My segment of these initial presentations to this most welcome Public Forum – on which I congratulate the Roxborough Institute – is

    Exploring the potential role of Caribbean regionalism in facilitating the Region’s recovery in the present situation.

I am glad that I come last, for the speakers before me have laid the essential foundations: the elements of the present situation; the compulsions of regional recovery – and in the process they have necessarily embarked on the exploration of the potential role for Caribbean regionalism. I can adopt most of Dr Persaud’s analysis – less of Mr Seaga’s . Most of all, I shall try to respond to the question which this Forum asks: WITHER THE CARIBBEAN?

A month ago, speaking in Port of Spain to Caribbean Judges (urging them to avoid the myopia of which lawyers are often accused) I said this:

    “CARICOM is at risk”, we have been warned.,   So it is;,   and few are blameless.,   Political leaders, in particular, have to be less casual about CARICOM, less minimalist in their ambition for it, less negative in their vision of it. Its foundations have been built on our oneness; not on the geography of a dividing sea.,   The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,   is not just embellished parchment; it is,   the logic of that oneness in a world which threatens our separate survival… The Caribbean Community is now our regional mansion within a global home. We have to make it more secure and habitable – through reaching goals like the CSME,   (or even the CSM), and reaching them together.

    Next month is the 20th Anniversary of the Grand Anse Resolution on Preparing the Peoples of the West Indies for the Twenty-first Century – the Resolution,   that established the West Indian Commission.,   Nearing the end of the new century’s first decade, we are still ‘preparing’. No wonder ‘CARICOM is at risk’…. As (its) political directorate meets in Georgetown next week at their XXXth Summit they must demonstrate credibly that they still believe in Caribbean integration, that they care about securing it against risk,,   and that they are serious in their commitment to the objectives of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.,   I,   believe the people the Caribbean yearn for that assurance from inspired leadership.

Between that month and this,   CARICOM has held its 30th Summit – in Georgetown. Have the Caribbean people received that assurance? Sadly, ‘NO’, I don’t think even the Heads themselves would answer ‘YES’! They made hardly any progress on the crucial issues of the CSME, of regional governance, of the world economc crisis, of,   migration, of agriculture.

They did make some promises: a Convocation in October on CSME implementation; a resumed meeting this year on Governance of the Community; a new Task Force (No.3) at the level of Heads on the Global Economic Crisis; a re-affirmation of the ‘goal’ of freedom of movement of persons as an essential element of CSME, but full implementation facing challenges; priority for the elaboration of a Community Agricultural Policy. As the late Paul Southwell of St.Kitts used to say in his Shakespearian manner; Promises, Promises, Promises; Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

Yet, there were positives. I suppose that one way or another – even as Commonwealth Secretary General – I have been in the wings of most of those 30 Summits. At Georgetown this month, something was different. There was a mood, I sensed, among many of the Heads, that not just progress with the integration agenda; but CARICOM itself was under threat That mood reminded me of Yeates’ verse from the 1920s:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

It was a sobering mood; and,   the Heads, I thought, tried harder than usual. But a ridiculous time frame defeated them – and the absence of a governance structure which left too much to them personally in 2 working days – including original thinking! Which is why, I believe, the Communiqué’s cryptic statement on ‘Governance Issues’ – that (Heads) “expect to conclude their considerations (on these issues) on the basis of proposals to be advanced by the Secretary General and the Task Force on Governance” signifies a resolve to reconvene on this central issue within a matter of months. They recognise, I believe, that without an immediate overhaul of the Community’s governance arrangements,   things will likely fall apart; that the center, CARICOM itself, will not hold.

That prospect was reinforced by the matter to which the Communiqué,  did not refer – the plans for ‘closer union’ arrangements between Trinidad and Tobago and the OECS countries, and possibly Barbados – although the Prime Minister of Barbados, before the Meeting had warned about “fragmenting into unworkable reconfigurations of the regional project” . For some to move at a faster pace toward goals all have agreed on,   is not necessarily ruinous of CARICOM, and indeed the Rose Hall Declaration of 2006 said as much. But the avoidance of ruin involves a will by the ‘closer union’ countries on the one hand, and the others, to organize to make the new CARICOM,   work better than the old one did.. In practical terms, that will mean a special role for Jamaica in restructuring CARICOM. In Georgetown, Prime Minister Golding gave every indication of a readiness to try.

That readiness may be compounded of many elements; but one certainly is recognition of the intrinsic importance of the Caribbean Single Market to the Region’s efforts to survive the onslaught of the global economic crisis – a recognition which I believe President Jagdeo, who as Chairman of CARICOM will head the new Task Force, will share with him. The,   Task Force which will benefit from the recent work of the Bourne and Worrell Groups, will obviously predicate Caribbean responses to the global crisis on Caribbean integration. But if integration itself is comatose, the prescription will remain unfilled. Which is why the governance issue is so urgent. In Georgetown, both the Prime Minster of Jamaica and his predecessor on whom was conferred the Order of the Caribbean Community, were at one in acknowledging the challenge “to find a mechanism that works”.

And let me say without elaboration that such a mechanism must cater for this Region exercising a collective influence – as we once did, however modestly,   – at the international level where the global restructuring so necessary to our future will be determined. Our integration vision cannot end at the edge of the Caribbean Sea.

In thanking CARICOM Heads for the OCC, Mr Patterson said:

    Mature regionalism will remain a pipe-dream unless authority is vested in an executive mechanism which is charged with full time responsibility for ensuring the implementation within a specified time frame of the critical decisions taken by Heads.

Mr Golding will want assurance that in thus making CARICOM work the Community is not going in the direction of a ‘political union’. He should be given that assurance in a forthright manner, and be helped to make Jamaica help the Region and itself.

Years ago, the Brandt Commission wrote;

    The world is a unity, and we must begin to act as members of it who depend on each other. It is not enough…to sit around tables talking like characters in Chekov plays about insoluble problems. We have to

    lift ourselves above the immediate constrictions…and offer the world a plan and a vision of,   hope, without which nothing substantial can be achieved.

Every word of that is true today for our ‘Caribbean world’. On the global financial crisis and its impact on us, in particular, we surely don’t want more Chekov table-talk – no more Convocations and Task Forces and Study Groups.. We need a small regional Crisis Management Team, serviced by the Secretariat with direct access to the Chairman and Heads of Government. We need to act like ‘one Caribbean’ in plenty o’ trouble. After months of denial at the political level, our technical advisers, the UN (not just the G20),   and regional private sector practitioners are leaving us in no doubt of that ‘trouble’. It is not a matter of ‘gloom and doom’; it is fiddling while the house burns..,   Earlier this month, at a Memorial Service for Kathleen Drayton whose very identity had become ‘regional’, George Lamming bemoaned ” the decline and possible erasure of the regional character of our institutions … and the reduction of our territories to a recreational playpen for the world’s rich and famous”.,   We cannot go on ignoring these diverse warnings without paying the price of calamity.

In May, the manufacturing associations of Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados issued a joint statement in which they said:

    It is imperative that at this time, given the current economic downturn, decreasing global demand and increasing extra-regional competition, that Governments of the region work together to remove all non-tariff barriers and unfair trading practices.

In June the Newsletter of the Caribbean Centre for Money & Finance,  ,   cautioned that

    When the statistics for the first six months of 2009 are all in, we may find that the Caribbean is already in worse shape than has so far appeared, and economic performance will continue to deteriorate until the world economy turns around.

Two weeks ago, the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Service Industries, Mr Placide, warned in Antigua that “the private sector is becoming increasingly disenchanted with the pace of CSME implementation. In other words: it is imperative that the Caribbean Single Market is made to work.

The week before the CARICOM Summit, the UN Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis confirmed – says the South Center – that ‘developing countries are being affected more and more severely as the global crisis drags on … the ‘green shoots’ of recovery are not convincing and the crisis and its effects after an anemic recovery will last several years’.

On 13 June, the Chairman and CEO of Grace Kennedy, Mr Douglas Orane,,   made a speech to CARICOM,   Finance and Trade Ministers here in Jamaica which I hope all their Heads of Government,   read before their Summit Meeting two weeks later. It is a speech that sparkles with gems of,   wisdom. Among them is this:

    My colleagues have often heard me make the statement, ” A rising tide lifts all boats”. In the regional context it is obvious that if we create a climate in which countries are able to draw on each other’s resources, to move capital, goods and skilled workers freely, we will create a better standard of living for all our people.

In drawing on each other’s resources, it should now be clear, the private sector and the trade unions – the representatives of capital investors and labour – must become intrinsic to the process of decision-making for the region as a whole.

I share Prime Minister Thompson’s stated conviction “that regional integration is the last best hope for the Caribbean.”. I acknowledge,   Douglas Orane’s summation as,   the basic tenet of ‘integration’. I believe that our success in making it,   the guiding principle by which we actually organize our regional affairs, will determine the answer to the question – ‘Wither the Caribbean?’

Caribbean Judiciaries in an Era of Globalisation, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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We are at such a time, and both policies and practices are deepening Caribbean divides. ‘The knock on the door at night’ is not within our regional culture; still less are intimations of ‘ethnic cleansing’. No Caribbean leader would countenance such departures from our norms and values; but all must not only believe, but also act as if they believe, that we forget our oneness at our peril; whether the ‘otherness’ that displaces it is an accidental place of regional birth, or otherness of any kind. I say ‘accidental’ because in the Caribbean the age-old process of trans-migration has made us all family: as a great Barbadian regionalist, the Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow, reminded us twenty-three years ago – concluding in his practical common-sense way that:

” If we have sometimes failed to comprehend the essence of the regional integration movement, the truth is that thousands of ordinary Caribbean people do in fact live that reality every day. … we are a family … and this fact of regional togetherness is lived every day by ordinary West Indian men and women in their comings and goings.”

So indeed it was; and for a very long time. My great-great grandfather on my mother’s side came to Guyana from Barbados looking for land and settlement, and found them – and so it has been up and down the chain of island societies that free movement fused into one: freedom curbed ironically with the arrival of our separate ‘national’ freedoms. But the roots of those family trees are now spread out in the sub-soil of the Caribbean. Social antipathy and divisiveness deny them; but DNA’s defy even Constitutions.

” CARICOM is at risk”, we have been warned. So it is; and few are blameless. Political leaders, in particular, have to be less casual about CARICOM, less minimalist in their ambition for it, less negative in their vision of it. Its foundations have been built on our oneness; not on the geography of a dividing sea. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is not just embellished parchment; it is the logic of that oneness in a world which threatens our separate survival. And the revised treaty is not all; there are international Conventions to which all CARICOM member states are parties that are relevant to our rights and obligations to each other as human beings, much less family. The Caribbean Community is now our regional mansion within a global home. We have to make it more secure and habitable – through reaching goals like the CSME (or even the CSM), and reaching them together.

Next month is the 20th Anniversary of the Grand Anse Resolution on Preparing the Peoples of the West Indies for the Twenty-first Century – the Resolution that established the West Indian Commission. Nearing the end of the new century’s first decade, we are still ‘preparing’. No wonder ‘CARICOM is at risk’. In the era of globalization, we retrogress if we simply mark time while the world moves ahead. As CARICOM’s political directorate meet in Georgetown next week at their XXXth Summit they must demonstrate credibly that they still believe in Caribbean integration, that they care about securing it against risk, and that they are serious in their commitment to the objectives of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. I believe the people the Caribbean yearn for that assurance from inspired leadership.

And so must we all here; for without CARICOM, without the Community, where is the Caribbean Court of Justice; where, even, are Caribbean judiciaries? The siren song of separatism lures us to self-destruction – as it once did with the federal nation we were about to be 47 years ago. The Federation – ‘The West Indies’ – (how quickly we have forgotten its name) did not founder on technical rocks; it foundered on political ones. We have now re-built pains-takingly over nearly half a century; and are again ‘about to be’ – this time an economic community. And again the siren sings seductive songs of separatism. In our collective self-interest, resistance of that enticement has become a major challenge of our time; and it is from our political directorates that the will to resist must mainly come.

The Caribbean Court of Justice, with the full jurisdiction with which it must soon be endowed, with its rich inheritance of the common law and of that international law which is the under-pinning of globalization, is for me the greatest assurance that as a Community of Caribbean people we can meet and overcome the challenges of the time.

Click here for full Address at the Inauguration of the Caribbean Association of Judiciary Officers, Port of Spain, June 25, 2009

Caribbean Diplomacy, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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Presentation to Caribbean Diplomatic Training Programme for Mid-Career Diplomats, ramphalGeorgetown, Guyana, 20 May 2009

I want to begin by congratulating the CARICOM Secretariat on the mounting of this Workshop. It is no secret that I place great store by the role of Caribbean diplomacy over nearly fifty years of engagement with the international community. Some of our most notable achievements have been in this field – at the United Nations, in the Non-aligned Movement, in the Commonwealth, in Brussels and in Geneva, in the ACP and at the OAS – and always on the right side of history! You are heirs to a great tradition. It will be your challenge to enhance it…

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Glimpses of the Commonwealth at Sixty, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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The 2009 Errol Barrow Memorial Lecture, Bridgetown, Barbados, January 20, 2009

The 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community and Common Market – CARICOM – is today sometimes regarded as the resumption of West Indian regionalism after the debacle of ‘federation’. The truth is otherwise. The event that marked that resumption was the Agreement of Dickenson Bay in Antigua – the CARIFTA Agreement of 1965; and the credit for that resumption must go primarily to Errol Barrow. It was he that initiated the post-federal détente…

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‘Rough Handling Federation’, Sir Shridath Ramphal

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Lecture at UWI Cave Hill Campus, November 20, 2008

It is 50 years since the Federation was born; since The West Indies became, all too briefly, more than a geographic expression. However flawed the process by which we got there, however imperfect the consummation, however brief the period of promise, that moment of creation in 1958 was one of the worthiest in the history of the Caribbean region…

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