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Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME)
Federation by any other name wouldn't be the same.

1/18/2005 Commentary Archives

 Oh, my! the debate on Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME)
agreement
is all the rage. With The Prime Ministers of Jamaica, Trinidad,
and Barbados singing on January 1, 2005.Yep! the very same countries
that started the 1960s West Indian Federation.

Is it fair to start the xenophobia, and besides CSME is just about a single
market integration a far cry from a  federation. We're in a completely
different world requiring different market strategies as  pointed out so
eloquently in the Jamaica Observer column,  January 9th, 2005 "Opposing
 the CSME is really backward"
by Dennis Morrison.

Any federation aspirations will be a long time coming. For now the poor
balance between currencies and the share number of them, along with a
number of other factors inhibits any attempt at full-scale economic
integration the likes of a federation any time soon.

History Repeats itself

I'm reminded of an expression growing up in Barbados that states "Wha'
sweeten goat-mout' bu'n 'e behind." What the old folks meant was, proceed
with caution. Bear in mind that unlike many of the other block-operated
agreements (block of islands) currently in vogue, for example the Caribbean
Community and Common Market (CARICOM) which  is an outgrowth of the
failures of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). CSME requires
giving up control of a piece of the sovereignty of ones country  to another.

Many of us observing this debate over the past year, are too young to appreciate the pros and cons of the federation debate. What led to the death of what was then the "West Indian Federation." Let's take a brief look at a focal point in the history of the West Indian Federation.

Parochialism or Fanciful Conceit

Did the West Indian Federation fall apart through selfishness? Was it the
fanciful conceit of young nations anticipating the taste of the sweet nectar of
independence from the British colonial master? The only way they knew how,
that got them into trouble to start with. Maybe both.
 
When the Jamaican government of Prime Minister Norman Manley wanted
out of the West Indian federation, he used a popular referendum by the
Jamaican people to withdraw from the federation. The Jamaican Govern-
ment  fears, if you want to call it that, was that the Jamaican economy would
be burdened by the lesser members and withdrew in 1961. Trinidad soon
follow suit. You'll notice that the sweet nectar of the West Indian Federa-
tions  soon deprecated to parochialism when the time came to stand up.

Back then

Back in the '60's the people didn't understand it then. Do they understand it
now? Lets not mince words here! History does repeat itself.

Are we committed? Or are the eloquent detractors of integration going to
gain prominence the instance there's a little wrinkle. My experience has
taught me that many of the objections to CSME  and the real or imagined
federation fears. Has less to do with economic fears and more to do with
nationalist zeal -- those who think they can do better out side of the group.
Are these rumblings familiar or what.

But in all fairness we were babes in the woods back then. Through our many
trials and failures to come together as a community and with  an eye on history we're wiser.

The Backward Opposition

Are the opponents of  CSME "...really backward"? Some of them maybe, in their
extemporaneous eloquence and simple fears. But for now history is on
their side. The first paragraph in Dennis Morrison's column sets up my very
point of contention. But get a grip, this is only single market integration, not
a federation. Getting there one-step-at-a-time is fine.

The European Economic Community as a model: Can any perceived West Indian Union
learn anything from the EU.  We'll take a look next time.

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