After Brexit new concerns over convergence
Title: Shifting the Frontiers: An Action Framework for the Future of the Caribbean
Editors: Winston Dookeran and Carlos Elias
Publisher: Ian Randle in collaboration with the office of the Principal, UWI, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad
Dr Glenville Ashby
Nations in the throes of political, social, and economic upheaval are desperate for solutions. Like other regions, the Caribbean is facing new challenges. Is convergence, an ecopolitical strategy effectively used by nations such as South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Canada, and the United States, the solution? Convergence is based on Emile Durkheim's functionalism where societies are viewed as organisms, each part indispensable to the whole. In practical terms, convergence recognises changing realities globally and responds in order to remain viable and competitive. National boundaries are reconfigured, becoming more ‘pliant’ while creating new geo-economic and political possibilities. For example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and the European Union (EU) have reinvented the regional playing field as they position themselves for more substantive economic growth. This adaptation, while not realising total success, has raised the economic standard of member states bound by treaties and Memoranda of Understanding (MOU).
Shifting the Frontiers: An Action Framework for the Future of the Caribbean is a thoroughly researched four-part thesis that include Shifting the Frontiers, Stimulating Radical Ideas, Rethinking the Caribbean Future, and Translating words into Action. It is the strongest case yet for convergence among Caribbean states. Writers in the fields of economics, history, science, and politics are in tandem with the overarching theme of restructuring, revitalising, and 'shifting' the Caribbean borders toward profitability.
In his contribution, "Shifting the Frontiers: Defining the Imperative of Caribbean Convergence in the Twenty First Century, Winston Dookeran writes, “The economic convergence process will have to confront political challenges and redesign the economic and financial architecture.” He later offers four ways to realise this objective: buffers, capital mobility, regional stock market, and development finance. And later, he introduces the concept of Resource Clustering Strategy, defined as “a regional grouping of firms and institutions [that] include an array of collaborating and competing services and providers that create a specialised infrastructure supporting the industries and businesses.”
Sir Hilary Beckles’ 'Rekindling the Revolution', an extended version of a speech delivered at the Forum on the Future of the Caribbean (2015), appeals to the political will and creativity of a people. He identifies smoldering embers that can be rekindled, enlivened and effectively channelled for ingenuity and productivity. We have always been at the epicentre of globalisation – thanks to colonialism, he argues. Ever-compelling and riveting, he speaks to our revolutionary archetype. We have been stymied but not vanquished. He states, “I wish to draw attention for the need to re-energise our thrust and to refocus our agenda on transformative development. I am not worried that some of you may respond by suggesting that I am for us to swim against the tide. This has long been our history.”
And echoing the spirit of convergence, he adds, “We have to stop seeing ourselves as extensions of and appendices of other power systems. We have to leave this dependency mentality at the back door of the 20th century and learn the art of forging new alliances with a new agenda. In our new Caribbean world, we have sources of energy from India, Africa, China, Brazil, and beyond. These are our indigenous energy sources that have been marginalised by Europeans' domination of our world. We must turn over this upside down world of relations and rebuild from the bottom.”
Beckles’ contribution speaks to our conscience and is arguably the most engaging statement delivered.
In 'The View from a Multiplex World', Professor Amitav Acharya likens the emerging multipolar world to multiplex movie theatres where patrons have choices and every movie plays an integral role in the sustainability of the enterprise.
Here, success is based on interdependence not only in trade “but also in finance, production networks, environment, [health], social media, [and] human rights.”
He advocates a radical shift for Caribbean nations long disadvantaged by “small-state mindset,” that has led to vulnerability. While some states have shown vestiges of sustainable economic development, he cautions that only sound planning can lead to industrial policy, regulation, and planning, and partnership with the private sector. Yet, safeguards must be in place to prevent unlimited license to domestic and foreign corporations that could lead to unethical practices.
Carlos Elias' 'Caribbean Common Vulnerability Requires Regional Solutions', extends the narrative by detailing the many (common) problems besetting the region. His regional-focused solutions are innovative, ever begging for implementation.
He pens, “To address [economic] vulnerability, it is important to identify sources of financing. Some markets have excess reserves in the financial system, whereas other markets have excess demands for credit.” He also observes a mismatch between the income per capita of the region leading to “a disparity in access to concessional lending from multilateral and bilateral institutions.” He calls for “country-specific policies [to] be in place [and] implemented when country risk increases.” This will require “regional coordination and supplemental support from other countries in the region.” He advocates for banking regulations “from a regional perspective,” and posits that “such a policy would increase lending to the private sector for investment.”
Additional commentaries from Iwan Sewberath-Misser, Miguel Carrillo, Sylvia Dohnert, Clement Sankat, Kayla Grant, Preeya Mohan, Philomen Harrison, and David Anyanwu offer additional, complementary methods to modernise institutions to meet 21st-century demands while reshaping the culture of CARICOM.
In light of Britain’s exit from the EU, there is now an exigent demand to revisit the feasibility of convergence in the Caribbean and other regions. Throughout the dramatic events of the last two weeks, there is the gnawing drumbeat for protectionism well articulated by Russian president Vladimir Putin: "No one wants to feed weak economies.”
Undoubtedly, the success of convergence as laid out in this treatise depends on the readiness and capability of member states to act as a unit.
Moreover, the $64,000 question must be answered: Can convergence be effectively sold to a Caribbean decaying from decades of corruption and political tribalism? While the jury is still out on this matter, what is certain is that, above all else, our people yearn for transparency, accountability, trustworthiness, and the rule of law.
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