The Caribbean economic misfortune and uncertainty are direct consequences of the failure of regional integration and obsessive compulsion for local control by the political and economic elite in Jamaica and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, says one of the region's respected thinkers.
"The roll call of unfulfilled pledges, promises and unimplemented decisions is staggering and shameful," said Sir Shridath Ramphal, a former chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
It has taken the region 46 years — from 1965 to 2011 — to crawl through The Caribbean Free Trade Association and CARICOM while others have moved ahead, said Ramphal as he delivered the inaugural lecture memorialising G. Arthur Brown last Friday at the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) auditorium in Kingston.
"We have crept through the fractured promises of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Declaration of Grand Anse, and through innumerable pious declarations, affirmations and commitments."
Ramphal singled out the Rose Hall declaration on regional govern-ance and integrated development, crafted 14 years ago in Montego Bay and cited as one of the most significant statements on integration in the region.
Cloak of sovereignty
It was not implemented, he said, "because it offered, as it said, a mature regionalism - a regionalism which, for all its checks and balances against supranationality, was still too much for the cloistered immaturity of a political culture fixated by the obsessive compulsions of local control".
But the cloak of sovereignty, he posited, has not inured the region from the power of the multilaterals and the conditions imposed on regional financial systems and trade.
Sovereignty was still much touted, he said, but has lost much of its meaning.
"Yet, West Indian governments seem more determined to assert it against each other than in the wider world."
Describing himself as a committed and activist regionalist for 60 years, Ramphal said it was an "anguished comment on our record" that over the nearly four decades of CARICOM and the forms and structures of integration, the West Indies has drawn steadily away from being West Indian.
The former UWI chancellor, speaking under the theme 'Vision and Leadership: The Infinite Unity of Caribbean Needs', observed that a decision taken by CARICOM leaders at a special retreat in Guyana in May signalled a retreat from integration.
At that meeting, he said, the leaders agreed among themselves, without advisers and without Trinidad & Tobago, which absented itself, that they should pause and consolidate the gains of the single market.
That decision was taken even though they were aware that important elements of the single market, such as freedom of movement of persons and the Caribbean Court of Justice, were not yet functionally in place.
CARICOM leaders also agreed to the pause even though the gains "run the real risk of severe erosion and even reversal unless they continue to be urgently advanced", Ramphal said.
Citing a study undertaken in April by the Institute of International Relations at the UWI, he said it was not surprising that when CARICOM heads of government met in St Kitts earlier this month, it was at a moment of widespread public disbelief that the professed goal of a single market and economy would ever be attained.
There was also scepticism as to whether political leaders were any longer "inspired by the spirit of cooperation and solidarity or moved by the need to work expeditiously together to deepen the integration process and strengthen the Caribbean Community in all its dimensions," he said.
The G. Arthur Brown memorial lecture series was launched by the BOJ to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the central bank.
Brown, who passed away on March 2, 1993, was the first native governor of the BOJ.