Jamaican passport exchanged for Caricom deportation

Published: Friday | December 13, 2013 Comments 0

Aubyn Hill,  Financial Gleaner Columnist

 While Jamaica's minister of national security has had the humbling experience of having to seek 'divine guidance' to help address his mounting ministerial challenges, his Trinidadian counterpart, Gary Griffith, has taken the opposite path and damned Jamaicans with his comment that Trinidad and Tobago was "not a mall where everyone will be allowed entry".

While Minister Griffith used the term "anyone", we know he was focused on, and reacting to, the hurried agreement that his foreign minister colleague, Winston Dookeran, hurriedly pulled together with our A.J. Nicholson.

Well, if Minister Dookeran's actions were seen to calm turbulent Jamaican trade waters, Griffith's targeted and disdainful comment has ignited a furious, negative and Caricom-endangering set of discussions.

Ardent supporters of the ruling party have made it clear to me that they do not want an insipid - my sanitised versions of the term - Caricom passport in exchange for their well-branded Jamaican document when the latter expires.

But Minister Griffith has had significant assistance from places high and low and from a nest of ignorance.

His Prime Minister has been extremely silent, and therefore supportive, of what sounds like an ill-thought-out outburst in Jamaica, but to his prime minister's and other Trinidadian ears, his words are a truthful sankey.

Letter writer Michael Lallo seemed to have been awakened from his nest of ignorance and xenophobia by Gary Griffith's comments. Lallo wrote a nine-line letter to The Gleaner on December 19, 2013 in support of Griffith's position, in which he lavished copious insults on Jamaicans.

He even claimed that there are 17,000 Jamaicans that "are here (in Trinidad) illegally". If the poor fellow had taken a minute to check this and other statements in his letter, with his Minister Griffith, even his anti-Caricom, fire-breathing minister may have set him straight. If the mistake-ridden letter was not enough, Michael Lallo made it clear where he stood: "It is better for us to do without your trade than to become like Jamaica".

Well, whole heap of Jamaicans saw blood in that single sentence.

At the last count a few days ago, Lallo had 73 comments to his nine-liner. Jamaicans do read what they want to read, and took the time, in writing, to set the record and him straight.

These respondents do, overwhelmingly, want to leave Trinidadian products on Jamaican supermarket shelves.

IS CARICOM DYING?

There really is no sense of 'community' in Caricom. On trade issues, Trinidad and Tobago dominates exports, Barbados does in services, and even one of the poorer members, Guyana, benefits from its export of rice.

This is a wake-up call for Jamaica. Let us use Trinidadian and other insults to put our producing and exporting houses in order. That means, first, fix our energy conundrum. We have dithered on the energy issue, believing for years that we had a LNG deal with Port-of-Spain that never materialised.

Caricom-believing politicians fooled themselves.

Caricom remains a pipe dream, what with Barbados expelling Guyanese and conducting cavity search on Jamaican women, and Trinidad precipitating this current crisis with Jamaica over the way it handles Caricom citizens who want to enter its territories.

Both Trinidad and Barbados see themselves as better than other Caricom nationals.

Caricom really has no overarching reason to exist: there is no uniting fear factor, no uniting threat and no uniting objective. There is nothing negative to push us together and nothing positive to invite us to join and combine, except the amorphous Single Market and Economy - still only a vague concept.

And what do we get with a Caricom passport? Not always entry into the two better-than-Jamaica states, one of which, Trinidad, matches Jamaica toe-to-toe in the incidence of crime. In kidnappings, their statistics are like our trade balance with them - they are far ahead of us.

Can you imagine what state our athletics programme would be in if it were a Caricom and not a Jamaican programme?

CCJ MAY BE TOO COSTLY

Jamaicans are elated about the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision on Shanique Myrie. Barbados and Trinidad are unhappy or indifferent.

Barbados actually challenged the jurisdictional right of the CCJ to hear the Myrie case. Bridgetown claimed that since the case was of a personal nature and was neither about a government-to-government or trade issue, jurisdiction was in the local Barbados court system and not the CCJ.

The regional court decided that it was a movement-of-people issue, which was covered in the CSME charter and therefore it had jurisdiction over the case.

In the case of Trinidad, that government and its immigration officers ignored the CSME rules and disregarded the ruling of the CCJ in the Myrie case.

So much for Caricom, CSME and the CCJ. They are all looking more like an irrelevant alphabet soup. The CCJ could be a costly affair, in money terms to build and maintain its headquarters in, you guessed it, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, but also in broader economic terms.

Jamaica is desperately looking for investors, and we need them badly to build our productive and manufacturing capacity to grow our way out of disrespectfulness.

Investors tend to look for many factors when deciding on a destination for their money. Three stand out: political stability, a stable and reliable justice system, and a stable and predictable currency. The change to the CCJ will cause concern about the final court in our system.

Will Caricom and the CSME survive, if not flourish, and what happens to the CCJ if those other acronyms fade into obscure irrelevance? Politicians who Finsac'ed our economy and loaded up with a debt-to-GDP ratio in excess of 140 per cent will tell us we can afford the CCJ. But is it worth the money and economic costs?

Do Caricom and the CSME make sense when we have so many small territories separated by such vast expanse of water?

The territories of Caricom are not blessed with being contiguous like those of the European Union or the United States. What really is the point, except to stroke the egos and intellect of some politicians and university professors.

The honest truth is the political will is not there - not even in Jamaica where the political ego for the idea is strong, at least among a certain set of politicians.

Watch the Jamaican supermarket shelves and judge Caricom's viability.

Aubyn Hill is the CEO of Corporate Strategies Limited and was an international banker for more than 25 years.Email: writerhill@gmail.comTwitter: @HillAubynFacebook: facebook.com/Corporate.Strategies

 


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