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CARICOM is dead

Published:Saturday | May 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Peter Laurie, Guest Columnist

I refer to the article by Mr Ronald Mason published in The Gleaner on May 5, 2013 titled 'Kick CARICOM to the kerb'.

I know many people will slam Mr Mason for his savage attack on CARICOM, but, let's face it, most of us who don't work for a CARICOM institution or a regional Ministry of Foreign Affairs believe that CARICOM has exhausted itself.

Mr Mason speaks from a deep frustration and bitterness that many of us who have been integrationists since the federation now feel. He has said it more forthrightly and honestly than most of us would have done.

Some of us will be peeved at the derogatory comments he made about Bajans and Trinis, but there's a kernel of truth in what he says. Bajans have as our saving grace a strong sense of self, which can often deteriorate into pompous arrogance: one's strength is invariably one's weakness.

As for Trinis, I won't comment - I'm married to one - other than to say that, as a lifelong introvert, I just wish they would stop talking so much, so fast, so often.

But let me deal with some of Mr Mason's specific assertions.

He says he's not a Caribbean man. Either he's lying, fooling himself, or cutting his ties. All of us born and raised in the Caribbean are Caribbean persons by dint of cultural geography.

I believe that Mr Mason's disavowal of his Caribbean roots is an expression of his disenchantment with the regional integration movement, which is perfectly understandable. Despite all the talk about "mauby, blood pudding and bake" as alien to his culture (as a Jamaican once told me, our Bajan national dish made of cornmeal is dog food in Jamaica: them lucky dogs!), he's seeking a divorce.

The value of Mr Mason's invective is that it trashes all the dishonest sentimentality that has accompanied our regional integration in the last few decades. Whatever cultural roots we share (and they are deep) is not a basis for economic integration. A single market and economy cannot be based on sentiment.


If integration is not a win-win game for everyone, it won't work (even granted that we can't all benefit in the same way and at the same time). It is quite understandable that Jamaicans should look north and west for their economic salvation (remember the Seaga-Reagan CBI?) And if that is their economic future, so be it. Right now, CARICOM functions at the level of the lowest - and slowest - common denominator.

Our political leaders have simply failed to make the case for integration in a common sense hard-headed way that our people might have embraced. And even when they point the way, they themselves betray their own vision. They have now timidly abandoned the process to the regional bureaucrats who mouth the usual platitudes and craft the absurd agendas and long-winded communiques that nobody reads.

Mr Mason is right. CARICOM is moribund. The question is whether it can be revived. The only sector capable of doing it is the private sector. Our new breed of innovative regional entrepreneurs (they are few but growing) would have to lead the way with joint pan-Caribbean investments motivated not by sentiment but by profit: but that is a tough ask in the present economic climate. Our media, labour movement and other elements of civil society would also have to play their part.

That is bottom-up integration.

What the politicians and bureaucrats have to do is get out of the way. The Westminster model of autocratic, bloated bureaucratic, kleptocratic democracy is bankrupt.

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Mason swings at CARICOM again

Ronald Mason answers his critics in tomorrow's Opinion & Commentary with 'Kick CARICOM to the kerb (Pt 2)'.

He writes: "That we should deal with the world as it is and forge our way therein as best we can has been misinterpreted as supportive of Jamaica's isolation. Far from being isolationist, we should forge links with the larger markets of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, North America and Latin America."