Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony of St Lucia, at a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) seminar on Caribbean economic growth in The Bahamas, stated that one of the challenges we face is to explain to the international community the peculiar circumstances of our region.
We beg to differ. As we have argued before in this space, the problem for Caricom is that the international community, including the multilateral financial institutions and the traditional developed country partners such as the USA, UK, EU and Canada, are not convinced that our governments are doing enough to help ourselves to achieve sustainable economic development.
Obviously, the small vulnerable developing countries will find it more difficult to attain sustained economic growth. However, as Professor C Y Thomas explained, small size is an additional but not a binding constraint to economic development. Some very small countries have experienced high rates of economic growth by finding and servicing a particular niche in the global division of labour, eg the Cayman Islands.
The international community knows. The economic characteristics and concomitant policy challenges of small economies have been elucidated from the mid-1960s, starting with the seminal work of Mr William Demas. Since then, the issue has been recognised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, thanks to Sir Shridath Ramphal and Prof Vishnu Persaud.
It is an item on the annual Commonwealth finance ministers meeting agenda. The United Nations has a programme for Small Island Developing States. The World Bank has an office that works on small economies. The Inter-American Development Bank has a pool of resources for the OECS. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has a work programme on small vulnerable economies.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiation included a working group on small economies and the Organisation of American States has worked on the security issues of small states. The Caribbean Basin Initiative was a recognition by the United States of the circumstances of the Caribbean, and so is the one-way preferential CaribCan by Canada.
Then Prime Minister Bruce Golding spoke on this when he appeared before the G-20, and former PMs P J Patterson and Owen Arthur have persuasively made the case in every international forum.
Caricom’s lack of credibility comes from the unending request for aid, calls for reparations, debt relief, the paltry state of regional economic integration, failure since 2008 to devise a regional plan to respond to the global economic crisis, non-implementation of the EPA, and incomplete negotiations for a trade agreement with Canada.
What would give the impression of a sense of purpose would be fiscal management consolidation, less external borrowing, completing the Caricom Single Market and Economy, and allowing exchange rate adjustment.
Our governments need to follow the example of our citizens who go all over the world and make it, despite racism and other impediments. Caribbean people go anywhere and everywhere. They are self-reliant, they overcome, survive and triumph over all obstacles. They do not ask for charity or affirmative action. Caribbean people take responsibility for their lives because they have self-respect, pride, initiative and they work hard. They not only survive, they succeed and their remittances serve as proof of this.
(Reprinted from the Jamaica Observer editorial of Tuesday September 24, 2013)