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Wild Coot – These fiefdoms!


by Harry Russell

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One of my favourite French writers, Michel Montaigne, once said: “The public weal requires that a man should betray, and lie, and massacre.”
The great fear of Caribbean politicians in considering the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the giving up of part of their fiefdom. For CSME to work properly, it will be necessary to have a kind of central Caribbean government.
Therefore prime ministers and those who will have to cede power are only beating around the bush with some new fandangle: the so-called Council of Ambassadors.
Can you see the new prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago giving up one inch of her newly won power, especially after Basdeo Panday, an Indian, could not galvanise the Indian support?
How about Baldwin Spencer, who is reported to have said that “even if the court rules against the election of three seats [and his party is in the minority] he will still be in charge”? How about Bruce Golding who has had to fudge through the Dudas scandal? I do not want to go down the line.
Since the Federation broke up in the early 1960s, each Caribbean leader has hugged his or her election and territory close to his or her bosom.
Hey, but let us look at how the European Union is functioning or not functioning. Even powerful Germany must now concede that it has had to yield some of its sovereignty in the interest of collective unity. Because of the overall strength of the union, countries like Greece, Spain and Ireland, to name just a few, had been living off the hog.
Imagine in France, that has a 36-hour working week, where people are able to retire on 100 per cent of average pay as pension at age 60.
Other countries have a retirement pension of 70 per cent. Here in the Caribbean, or in the United States, or in Britain, if your retirement pay can buy a hot dog, you are lucky.
Having lived beyond their means for a long time, now that the crunch has come in terms of a world financial crisis, the economies of some European countries have shown them operating with unsustainable deficits. Today drastic measures have been instituted to correct the profligate living. 
Inspite of the 100 000 protestors marching in Brussels, the 200 000 in France, the drastic measures have to go through. The wise among them have refused to protest. Portugal has cut civil servants pay by five per cent. Sounds familiar?
Budget cuts have resounded throughout Ireland and Britain. Perhaps a strong united Caribbean would prevent excesses in the government spending that can lead to devaluation.
The goings-on in the European Union can serve as an example to the Caribbean in its quest for CSME. Let us look seriously at sharing sovereign power, even if it means letting go some of that “kingship” associated with it.
Short of a few fanatics, I believe that most Caribbean people want unity and if we are prepared to share political power in a phased way, it may work. But I do not think that there is the political will among the present lot to take the chance.
But let me sound a note of warning. The former prime minister of Iceland is being brought before the courts on criminal charges. He is being accused of not doing enough to prevent the collapse of the banking system and hence the finances of the country – incompetence.
This is indeed a precedent for a politician, and even if the case does not succeed, it may be the direction in which the people are prepared to go when excess, lack of will or incompetence affects the entire country.
That political incompetence can lead to criminal charges should be a warning that not only bankers and investors can be held criminally liable, but politicians too in a First World country.
In my dealing with politicians, I have only met one who said he would share power. 
• Harry Russell is a retired banker. He may be reached at [email protected]

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