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Jump-start CARICOM

Peter Laurie

Jump-start CARICOM

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CARICOM is stalled. On that we all agree.
But can we jump-start it?
Some people look to the politicians and bureaucrats. But governments can no longer drive regional integration. They simply don’t have the vision, smarts or guts to propel CARICOM into a qualitatively different future.
It’s up to the people, who, as Errol Barrow observed in a classic 1986 speech to CARICOM, usually lead integration.
Governments can either facilitate or stand in the way. Right now, they’re in the way. Their job is to downsize and remove impediments to 21st century governance, while retaining a preferential option for the poor.
Just imagine that in Barbados, CARICOM citizens who are legally resident here, and probably paying higher taxes than most Bajans, have no right of free access our national health care services.
Just imagine that a new low-fare, Barbados-based regional airline, with valuable foreign investment and know-how, is being deliberately thwarted from accessing the Trinidad and Jamaica markets.
Just imagine that CLICO, driven by one man’s megalomania, has been allowed to unleash its predatory practices against Caribbean people with impunity.
Just imagine we no longer have one University of the West?Indies but three backstabbing rival universities.  
Just imagine that West Indies cricket, once the glory of the world, has been reduced to a laughing stock. To add insult to injury, we blame our young cricketers, just as we blame our youth for all the shortcomings in our societies, when it is the fault of the older generation (both in WICB and WIPA) who have continuously bungled the management of our cricket.
There is much more outrageous foolishness.
It’s time for a new breed of visionary Caribbean entrepreneur to rescue regional integration.
To defeat the forces of insular backwardness, Caribbean capital must cooperate across national boundaries to spearhead technologically sophisticated, innovative Pan-Caribbean investment projects in areas such as air and sea transport, tourism, finance, health, entertainment and sports, and, above all, information and communications.
These Pan-Caribbean enterprises should openly approach governments and state that X money would be invested in Y projects to the benefit of our peoples provided the governments removed the following Z obstacles to doing business.
If responsibly conceived, soundly managed, open to public participation, and sensibly marketed, these projects would galvanise public opinion across the Caribbean and force the governments, despite all their insular and backward-looking instincts, to agree to them.
The Caribbean’s location, natural beauty, stability and quality of life are valuable strategic assets in a globalising world. Motivate the wealth of entrepreneurial talent at home and in the diaspora, and make reformed governance more inclusive, and we’re world beaters.  
Right now, CARICOM governments are in a lockdown mode driven by falling revenues and rising expenditures. Their political instincts are to protect their domestic constituencies. This will only worsen the economic situation.
What is needed, in fact, is to free up even more the restrictions on the movement of skilled people and capital, including the abundance of talent and investment capital in the Caribbean diaspora.
As for Caribbean cricket, let’s put it on a successful path by looking not to the past, but the future.
Abolish the WICB. Let national cricket associations deal exclusively with local cricket.
Let Caribbean entrepreneurs, inviting public participation, put Caribbean cricket on a business footing by creating a new management structure to: (a) develop young Caribbean cricketers, manage their participation in international competition, and give them a financial stake in the success of Caribbean cricket; and (b) organise and run a winter Caribbean Premier League with international player participation. West Indies cricket is dead.
Long live Caribbean cricket.
I thank Gerry Pemberton, Sterling Mungal and Jay Mandle for sharing insights into these issues.