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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Trini bashing


Tennyson Joseph

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Trini bashing

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The recent role of Trinidadian company Neal and Massy in the pending Almond Beach Village closure has opened up an interesting debate on the pitfalls of non-Barbadian ownership of important slices of the economy.
In some circles, the discussion has whipped up anti-CARICOM sentiment.
According to this logic, Neal and Massy appeared too insensitive to worker welfare and other indigenous economic realities, such as the centrality of tourism to the national psyche.
Even some progressive thinkers like my friend, David Comissiong, has introduced the blanket category of “absentee ownership” as a framework for discussing the issue.
Thus, David transposed a management practice associated with European slave ownership to Almond’s behaviour, and placed a slavery cap on the head of his fellow Caribbean brothers. He appeared to have abandoned both his regionalism and his critical knowledge of the natural workings of capital.  
Whilst there is every reason for Barbadians to feel anguish at the economic fallout of Almond, it is disturbing that the public discourse has centred on the Trinidadianness of the ownership.  
While there is very reason to be angry at the self-interested nature of the response of a major business enterprise, there is no objective ground for singling out the fact of its Trinidadian ownership as an explanation of its behaviour.  
Welcome to capitalism. Why should we be surprised?
The history of the Caribbean has been one of the domination of international capital. The history of Anglo-American capital in the region is known by all. Yet our entire economies are built on the facilitation of capital. We revel in it. Except when, of course, the capitalists are Caribbean.  
Similarly, we revel in tourism except when the tourists are . . .  .
Far from seeing the developments at Almond as an argument against regional integration, I present instead the following counterview.
Politics follows economics. There can be no Caribbean political integration without the emergence of a genuine Caribbean business class.
It is no accident that the OECS-Trinidad unitary initiative was born following the rise of Trinidadian capital in the sub-region. The rise of Trinidadian money should not be resisted, but should be seen as a logical first step that would allow for the emergence of a regional (not foreign) business class. Note the rise of Goddard’s in St Lucia – no complaint there.
Despite the pain caused by the Almond scenario, what is significant has been the “accountability” of the ownership in subjecting itself to scrutiny by the Press. There has been no foreign “absentee” distance and callousness on show, but a family quarrel has ensued. Indeed, as the Trinidadians retreat, all eyes turn to the Jamaican Butch Stewart.  
Whatever the outcome, we should not anticipate a “humane capitalism” but one that is historically opportunistic and self-interested.  
Regionalism is step one. Step two will be capitalism’s transformation.
This will await future global struggles.

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