AS I SEE THINGS: We must take part of the blame
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY no secret that our small, open economies in the Caribbean are faced with many challenges as they seek to grow and develop along sustained lines.
Those challenges are alluded to from time to time by those in authority, particularly when faced with issues that seem insurmountable.
For example, following the 2008/2009 global recession, many of our leaders resorted to blaming the weak global economy for much of the economic woes their respective countries were experiencing.
Although true to some extent, the reality is that a lot of the problems those countries were grappling with were created by poor, and to a large extent misguided, macro economic policies that turned an already bad situation worse.
In as much as there are real challenges to be overcome by our countries, it is also true that several opportunities exist that can and should be fully exploited if we are to give ourselves any real chances of improving on the standard of living to which we have all become so familiar.
But it is clearly within that context that much is left to be desired. For whatever reasons, we in the Caribbean have created many opportunities for ourselves to advance the cause of our people and countries, but fail to take advantage of those opportunities.
Two important cases come immediately to mind. First, after many decades of experimenting with regional integration, we finally got to the point of putting mechanisms in place for the creation and functioning of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which, by all accounts, was supposed to be the most critical institutional arrangement to foster growth and development within the region.
While it is true that some progress has been made in relation to matters such as the free movement of certain categories of workers and the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice, can anyone in the region accept that much progress has been made, particularly in recent times, to fulfilling the broad objectives of the CSME? Are our respective countries realising the sorts of benefits that one would expect from such an integration initiative?
In other words, once again, we in the Caribbean have created an institution that is supposed to generate opportunities for our countries and citizens to progress, but sadly we are not taking full advantage of those opportunities.
Second, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries have for a long time been part of a monetary union, with each adopting the Eastern Caribbean dollar as their official currency within a fixed exchange rate regime.
The economics literature teaches that one of the benefits of such arrangements is the expansion of trade and investment among the various countries, due to the absence of issues in relation to exchange rate risks and uncertainty.
Yet, a close examination of available data would reveal very little trade taking place among OECS countries. Once more, missed opportunities! The two examples cited suggest quite clearly the need for us in the Caribbean to start fully exploiting available opportunities for growth and development which we have enacted.
If we continue not to, then the challenges we face as small, open economies will only make us more vulnerable than we ought to be. And that scenario is one we all must struggle incalculably to avoid at all cost.