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For richer or poorer, for better or for worse

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The region’s present efforts to integrate with the ultimate ambition being the formation of a Caribbean Single Market and Economy falls squarely within the general evolutionary responses to globalization. Globalization has become the economic buzzword of the 1990’s. However, it is by no means an entirely new or sudden development as it is made to appear in most instances. Without even being critical, the era marking the conquest and colonization of the new world can be used as a starting point for Globalization as we see it today. Nonetheless, Globalization is intensifying and is being experienced in new ways.{{more}}

The globalization thesis as a whole is suspect. Today we live in a “global village” of diminished borders, internationalism and so called free trade. The message sent by advocates of globalization is that we must get with the new trend. However, the result so far has been that the rich nations are growing richer at the expense of the poorer ones. The reality is a sharply widening gap between the rich and the poor, the inhumane poverty of the poor and the astronomical opulence of the rich, while developing countries fall one by one into debt crisis and experience economic regression is alarming. This is the reality.

Globalization has done little to remedy the inequalities in wealth distribution in the world. The United Nations statistics shows that between 1995 and 1997 only 21 out of 147 Third World countries recorded per capita growth of over 3 percent a year, the rate specified by the UN for reduction of poverty. These are the staggering inequalities. In fact there is no evidence to suggest that the ‘global era’ has brought prosperity, or even an alleviation of human suffering to Third World Countries. Where do we stand?

Instead, the object of globalization is clear, it is the creation of an era wherein multinational companies and financial institutions, attached to no particular nation state move their capital around the world in search of the highest returns, and in so doing a truly global market and global capital will be created. If one takes a closer look at the situation, it appears that the multinational companies of today are taking on the role of the imperialist of yesteryears. The more things change the more they really do remain the same.

When one listens to proponents of the CSME the question must always be asked, “Is the CSME a Caribbean concerted response to Globalization for the betterment of our region in its entirety, or is it a force driven by a selfish motive of a few to exploit the resources and markets of others in the region under the guise of regionalism, one “Caribbeanness”, and integration?”

Our people must not be led to believe that we are being brought together as a region on some sort of “common history and heritage” effort. If that is why we are coming together then for the most part we are already together. We are coming together for the sole reason that Capitalism involves a restless search for profit by a class prepared to mobilize all means to pursue its ends. One plausible view is that our regional capitalists are using the state to set up the machinery to carry out the mobilization process of integration. This entails a detailed plan willing to elaborate all manner of rationales for its activities in what we see set out in the CSME blueprint. Therefore, one must ask the question whether our form of regionalism represents a genuine alliance for the interest of all stakeholders.

The talk of “cheaper labor” for those who own the means of production as one of the benefits to be ascertained by the development of a Single Market and Economy must not be slighted. Trade unions must therefore be awakened, take heed, be on their vanguard by engaging the system through the proper channels.

One interesting question is whether integration will lead to a narrowing of the gap of inequalities in the region. Will there be a genuine reduction of poverty outside of the paper talk and especially since all available evidence suggests that inequality is becoming much more pronounced? Unless we stop this vicious cycle we will be breeding more criminals, more drug pushers, kidnappers, and thieves who see these ways as alternatives to mainstream forms of employment. Every year we hear that Company X made 5 million dollars more profit over last year, and the projections for the next year is in the region of the billions, do we ever stop to understand where this money is coming from and how it is distributed?

The Single market will remove many legal and administrative restrictions affecting trade, labor and technology within the CARICOM region. When will all these big talks get beyond satisfying the interest of the capitalist? The answer is that the poorer classes are supposed to benefit by some sort of “trickle-down” which may eventually happen.

Further, intra-regional trade is one anticipated advantage of the CSME; however, experience has shown that persons prefer to trade with those who produce on economies of scale. It will not be surprising that if cheaper bananas can be brought to Barbados from some part in Africa that the profit seeking Supermarketeers would be more inclined to purchase such than those produced in neighboring St. Lucia. That is just the reality. With regionalism CARICOM states are expected to be better placed to negotiate as a single entity giving them a better chance to influence policies concerning international trade. An appreciation of modern international economic law shows that to consider such may be wishful thinking.

CSME like globalization is about survival of the fittest. These systems are so capitalistic in outlook and nomenclature that they can ruin many nation states if the proper support systems are not in place to address the needs of the underprivileged. Many of us may have to take our bellies and make boats.

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