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Does Golding have it wrong?

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20.MAR.08

Editor: Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s comments at the end of the 19th Inter-sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government last week leave us wondering if there would ever be any true integration in the region.{{more}}

We have long gone past the bickering of the West Indies Federation and the Treaty of Chaguaramas, and have come a long way, paving the way forward for a true Caribbean Community.

Though Golding’s Labour government seems to be pro-integration, he has publicly acknowledged his administration’s non-interest in a political union with any of the member states of CARICOM.

It makes one ask what role CARICOM will eventually play as we compete on the global front. We have to imagine at some point the EPA and post-Doha Round – which will eventually see a trade map being drawn up – we would be competing equally against developed countries with more resources than Caribbean states combined.

We remain even more isolated as small vulnerable states when the European and African Unions are looking at ways of pushing for closer cooperation while proposals are being fleshed out to transform the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) into a South Asian Union. With this in mind, we must examine our position as to whether we are making any further ground in achieving common goals as a region.

It is easy to see how national interest will be an overriding factor when looking at integration, but through harmonisation, the development of member states is best realised.

Take for instance the Middle Eastern federation of seven states in the Arabian Penninsula, the United Arab Emirates. Though foreign to our geographical and political landscape, their economy since unification has become highly prosperous after collectively gaining foreign direct investment. Apart from oil exports, manufacturing and constructing contributes some $3 billion to their economy.

Much has been said about the European Union, and come 2009, the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon will eventually bring the EU’s vision of a true unitary state closer together by transforming the already powerful EU into a super-state.

Even closer to home, the already functioning Economic Union of the OECS is a perfect model of how close to reality we are in bridging the economic and political divide between Caricom countries. In fact, the common European currency, the Euro, was so perfectly modelled off the EC.

This is something Golding and former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders must be reminded of when painting the image of an elusive dream of a political union between Caribbean countries.

The reality is that there are numerous issues we would have to iron out, legislative reforms and common currency agreement among them, but the idea of a common union is something we must not shy away from. Our vision would be embarrassingly blurred if we do not at least consider a common socioeconomic and political agenda in fashioning the developmental direction for our small vulnerable states, particularly, in response to the changing global environment.

The idea is to look ahead and the vision should go beyond the next decade. I must commend the leaders who have seen the need to at least explore the possibilities of deeper integration in the Caribbean region.

Carlos James

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