Caribbean Integration is indeed the headliner, or rather, should be the voice upon everyone’s lips. Well at least for those whom it may concern. The unsavory reality is that we need this more than ever considering the increasing global economic pressures that exist. Pressures which in some way, shape or form will find its way to these tropical shores bringing with it an unceremonious tsunami of economic hardships. Indeed, Caribbean Integration represents for us an astronomical significance that has become not just today’s challenge but tomorrow’s necessity as well.
CARICOM has attempted to position itself where the fundamental question of “Is Caribbean Integration achievable & how so?” can be thrown out by the media and answered with an educated confidence. Unfortunately, however, like most things in life, we have asked the wrong questions and as such will continue to arrive at the wrong conclusions. Ultimately we have started installing windows on this tabernacle of integration without as much as a proper foundation upon which it can stand. The fact is that it is improbable let alone impractical to even consider defining Caribbean Integration without first defining the Caribbean itself. Another revelation, albeit grossly publicized knowledge, is that the Caribbean has many definitions each with its own inclusion or exclusion from the tale. This riddle of an existence brings with it its own complexities that in fact must be unraveled before we can integrate anything. In essence, the right question to ask is this, “How can we begin to integrate when we have no idea whom or what we are integrating?” or simply put, “How can we be united if divided we are defined?”
Once these fundamental questions have been thoroughly examined, we can now subscribe to a single definition of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the present situation is this; some countries who are defined by CARICOM are excluded from the geographical definition whilst others who are defined by the OECS but not defined by CARICOM, are defined geographically. Clearly this idea of integration is much more challenging than we had originally imagined.
What then do we do? The simple and most efficient solution is this; maintain the CARICOM definition, after all it is the acronym meaning ‘Caribbean Community’. The next step is this; do away with the OECS. Notwithstanding the accomplishments of the OECS, its very existence defeats the ideals of the very thing we strive to achieve. After all its acronym refers to, ‘the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’. It is imperative though that CARICOM utilize the expertise of the OECS in its attempt to unify the region as a whole. It is important to remember that although the OECS must be disbanded to achieve Caribbean Integration they have successfully molded a single definition of eastern Caribbean territories both economically and politically.
So as it relates to the much talked about and highly anticipated CSME (Single Market & Economy), the OECS has not only achieved this in a much smaller model but they have also, and more importantly, maintained this achievement. Indeed the moral of this story is that great things do in fact come in small packages. To facilitate my stance the next question is this; “What has the OECS done that CARICOM hasn’t?” Well simply put, they have established a single market and economy for a singly defined group of territories with a single driven purpose.
With this established, we arrive at another issue; “Why should the OECS disintegrate to form part of the premature ideal that is Caribbean Integration when their progress is decades beyond that of CARICOM’s in achieving what they have achieved albeit on a smaller scale?” When faced with an issue of such innate probability, sometimes the best and most realistic conclusions boil down to the ‘Greater Good’ and of course that of survival. The fact is that global economic burdens if felt by CARICOM will be felt harder by the OECS, the realities of which we are already witness to especially as it relates to the steady downturn of their economies. As such, it is a wise move particularly in the present economic climate, to direct their energies towards CARICOM and its Caribbean Integration. Not only would it mean survival, but it also places them in a position to articulate a model of integration of larger scale with the accompaniments of sustainability. However, the survival of an empire comes at a steep price and considering the only loss is the OECS round table for the ‘Greater Good’, I’ll say it’s a price they can surely afford.
Despite current ramblings on this topic, the bottom line is this; CARICOM needs to learn to build from the ground up. Firstly, who & what is Caribbean must be established and compiled into a singular understanding. Only then can we conjure up the remedy that is Caribbean Integration. If not, then all hope rests within the complexities of the present definitions, leaving only, an uncertain pathway to our eventual economic demise.