COPING WITH FEAR,
ANXIETY AND DISTRUST
ON THE EVE OF THE SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY
DR. THE HONOURABLE KENNY
PRIME MINISTER OF ST.
2005 CLICO AWARDS
SANDALS GRANDE HOTEL, ST.
MARCH 12, 2005
As the Single Market and Economy approaches, one
senses growing fear, anxiety, and even trepidation, throughout the region.
Ordinary citizens fear a loss of jobs. Manufacturing entities, especially in
the Eastern Caribbean, say they cannot cope with regional competition. More
crime, it is said, will be exported. The better off economies will be
overwhelmed with nationals from those Member States with depressed economies.
The list of fears can go on.
In some ways, the apprehension is paradoxical. For years, it
has been said that Caribbean people are ready for integration, but the
politicians are not. It would now appear that the aspirations have been
reversed. The political directorate is ready, but confronts an anxious
citizenry. How then can we overcome this fear and anxiety? How can companies
like CLICO, a household name throughout the Caribbean, help to reduce and
conquer this fear? How can CLICO be put into service of this enterprise, the
Single Market and Economy?
Neither the CSME nor the CCJ should inspire fear and
The CSME and the CCJ are both momentous in their import, but
they are far from revolutionary. Within CAR1COM and more particularly within the
OECS, nations have systematically, incrementally and progressively thrown off
the yokes of a colonial past, only to find a new economic freedom. But freedom,
unchained and unchannelled, is a fractious thing. We must therefore, now seek to
transform and consolidate that freedom into meaningful progress along the path
of economic, social and political sustainability.
THE PARADIGM SHIFT
To fully comprehend the nature of this paradigm shift in the context of a single
economic space and a regional court of justice, we must return to the early
rationale for that integration process in which we are already so deeply
engaged. Consider for example, the argument that our regional integration
structures have yet to incarnate the quintessential aspiration of a common
Caribbean identity, and have yet to give bodily form and concrete meaning to the
concept of a unified Caribbean citizenry.
This sentiment was eloquently expressed as far back as 1983,
by Edward Seaga, then Prime Minister of Jamaica, when he argued that:
“Nowhere else in the developing world, not in
Africa. not in Asia, is there any region that combines
proximity, access to industrial experience, together with political and economic
systems hospitable to enterprise, to the degree
that we do. We are in a unique position to magnetize the Region as a
centre of production for economic take-off. All that is needed is the political
(CARICOM Heads of Government Conference: July 4,
Seven years later, transcending the political
divide, Acting Prime Minister, P. J. Patterson echoed those very sentiments:
”…We are bound together by a historical process ...
there is an enormous psychological bonding …yet we find elusive and
sometimes difficult, the necessary political will to cement all of the
historical social and cultural bonds into an economic foundation.”
Though it is quite natural to be
fearful of the future, we must not allow that fear to paralyse us into inaction,
that like Hamlet we think upon the deed so much and lose the name of action. We
must instead examine and dismantle the fear, distrust and anxiety by addressing
those concerns that hold us apart. For the most part those fears are insular.
Where for example, some citizens have come to distrust local justice, we
must seek ways to improve their circumstances, by improving access to
adequate representation, and by improving accountability and transparency in the
We must seek to demystify systems of justice administration so that citizens
feel empowered and not disenfranchised. A Caribbean Court by its very power to
elevate local legal issues to the regional level, offers the opportunity of
objectivity, fairness and impartiality. On the other hand, while the possibility
of appeal to the Privy Council in England has all these semblances, they come
with both a philosophical and contextual “disconnect” which by no means
guarantees improved justice. Moreover, the prohibitive cost of making
representation to such an appellate body, effectively distances it from the vast
majority of ordinary citizens. It is therefore time to establish a more
accessible, and relevant process.
CONSEQUENCE OF FAILURE
In this context, we may as well contemplate the consequences of failure, posited
by P. J. Patterson when he predicts that:
“.. .the next generation will never forgive us…, They will look at a united
Europe, a cooperative
Asia, a Latin America
attempting to set up free trade areas, and begin to wonder what went
wrong in the Caribbean”.
(CARICOM Head of Government Conference July 31, 1990)
It has also been argued
that the illusion of political independence has eclipsed the more advantageous
reality of interdependence offered by regional integration. I would suggest that
a unified Caribbean, the embodiment of a single people, holds critical answers
to our deepest economic dilemmas. It is the discovery of on autonomous self,
within a larger interdependent whole that will deliver the dream of economic,
social and political viability.
STATEHOOD TO SELF-HOOD
As with the state, so too the self. When we give expression to that which truly
are our individuality, our identity and our circumstance - we can then transcend
national boundaries and barriers to embrace others of similar circumstance, and
so create an ideal which is larger than the sum of its parts. We cannot shy away
from this challenge.
From the southern end of the geographic spectrum, the late Forbes Burnham of
Guyana, in his own inimitable and celebrated style, once declared:
There seems to be a battle, a fruitless and futile battle, being waged
in the world today against the normal and just aspiration of
people to run their own affairs and to rule themselves… but even
as we move to independence, undoubtedly the need arises for us to think in
broader and wider terms... it is time for us to reflect upon the necessity for
independent nations to get together into large communities for the mutual
benefit and advantage of the individual territories...
(3rd Conference of Commonwealth Caribbean Countries.
Guyana: March, 1965)
the same vein about the viability of the state as well as the region, the centre
as well as the periphery, President Cheddi Jagan of Guyana similarly proclaimed:
The concept of development must now be accepted globally as a multidimensional
one which must spotlight human development as a central focus. There must be the
empowerment of people in order to enable them to contribute creatively... The
task before us is clear.... We have to increase the momentum of the regional
integration process. We have to take difficult decisions which may not appear
too attractive to our individual small economies, but which are all too
necessary for our collective survival., (our) collective efforts are in
microcosm a reflection of what the community as a whole can achieve, once the
will is there.
(7th intercessional Meeting at Heads of Government; Guyana: February’ 29, 1996)
For nearly four decades, our leaders have been espousing these ideals of
integration, interdependence and empowerment. However, in the hearts and minds
of Caribbean people the question remains: are we substantially closer to
achieving those ideals? It is my contention that the creation of a single
economy, characterised by free movement of goods, services and people is the
tangible proof that the Caribbean people require of their leaders. As difficult
as it seems for us within the political directorate to yield to this necessity,
it is also the final proof of our commitment to the integration process.
Our task in the interim, is to
prepare our respective constituencies for that inevitable transition towards
open regional competition. Consider in that context, that this is only a prelude
to the global competition which awaits soon thereafter, in the face of which we
will be almost defenseless.
If we are to evolve, politically,
economically and socially, the answers to our development issues must come from
within. While we can learn from the experiences of others, we cannot expect
others to fashion our future for us. The creation of a single economic space is
akin to the enlargement of the field of dreams within which
Caribbean people can
continue to aspire.
Its principle tenets are the free
movement of goods, capital and people in search of opportunity, reward and
empowerment. The unacceptable alternative is to give way to the prejudice and
cynicism that often precede bold initiatives, and which in retrospect, almost
always translate into minor irritations when the ultimate goal is clearly in
sight. Similarly, the creation of a Caribbean Court of Justice is one such goal.
It is the definitive statement by a modern, liberated and self determined people
to finally accept responsibility for the administration of higher justice within
It is my own view that to continue
to hold fast to a system where the highest arbiter of justice is our former
colonial master, is to deny ourselves the dignity of self-determination. It is a
shameful admission of a fundamental lack of faith in our selves and our ability
to administer the very Independence for which so many have struggled and died.
Such a system is inimical to our
aspirations of maturing nationhood. It flies in the face of our
conceptualisation of our selves as a maturing Caribbean nation. To hold on, out
of fear to such a system while claiming to be masters of our destinies, is
clearly absurd. Indeed, the concept of having to apply to powers beyond our
shores to determine ultimate legal outcomes is akin to grown adults depending on
disinterested parents for final validation of their lives.
MASTERING SMALL CIRCUMFERENCES
As Caribbean people, we must be brave enough to develop new, profitable
relationships with the body politic and within civil society. These should be
based on our social, political and economic realities and be designed to
transform our landscape into a more enabling environment.
We must, at the very least, perceive
ourselves as masters of the small circumferences that we inhabit. That would be
a first step towards a Caribbean society so uniquely confident that it becomes a
new development model of great interest to the rest of humanity. This is not
utopia. For centuries, our people, by their ideas and achievements, have
repeatedly given us a stature in the world that defies our supposed limitations
as small island economies.
Why then do we still doubt our
ability to administer the full scope of our justice and economic systems? Why
then do we resist the formal integration of markets that are, otherwise already
inextricably linked? Why, when we know that by dint of external processes of
liberalisation and globalization we must combine forces to survive?
SHAPING OUR OWN SOCIETIES
Caribbean society has sustained itself by sheer determination and creativity
through several centuries of domination, building as Walcott says, on the
“nothing we inherited”, It is time therefore, to unite our schizophrenic
selves. It is time to validate those things we do well which have preserved our
society. It is time to abandon victimhood and reverse the crisis of confidence
that erodes our determination to master the private and public worlds around us.
The late Errol
Barrow offered a similar view:
The collective wisdom and intellect of our people are yet to be
tapped and given a central place in the development strategy of our
nation. But we are so busy Westministering ourselves into becoming
a clone of the Anglo-Saxon world and its American extension that we
forget that we have a life and a history of our own to be
examined, dealt with and used as a source of energy for the
development of this Region and the shaping of a civilized society.
Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government:
Georgetown, Guyana: July 1986)
In accepting Barrow's challenge to shape our own civilized society we should be
encouraged by the fact that ordinary Caribbean folk have been integrating for
eons. Long before the Federation, CARIFTA, CARICOM and the ACP, they did so
through friendships, marriages, business linkages, artistic, academic and
sporting endeavour. Today, even our small traders and entrepreneurs, higglers
and hucksters, maintain these links, despite the threatening strictures of
HOW CAN CLICO HELP?
This brings me to CLICO and I return to
the question I posed earlier. How could CLICO help to reduce fear,
apprehension and distrust towards the Single Market and Economy?
CLICO must continue to be unambiguous about its self definition. It is a
Caribbean company, not a Trinidadian, Barbadian, Antiguan or Saint Lucian
company. Plain and simple, CLICO is a Caribbean company which belongs to the
Caribbean people. Your calendars are statements of that philosophy.
CLICO must begin the process of sharing and integrating its personnel across our
region. The St. Lucian portfolio cannot and must not be exclusively Saint
Lucian. Likewise, the Trinidadian portfolio cannot be the exclusive domain of
Trinidadians. The management of a Caribbean Company must be integrated
vertically and horizontally. Every worker in a Caribbean Company should be a
worker in the cause of the Caribbean Community.
CLICO is a living example of the success of a shared economy. A shared economy
is not a single market or a single economy. But CLICO has had years of
experience investing in our region and economy. CLICO understands market size;
how to transcend boundaries real and imagined. CLICO has always accepted that
viability is best assured by moving beyond the confines of one’s borders. That
experience must be freely shared.
All of this is to convey a simple message. All of you here
tonight must join the cause of shaping our Caribbean Community, our Caribbean
Nation. CLICO must be a Champion for the Single Market and Economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as Caribbean people, we will always
move in response to our most fundamental needs: kinship, culture opportunity,
love, and adventure. It is time to forge ahead undaunted by bureaucracy. It is
time that we celebrate that common identity nurtured by those persistent
pioneers who sought their counterparts across that bountiful Caribbean continuum
which Walcott describes as “miles of cerulean silk” in a “Star Apple Kingdom”.
I thank you!