CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) is the oldest surviving integration movement in the developing world. It turns 49 this Monday, 4th July 2022. It was built in large measure because of shared history and culture shaped by populations of indigenous Amerindian people, colonization, plantation economy, slavery, and emancipation. Against this background, 20 Caribbean countries decided to unite as members and associate members to build a better and stronger Caribbean.
We’re one of the few exceptions. Once we were CARICOM observers but lost that position due to our lack of interest. In 2005 as Minister of Economic and Labor Affairs, I spoke to Secretary-General Edwin Carrington about investigating the possibilities of associate membership. This caused a stir in the Council of Ministers since some were afraid that building a better relationship with our neighbors would make the Netherlands angry.
This attitude was not just political. See, for years we’ve been brought up with the deeply ingrained notion that the other Caribbean islands were less developed and cultured than us. This attitude has not gone unnoticed by our neighbors. Mr. Carrington very diplomatically told me that he felt that a CARICOM rapprochement by our country could be met with reservation and hesitation by the (associate)members. He suggested talking with (CARICOM-enthusiast) Surname regarding this matter.
Meanwhile, CARICOM has chalked up some impressive achievements. This regional body has strengthened and intensified mutual synergies and functional cooperation as it faces the quickening pace of challenges of nature and global economic shifts.
Whilst some giants in the banking, hardware, and professional services branches here at home are already working closely within the Caribbean context, more official cooperation with CARICOM is not being seriously discussed. Most telling is that these companies know now better than anyone how important regional cooperation is, and how many opportunities pass us by whilst we watch from the sidelines.