CARICOM, as is, is dead. It is going nowhere fast. What with all the animosity, regional tension, economic tension and social tensions, CARICOM as it relates to harmonising and developing relationships throughout the region, is dead. The sad reality is that in spite of our common history and shared culture the distance is too great to overcome along with the population and economic disparities.
Trinidad & Tobago, along with Barbados (despite the latter’s recent malaise), are streets ahead of every other nation in this bloc in terms of economics, and they flex their muscles much to the chagrin of the other nations in the regional bloc. Jamaica and Trinidad dominate in terms of population size (and therefore have a large labour pool) and we see where their nationals make up a large portion of the workforce in the other nations in the grouping, pressuring wages of the locals downwards (in some cases) while alienating/forcing out of work quite a few of the local populace.
The Caribbean Single Market & Economy (CSME) is non-existent. The ‘freedom of movement’ that CARICOM was supposed to have afforded us is nowhere to be found and the idea of political/legal integration seems to have been strangled in its crib if the CCJ is anything to go by. CARICOM, it must be said again, as is, is dead in the water unless something drastic and earth-shaking takes place, and that event may very well have taken place (or is slowly taking place).
Global warming and the tectonic movements in my mind are going to be the driving force behind the region finally integrating. Climate change may very well be the thing that saves this bloc. As seen with the recent hurricanes this season, along with the precarious fault line that is between Jamaica and Haiti, the nations of this bloc could literally, at any moment, face a crisis that would bankrupt any one of the individual nations that make up CARICOM. Rivers and streams are drying up and islands that are used to importing water are now paying through the nose for the same commodity. It cannot continue. Something must change.
The time for doing nothing has ended. That door slammed shut the minute Dominica got battered by the third category 4 hurricane of what has been a hellish nightmare that is this year’s hurricane season. Frankly, the door started closing during the five minutes of hell that Haiti endured (the 2010 earthquake). Simply put, stagnation at this point in time is akin to wilfully signing our death warrants. The only way out of this mess is with true unification and integration.
CARICOM as a bloc has a population of just under 18 million people, who with the exception of two land blocs, live on islands. Guyana and Belize are on the continent and are (wait for it) actually underpopulated. If we as a regional bloc were serious about not only political integration but most importantly our peoples’ survival, then we would look into setting up a plan to get off the islands and move to the continent.
Now, as I have pointed out, the mainland CARICOM nations are actually pretty underpopulated. Guyana with a land mass of 83,000 sq. miles has a population of 773,303 as of 2016, making it one of the least dense places on earth (ranked at number 8). Suriname is a bit smaller, but still again a massive nation with a land mass of 63,252 sq miles (ranked at number 90) and with a population just above half a million. These are nations roughly the size of Great Britain (in the case of Guyana) and Greece (in the case of Suriname) and with a fraction of their population. In other words, there is ample room for population expansion. As it relates to the environment (which should be at the forefront of our minds if we even begin to plan this out), I believe that we (at least in this region anyway) have learnt our lessons and would look to do as little damage as possible to the magnificent beauties that make up Guyana’s-Suriname’s hinterland, forests and waterways. We will not be doing concrete jungles anymore, I believe.
I am not pretending that this is either a roadmap or a policy piece on how to achieve this. That is for people in a much bigger pay bracket than I can imagine. But it is something that we must, at the very least, be thinking about and hopefully, this will spark some stimulating conversation on the topic along with concrete actions. The way has already been somewhat paved by the Guna people of Panama. These people live on the Caribbean side of Panama and as such are seeing their land slowly swallowed up by the ocean as the climate becomes more hostile. As a solution, they are all (within a specified timeline) moving to the mainland of Panama.
This type of regional cooperation and integration, I admit, is at this moment very much a pipe dream and honestly seems laughably impossible. However, the alternatives are also just as, if not more so, impossible. Option one is, hope, pray and cajole the nations of the world to meet and surpass (because the current targets will mean the region’s extinction) the goals set at the Paris climate talks (a tall order especially with the US pulling out). Option two is, we as individual nations try and make the best of it, build dykes as tall as skyscrapers to keep the water out (see King Canute) and then die (not very pleasant what with these hurricanes, heat etc).
Option three is, we all vacate the region and go to the former colonial masters, something that just sounds mad when one looks at current events (see Trump and all of Europe). None of these options are likely or realistic. The truth is we in the region have been left to fend for ourselves, to act as the test case in how well/long humans will live in the front lines in the era of global warming. At this point it is really either swim together or die a slow death for the nations of this region because we are not going to get any outside help.