Stay in CARICOM because you are not welcome anywhere else and you have nowhere to go!
That is the message which Minister of Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss has for any Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country which may be contemplating leaving the 15-member grouping in similar fashion to the United Kingdom’s recent vote to leave the European Union in the so-called Brexit referendum.
Inniss noted that since Brexit some regional countries have been worrying about its impact on the region and that there have been suggestions of them pulling out of CARICOM.
However, Inniss said: “Our politicians need to stop panicking and behaving as though it’s the end of the world and making threats about leaving CARICOM.
“Leave and go where?” he asked.
“Nobody wants you. You need to stay in the region,” he said while delivering welcome remarks at the opening of the 28th Council Meeting and Convention of the Caribbean Association of Administrative Professionals (CAAP) at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) headquarters.
In a clear message to some regional leaders, he added: “I don’t care if you’re from Jamaica and feel you big, or you from Trinidad and have oil money, the bottom line about it is in the grand scheme of things, you’re a little dot in the ocean.
“We need to stop this foolishness as politicians making veiled threats and start to find ways of working together. We have a common history, a shared destiny. There is much more that unites us than divides us,” he said.
The minister commended the CAAP for demonstrating more Caribbean unity than could be found in other regional groups.
“Your organization is a regional organization that has a bond, and I only wish that at the political level we have a similar bond . . . . Your organization is perhaps an example, or perhaps the one entity in the region that CARICOM can certainly learn from.”
Inniss also dismissed the notion of any regional country joining a Northern, Central or Southern American grouping with the same membership status enjoyed in CARICOM.
“You going to go and join Latin America and South America? They don’t want you,” he warned.
“Or you going and join your wagon onto Donald Trump, he doesn’t want you [either].” Inniss insisted.
The minister said people and organizations of the region must focus on common goals because, “there are opportunities that come when we work together as a region.
“CARICOM is not a failure,” he said, though conceding, ”I’ve been very critical of CARICOM in terms of its structure and administration over the years, but I’m a firm believer in CARCOM. I believe it can work”.
He said that the region should be working together to grab opportunities that arise from the vote by UK citizens to leave the EU.
On this note, he took a swipe at Barbados along with other regional nations for dreading the post-Brexit future.
“It’s amazing that some islands in the region celebrating 50 years of independence, Bahamas will be 43 years, whatever, that we seem to somewhat want to panic because of something that the former colonial master has done.”
On the contrary, Inniss said the region must stop reacting to world events and take control of its destiny.
“While there are others who panic and start to get very pessimistic about Brexit and behave as though it is all doom and gloom for the world and for the Caribbean region, I see opportunities.”
Noting that the subsequent fall in the value of the British pound sterling may in the short term see a reduction in visitors from that country, or shorter holidays, he said Barbados and the region should look at new possibilities.
“Perhaps there are those who will start to see the region as a safe and stable place they want to visit . . . . There are those in Europe who may no longer feel that London is the place for holiday and therefore come to Barbados.”
He said that such possibilities existed not only for tourism, but also in the area of international business.
“There are those who would feel that London is no longer, to them, the financial capital of the world, and will come to a safe haven like the Caribbean to do their business.
“It’s going to take some time, but if we in the region start to feel as though the whole world is collapsing around us, it will collapse around us,” Inniss said.