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Time is running out

by Barbados Today
5 min read

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Browne has hit the bull’s-eye dead on target. I am 100 per cent in favour of all that he has said recently in the columns of the print media.

Indeed, we have not been addressing our past problems and are chasing the same old symptoms as if playing musical chairs, hoping that one by one, they will automatically go away.

Neither should we continue to live the myth that we must beg or wait on foreign businessmen to invest within our limited economic space, that they be the beneficiaries of extraordinary concessions, exploit our resources and ultimately repatriate profits to their homeland.

At this period of our economic journey, there is no good reason why non-nationals should still be invading our economic space and dictating how we should manage the businesses that are our legacy and our heritage.

Are these fields and hills our very own?

Are the arrangements of the emerging Guyanese oil industry not a good example to follow?

Are the arrangements of the changing face of the banking industry in Antigua and Barbuda inimical to the best interests of that country’s people?

The woes surrounding the Caribbean Single Market and Economy are caused by a number of factors including sloth, lack of supporting structures and infrastructure, absence of synergies, poor prioritizing and the failure to recognize the critical role to be played by the number of working-class individuals across the region.

Most of all, there is a need for the leadership of CARICOM to understand that the success of the CSME lies squarely on their ability and capacity to serve in a manner that the people of the region can achieve their goals and aspirations.

It is not about what leadership itself can get out of CSME, but to what level of progress, development and standard of living CSME can take the people of the region.

Not since the first meeting of the Caribbean heads of government at Grand Anse Grenada in 1990 has any significant progress been made concerning the Single Market and Economy.

As recently as 2019, a litany of woes emerged at a Town Hall meeting in Barbados that was streamed across the region, at times evoking sniggers of laughter. At other times, furrowed brows and angry faces were telling tales of work to be completed after the effluxion of almost 40 years –  for some individuals, the effluxion of time is associated with sloth and inactivity.

Lack of supporting structures and infrastructure is clearly seen by the current state of Leeward Island Air Transport, along with an equally unreliable mode of sea-transport visited upon the region in modern times.

An absence of interlocking synergies as they relate to immigration and the status of migrant workers continues to plague any hopes of a bright future for the CSME.

Sadly, the people of the Caribbean still continue to trade in items such as sugar and other agricultural crops, petroleum products, clothing and furniture products, but there is no concentration of substantial agricultural and industrial manufacturing of reliable and enduring significance.

For CSME to be a success, the region must be able to innovate and offer products and services in demand for the region and beyond. There can be no market without tradable goods and services, trained, competent and productive workers – an acute situation manifested in the cries of local and regional businessmen who are bombarded with job applicants who, they say, are not ready for the world of work.

Truth be told, continuous top-level training must be the key to whatever challenges the ever-changing global technologies present. It cannot be trial and error or a guessing game. There must be a return to the Total Quality Management principles so aptly presented to the Japanese people by W. Edwards Deming in the 1960s. The truth that the world is not a perfect place does not have to impact in a negative way. The response to that truth is “Do it right the first time.”

Our education system does not appear to be in sync with our national and regional policies, goals and requirements. Otherwise, there would be no demand for the importation of foreign labour into the local job market.

Take examples of the Ministries of Transport and Works, Housing, Energy and Water that “remain almost identical in structure and scope to their 1980s models despite ongoing attempts at public sector reform since the 1990s,’’ as stated by Lt. Colonel Trevor Browne in a recent article.

Such scenarios forebode serious negative consequences for an institution such as CSME in a structural way. There can be no industries and little or no productivity if ground transportation is not factored in. Given our experiences of slow-moving gridlocks and traffic jams, are we too late for the construction of a mass transit system – a long-term capital project? Are we behind the eight ball or not?

Housing, energy and water are main ingredients within the mix for an optimum build-out of a single market and economy. Is there an adequacy or shortage of our housing stock to accommodate migrant workers? Is there adequacy of energy, water and sewerage infrastructure to meet the demands of migrant workers within the framework of CSME?

We have not been addressing our old problems and we cannot continue to fix recurring symptoms.

Time is running out, we are approaching the precipice!

Michael Ray

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