Thursday, July 29, 2010

Regionalism: The Caribbean prospective - Part 1

By D. Markie Spring
Turks and Caicos Islands:

It is evident that individual islands within our region cannot stand alone; therefore we need regional integration into every aspect of our system.

However, it must be noted that there are some islands in the region that are doing well. The Bahamas, Barbados, the British, American, French and Netherlands overseas territories, states and departments have sustained economies; British and US Virgin Island, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, the ABC Islands, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

The author of a number of published works, D. Markie Spring was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines and now resides in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He has an MBA from the University of Leicester, England, and a BA from Saint Mary's University, CanadaConversely, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana have weakening economies, but they have sport teams that are competitive at the highest level. The Eastern Caribbean has semi-strong economies.

In my honest opinion, I believe that the Caribbean could be a force to be reckoned with; only if we unite all of our efforts. As a region we should come together and compete against the rest of the world.

Let me start this debate with sports. The Caribbean had regionalised its effort to build the most successful cricket team in the world. This had worked for many years until the West Indies cricket team was severed by a number of factors, including poor player selections. It was clear that, if the West Indies unites its other resources, we could accomplish many things. Why do we have so many individual sport teams?

We should also combine our efforts in tourism. Although some Caribbean nations greet millions of tourists per year, this is not a fraction of the amount of tourists that travel to other parts of the globe.

To illustrate this further, the Bahamas has more than a million tourists visiting its shores annually, when France alone has 74 million.

Many citizens across our region believe that only the Caribbean has lush valleys and mountains, and white sandy beaches with crystal clear waters. No, my people, the Philippines, Thailand and other far eastern Asian countries also boast these qualities.

We should adapt the business term called Comparative Advantage, where each country identifies its strongest attractions and builds on them -- from a regional prospective. This means that countries such as Turks and Caicos Islands should market its white sand beaches, while other countries like St Vincent and the Grenadines promotes its eco-tourism environment.

Furthermore, the Caribbean has to integrate its economy into a single economy, if it wants to create an economy that is recognised and competitive to the world. These days, individual markets are developing impeding problems. Our regional economies are too dependent upon each other.

There is, however, some strong evidence that a single economy would derive better results. Although the OECS countries are not fully integrated through economic efforts, its dollar has maintained comparative and competitive value for decades.

In this sense, it is safe to say that our regional leaders do not have that regional vision needed to push our nations forward. We cannot depend upon developed economies to assist us -- not in these difficult economic times.

Countries like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, BVI and USVI and the Cayman Islands often decline membership and their willingness to integrate. One thing these nations must realise, though, is that their economies are not diverse enough to stand on their own for much longer; therefore, we need to unite as one Caribbean.

Some leaders and citizens alike believe that the economies of too many islands are too weak to have successful integration. We must look at the European Union. The only countries in the EU that are economically vibrant are those located in Western Europe. To date, the EU combined maintains the world’s biggest GDP. Is this something to learn from?

We must direct our efforts away from Individualism and start thinking collectivism. All we are doing in the region is competing against each other and stealing the little we possess.

I realise that some readers may find this article contrary to their beliefs. However, with this criticism I am ready to debate my ideologies. I am a young professional who believes in oneness and that there is no form of survival without unity. In addition, I believe that people with different ideologies may be isolated and their lives might be spearheaded by political affiliations.

July 29, 2010

Regionalism: The Caribbean prospective - Part 2