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Obstacles not enough to thwart United Caribbean

By David Muhammad | Last updated: May 2, 2012 - 5:20:12 PM

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Minister Farrakhan recently toured throughout the Caribbean urging political leaders to take steps towards forming a New Caribbean Federation but he also sought to inspire the grassroots communities to take up the mantle to continue to promote the idea.
( - Is it possible that one day we can finally wake up to a “United States of the Caribbean?” The vision of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan for Caribbean Regional Integration is one that has been shared by many great Caribbean leaders of the past five decades, but has remained an elusive goal up to the present due to factors that continue to haunt the West Indies.

The major objective behind regional integration is political cooperation between Caribbean states and there have actually been six major government driven efforts geared towards establishing a “One Caribbean” over the years, these are as follows:

· The Federation of the West Indies (1958-1962):  The 10-member group included Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago. The aims were to strengthen the movement for self-government, to promote economic development and to safeguard democracy. The W.I. Federation facilitated the movement from colonialism to independence. But this united effort collapsed within a few short years.

· CARIFTA Caribbean Free Trade Area (1968-1973):  It had 11 members—Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St.Kitts/Nevis, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and Belize. Only Grenada from the Federation was not involved, and Guyana and Belize, both non-islands were added. The aims of CARIFTA were to foster economic and social development by encouraging free trade which involved the removal of previous customs duties, taxes and licensing arrangements.

· CARICOM (1973): CARIFTA was transformed into CARICOM in 1973 and included all 11 members of CARIFTA as well as the Bahamas, Haiti, Suriname and Grenada. The major objectives of CARICOM are political integration through the coordination and merging of foreign policy among member states; economic integration and cooperation and functional cooperation, for example in health, education, law, disaster relief, agriculture, culture, communications, financial and industrial relations and other services.

· OCES The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (1981): Group was established June 18, 1981 with the signing of a treaty between seven countries—Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. The OECS sought to promote development by the formation of a common market among member states and to deal more efficiently with international bodies.

· ACS The Association of Caribbean States (1995): For the first time leaders brought together the English, Spanish, French and Dutch speaking Caribbean nations, and sought to promote increased economic activity by trading raw materials and finished products among members. There are 25 member states, three associate members and 14 observer countries (including Egypt, India, Italy, Korea, Russia and Spain). The collective population of the ACS is 210 million people. Treaties are often signed between member nations for the development of trade, exchange of technology, as well as cultural and educational pursuits.

· CSME Caribbean Single Market & Economy (2006 to present): The CARICOM Single Market and Economy is an integrated development strategy to unite economies and markets of participating countries. The idea was envisioned in July 1989 in Grenada. The desire was to allow for unrestricted movement of citizens as visitors, traders, skilled persons, entrepreneurs or job seekers. The CSME is being implemented through a number of phases, beginning with the CARICOM Single Market (CSM). The CSM was initially implemented on January 1, 2006 with the signing of the document for its implementation by six original member states.

Minister Farrakhan recently toured throughout the Caribbean urging political leaders to take steps towards forming a New Caribbean Federation but he also sought to inspire the grassroots communities to take up the mantle to continue to promote the idea.

There are several benefits in the forming of a New Caribbean Federation; when CARICOM states integrate they are eligible to benefit from all of the institutions of that union in the same way, for example, that all of the states in the U.S.A. benefit from their collective resources. Individually Caribbean countries are too small to withstand economic competition from larger countries and trading blocs but as a single force, they empower each other. CARICOM is also committed to trade within the region; therefore integration provides a larger market for each member state.

CARICOM has a stronger more persuasive voice in global matters than individual states do and Caribbean Regional Integration promotes a positive sense of Caribbean Identity and unity and connects the region with African Diaspora internationally.

But with these benefits in mind some impediments have been allowed to persist for way too long. Integration and cooperation between CARICOM member states has been too slow largely due to conflicts between national and regional loyalties. Countries have been more concerned with achieving mandates given by local electorates. Different member states have had different opinions on strategies for political and economic development. Some CARICOM member states have more resources than others; the more developed countries have more wealth and may tend to compete on their own to attract outside investors. There is also poor information dissemination, and slow implementation and ratification of proposed policies. In addition, there is sometimes failure to communicate and agree between planners, politicians and articulators of CARICOM.

The absence of a CARICOM common currency is another problem. Some states do not accept the currency of others. In some cases residents of CARICOM still experience difficulty traveling to other states and living and working there for certain periods of time.

Today CARICOM has 15 official members, five associates and eight observers and the struggle for a United Caribbean continues. Antigua, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago continue to move toward oneness but barriers occasionally impede progress. Still none of these challenges are too great to overcome, with enough commitment and dedication the vision of Caribbean Unity shared by Min. Farrakhan can become a reality sooner rather than later.

David Muhammad is the Trinidad Representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Listen live to his “Black Agenda” radio program Mondays and Thursdays 8 p.m.-10 p.m. ET on