Former governor of the Barbados Central Bank (CBB), Dr DeLisle Worrell, says the Caribbean is unquestionably more integrated today than it was 50 years ago, the pattern of regional integration has nothing to do with what Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders had in mind.
Writing in his Economic Letter for August, Worrell, who served as the CBB governor from 2009 to 2017, said that time frame there have been various socio-economic activities that have led to a further deepening of the regional integration process.
“The Caribbean is unquestionably more integrated today than it was 50 years ago. Since that time, Trinidad’s style of carnival has spread into the diaspora and across the region; Jamaican music has become a world phenomenon, with variants springing up everywhere, including in the Caribbean
“Caribbean literature attracts readership across the English-speaking world and in the region; and thanks to many decades of emigration, and the presence of large communities of Caribbean people in major cities in North America and the UK, almost everyone has personal links of family and friendship across the region,” Worrell wrote.
But he argued that “this is not the pattern of regional integration which the Caribbean leadership has in mind.
“But it has developed organically to the benefit of the region’s people, providing rich and dynamic cultural experiences for us to enjoy and celebrate, and enriching livelihoods for cultural practitioners, regional economies and everyone who benefits from remittances, pensions and other income from abroad. Ironically, it is often in Miami, New York or Toronto that we feel most Caribbean.”
Worrell said that there is no need to abandon Caricom, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary, saying “it is a useful forum for leaders to meet regularly to exchange views on the issues of the day and the performance of their economies.
“However, it is surely naïve to expect that the decisions made at these meetings will have some impact in the future that is any more notable than has been the case in the last 50 years,” the Barbadian economist wrote.
He said the one major change that would deepen Caribbean regional integration significantly would be the use of United States dollars for all local business in place of the national currency, adding “no Caricom decision is needed for any country to reap that benefit”.
Several countries in the Caribbean have their own currency with the most stable being the Eastern Caribbean dollars, which is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of US$0.37 cents.
The Bahamas dollar trades at the equivalent of one US dollar, while Barbados’ dollar is pegged at US$0.50 cents. Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize dollar fluctuates between US$0.008 cents to US$.0.49 cents.
In his ‘Economic letter” Worrell said that over the five decades of Caricom’s existence, Caribbean leaders have signed successive agreements committing the region to ever stronger cooperation, “all the while implementing policies that are more and more divergent. “In theory, Caricom has gone from a free trade area, to a common market, to a single market space, and now to a single economy, implying commonality of financial and commercial regulation, and common rules and procedures.
“The reality is that each member country has its own internal systems, and the laws, rules and procedures governing the movement of goods, people and finance between members are the same as for the US, UK, Canada or any other non-Caricom country.”
He said that in the 1960s and early 1970s, newly-independent Caribbean countries actively collaborated in designing economic policies, with the participation and advice of renowned scholars associated with The University of the West Indies and the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute, then known as the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER).
He said when the United Kingdom devalued the pound sterling against the US dollar on November 18, 1968, Caribbean countries approached The UWI to advise as to whether they should follow suit.
Worrell said the ISER arranged for studies to be prepared, and a conference was held at which the pros and cons were discussed.
“Encouraged by the insights which the exercise yielded, the region’s central banks and The UWI set up a permanent programme for regional economic policy research. That programme evolved into the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance, which I headed for a brief period a decade and a half ago. The centre has since been dissolved, its services no longer needed now that there is no longer any interest in regional policy coordination.”