Eventually, the economic union can be expanded to embrace all Caricom members, along with the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Haiti is already a member of Caricom. While a larger economic union should remain the region’s goal, nonetheless it is imperative that this country adopts a practical approach. Under the limited Single Market and Economy proposal it is envisaged that different Member States which today specialise in the production of particular goods and services would be encouraged to expand production of those goods.
Trinidad and Tobago will bring to the table a largely energy and energy based economy along with a wide range of non energy products manufactured in the several industrial estates across the country, particularly along Trinidad’s East-West corridor. In the meantime, there should be the clear understanding that the OECS, whether collectively or individually, would not be party to another Petro Caribe Agreement with Venezuela.
Given the economic circumstances of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, what with their present uncomfortable balance of trade positions, Trinidad and Tobago should be prepared to sell them crude oil and natural gas at prices below those on the international market. Indeed, Trinidad and Tobago’s major trading partner, the United States, and Spain as well, receive, for example, liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced here, under a favourable price structure.
And while the argument may be advanced that this is done, in the case of the United States, as a result of volume, nevertheless we should be interested in developing and executing strategies to strengthen the economies of OECS countries whose larger grouping, Caricom, is Trinidad and Tobago’s second largest export market.
Clearly, assisting in making their economies yet stronger would better position these islands to further import from us. Because of this there should be built-in benefits for them. Meanwhile, because large scale foreign investors may, initially, be reluctant to start industries there due to a lack of skilled workers and, unlike Trinidad and Tobago, no energy resources, this country should be prepared to acquire their raw materials at competitive prices.
It will be in Trinidad and Tobago’s short, medium and long term interest to assist in the establishment of skills training centres in one or more of the OECS countries. Additionally, scholarships should be awarded to some of their more promising nationals to pursue degree courses at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies and/or the University of Trinidad and Tobago, relevant to their countries’ development needs.Another area in which Trinidad and Tobago should be prepared to assist is in the tourism industry of these States.
Unless Trinidad and Tobago is prepared to act, and expeditiously, with respect to forming a Single Market with Member States of the OECS and at the same time assist them to achieve their potential they may be lost forever and a day to, say, China. If we can assist them in bolstering their economies and with this help them to achieve a meaningful expansion of trade and employment opportunities, then the fear of OECS residents flooding Trinidad and Tobago and triggering needless friction would recede. If only because they will be able to visualise an improved future for themselves in their individual island states.
Trinidad and Tobago should be prepared to recognise that the problem of population in OECS countries in relation to resources, skills and initiative is one that we should be prepared to assist in relieving.
I wish to make this clear that the idea behind the proposed creation of a smaller than planned Single Market and Economy embracing the OECS and this country is not rooted in the establishment of an emerging larger market for Trinidad and Tobago products, but rather in the effective laying of the groundwork for a yet larger economic union.
In the meantime, it may be argued by some, and understandably so, that there would be a need to have a unification of Trinidad and Tobago’s and OECS currencies. To the credit of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and, incidentally, this does not appear to be generally known in the Caribbean, the OECS’ Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) is highly rated internationally. Indeed, it has been hailed in the highly respected work, International Political Economy — State Market Relations in a Changing Global Order.
Meanwhile, how we deal with such issues as family planning, job creation, skills development, education, industrialisation, increased exports, enterprise and capital accumulation will be crucial to the success of the proposed Trinidad and Tobago- Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Single Market.