Caribbean integration

We take up the narrative from the astute observations made by the Trinidad Express earlier this week in its June 13 Editorial on the creative and positive contributions made by Caribbean leaders at the recently concluded Summit of the Americas meeting. The Summit was held from June 6-10 in Los Angeles.

As the venerable Trinidad and Tobago publication noted, there was a notable heightening of confidence in the Caricom presence in LA, perhaps attributable to Barbados’ “straight-talking” Prime Minister, Mia Mottley.

As the Editorial stated, Mottley’s mastery of complex issues with her “Caribbean earthiness” has been winning friends and influencing people the world over. No doubt her growing and positive global profile spilled over into how Caricom, and its leaders, were viewed in a warmer light by leaders from the developed world.

As evidence for this perceptive newspaper commentary out of Trinidad and Tobago, here in Canada we noted the positive, focused, and wide coverage Mottley received from our national media when she met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

Evidencing what the Trinidad Express described as Mottley’s “Caribbean earthiness”, the Canadian media noted how her narrative remained grounded in the region when she invoked the eternal lyrics from the late Bob Marley to convey the stark “triple crisis” that is now being faced by the islands in the archipelago.

“Bob Marley would say, ‘So much trouble in the world’,” Mottley said at the start of bilateral talks with Trudeau.

It was on the foundation of this “Caribbean earthiness” that Mottley received extensive mainstream media coverage that also highlighted the region’s growing precarity. At this time it is dealing with the “triple crisis” of economic and health ill-effects from the Covid-19 pandemic; soaring fuel and food costs now exacerbated by the Ukraine-Russia conflict; and fallout from climate change, which is being acutely felt by tourism-driven nations such as Barbados.

There was another leader who stood out during the Summit, the Trinidad Express noted, and who deserves the region’s attention: Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali.

During his Summit address, Ali listed troubling hemispheric statistics on hunger and poverty, education and housing deficits, low agricultural yield, and natural disaster impacts. He also said Guyana was ready to make its contribution to humanity and the region.

Ali declared too that Guyana comes to the table with phenomenal natural resources.

“We’re among the best in managing our forests with a deforestation rate of 0.05 percent… We have standing forests the size of England storing 19.5 gigatons of carbon. We have 11 billion barrels of proven oil reserves; as I speak, an assessment of gas reserves is underway.”

Also, despite Guyana having its everyday and historical issues, its economy is projected to double in size in two years; and importantly, Ali stated his government recognises that the optimum path forward lies in regional collaboration.

Said Ali: “We cannot be reckless, and we would not be irresponsible in managing these resources in the interest of the world and the interest of this region. This, coupled with the potential of Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, and possibilities through investment and exploration with gas in Barbados, we can make this region energy secure.”

Ali then declared: “Let us get together and have a conversation that defines a pathway for energy security for this region.”

As the Trinidad Express noted approvingly, Ali offered a glimpse of a Caribbean integrated by the competitive advantages of its members, adding, “Although long championed by committed integrationists, the vision has found little fertile ground within the insular corridors of political power.” However, change may be coming, it declared.

It is a perceptive and timely assessment. The emergence of charismatic leaders as Barbados’ Prime Minister Mottley and Guyana’s pragmatic President Ali may just be the start to a conversation the Caribbean needs to begin at this time.