GT22D - POLITICS IN THE CARIBBEAN
THE GLOBAL CARIBBEAN
April 11-18, 2000
The term 'global' refers to structures and processes that transcend national and regional boundaries and which are therefore transnational and transregional. It means perceiving a world system within which the constituent parts, such as nations, are subordinate to but highly interdependent within a superordinate global structure. In political terms globalisation is a process by which the struggle for or over power and its distribution, wealth and development becomes global and occurs in the spheres of politics, ideology, economics and culture. (Klak, p.4)
Politics in the Caribbean has passed through two broad historical phases of globalism: the imperial system of globalism and the present neo-liberal system of globalism. In the imperial order, globalism involved the global movement of people to new world slave colonies controlled by the governments of the imperial world centre and their systems of trade and ideology of racism.
In the neo-liberal order, the world becomes smaller and world processes become faster by the new technology of transportation and communication integrating diverse nations, their politics, economies and cultures into virtually one global order. But under the neo-liberal paradigm, rather than relying on military force, slave labour and imperial systems of preferential trade, the system relies on the ideology of political freedom, free markets and free trade.
In either case, what is most significant is that politics in the Caribbean is subservient to and merely reflective of wider processes emanating from the centre of the global order. The implication is that on the major question of ‘who rules’, or ‘who controls’, or ‘who benefits’, it is those states, transnational organisations, cultures and civilizations that are most powerful.
The Politics of Globalism.
Globalism is mostly discussed as economic globalism. But scholars of politics must not miss the political dimension of it. Evan Luard (The Globalisation of Politics) describes this global world in political terms as one that has become a single, closely interrelated political system. (p.11). This suggests the need for a new political consciousness since Caribbean people have been brought up on the issues of national politics. A new consciousness requires raising one’s awareness to a new global level, out of recognition of the limits of national politics.
This consciousness must recognise:
In this system, the importance of national politics has generally passed to the global sphere. Luard says, in a global world, “The power of individual governments is progressively reduced, as the actions and events which are significant to them, become international actions, taking place outside their own borders, yet having a profound effect on them... Citizens become more aware of the world beyond their own national borders, which may affect their own lives. In particular they become more conscious of global inequalities, in material conditions, opportunities and ways of life: since these now occur principally between states, and between individuals in different states, they can be remedied only by actions at the international level. On this and on other questions the only type of political action which is significant is international action. “ (p.12).
Political activism must go beyond the nation and national politics. It must go beyond national democracy, national elections, and the national state. The struggle to elect national representative and responsible government is only a part of what should be a larger struggle to make world organisations and world politics democratic and responsible to the peoples of the world.
In this globalism and on the central question of politics - the distribution of power - there is inequality between states and citizens of these unequal states. States and citizens are unequal because they have unequal power to control and shape events.
This has important implications for states and citizens. No matter how powerful a prime minister might be in a Caribbean country, he has little power at the world level because his state is virtually powerless. No matter how many checks and balances there might be to an American president’s domestic power, he has awesome power in the world because his state is a world power.
No matter how important a citizen of a Caribbean country might be in his country he has unequal power with an American citizen who is backed by a world currency, a world culture and has the diplomatic and military backing of a world power to prevent his harassment abroad in ways that the Caribbean citizen does not have. American and European citizens have privileged positions in other countries even when they don’t in their own countries, compared to the Third World citizen.
American and European governments can invade or sanction other governments who are believed to discriminate against the lives or property of their citizens; or can determine by immigration laws who enters their countries, what status they can enjoy, or who should be deported.
This means that in global politics there must be a struggle to empower weaker states and Third World citizens so that they enjoy more equal status with more powerful countries.
In a single, closely interrelated world economy the ability to conduct national economic management is beyond the full control of national governments. National economies are susceptible to global recession or inflation, the terms of trade, the openness of other countries to exports, the behaviour of transnational corporations, the fortunes of world currencies and financial systems, world markets for exports, the impersonal policies of the IMF and World Bank, world oil prices etc.. This means that governments are dependent on external economic decisions and events.
The same is true about managing other issues such as national security, environment and health as the crises with international drug trafficking, the global environment and AIDS show. These issues transcend national borders and numerous international movements have arisen to raise world consciousness on these issues and to pressure governments to take action.
The Economics of Globalism.
Thomas Klak suggests that the Caribbean is perhaps the most globalized of world regions (p.6). This goes back to its incorporation into the global imperial order since the 1500's. It is most pronounced in the population of the region. Throughout the region’s history it has undergone different phases of this global incorporation. However, Klak argues, it still remains dependent. In other words, the idea of globalism dissolving separate economies and cultures into one world system is rejected. Klak says there is still a “centre” and a “periphery”. Klak draws on dependency analysis to explain core-periphery relations under globalism. Capitalist classes and states still exploit workers and to control the means of and benefits from production.
The countries of the world are not getting richer together. Rather there is a growing gap between rich countries of the Northern core and the poor countries of the Southern periphery. The richest 20% of the world’s population earns 82 times more than the poorest 80%, up from 30 times in 1964. Even the oil rich Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago enjoys a per capita income of less than half that of the poorest US State, Mississippi. Caribbean garment workers earn only one-tenth of what their American counterparts earn.
World investments are concentrated in the core. Eighty per cent is concentrated in North America, the European Union and Japan. Foreign investment to the developed countries grew by 71% in 1998, increasing from 58% in 1997, widening the gap between rich and poor countries. Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 41% of all foreign investments to developing countries in 1998 but most of this went to Latin America. In the Caribbean Trinidad is the largest recipient of foreign investments but that has gone to the petroleum and gas sectors. The growth of foreign investments in the South has been concentrated in the larger markets of China, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. This means small markets like those of the Caribbean are largely excluded. The export market for Caribbean products are highly competitive and limited to electronics, tourism, processed data, garments, fruits and vegetables.
Eighty per cent of world trade is concentrated in the core countries. Caribbean countries are in danger of losing their European market for traditional exports due to challenges to the preferential agreement and have still been excluded from the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). The result is that Caribbean countries have become less competitive in the US market compared to Mexico. Since NAFTA was formed, 250 apparel plants have been closed and 123,000 jobs have been lost in the Caribbean.
Politics becomes subservient to economics. Nation states are losing their capacity as sovereign rule makers. In short, “States are less autonomous, they have less exclusive control over the economic and social processes within their territories, and they are less able to maintain national distinctiveness and cultural homogeneity.” (Klak, p.16).
Major decisions are being made by the WTO, IMF, World Bank, the UN Security Council and the triad powers - US, EU, Japan - at the exclusion of the rest of the world with 80 per cent of the population. Apart from the veto power in the Security Council countries like the US even have a veto power over other countries in the form of sanctions that it can apply if countries do not cooperate with it on drug trafficking or meet its standards of trade and human rights. It regular assesses countries around the world each year.
The Caribbean responses to Globalism have been shaped by its understanding of globalism. That understanding has been based on the dependency perspective and the neoliberal perspective.
The dependency perspective according to Klak sees globalism as the modern form of exploitation by countries of the core of countries of the periphery. In the global system political power, investments, trade and markets are unequal. This inequality is founded upon and maintained by exploiting cheap labour and trade policies.
The neoliberal perspective adopts neoclassical economic analysis to explain globalism. All countries can benefit by being competitive. Competitiveness is maintained by building stronger private sectors, open being open to trade and investments, adopting low inflation policies, having democratic systems. It sees the problem of development as a national one whereas the dependency perspective sees it as arising from the nature of the global system. Neoliberalism therefore stresses domestic reforms such as those of structural adjustment of economies to become more competitive while dependency stresses reforms of the international economy.
The Caribbean’s response in practical policy terms is influenced by these two perspectives. On the one hand, they adopt neoliberal structural adjustment programmes and on the other they act as members of the South to obtain international economic reforms.
The Caribbean’s other response to globalism was to deepen and widen regional integration in order to have a regional platform to base its global position. The first move was taken at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Grenada in 1989 - the Grand Anse meeting. The meeting agreed that a region-wide consultation should be undertaken on the future of regional integration. This was done by the West Indian Commission which made its report in 1992.
A major recommendation was to establish a CARICOM Single Market and Economy. The final stage of this was achieved in March, 2000. At this point, CARICOM countries agreed to:
- the free movement of goods;
- the free movement of capital;
- the free movement of services;
- the free movement of persons such as musicians, sports persons, artistes, media workers who are CARICOM nations;
- a common trade policy and a Regional Negotiating Machinery;
- the provision of a CARICOM passport;
- these would be supported by a common rules of
- granting membership to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Suriname; competition, rights to establish commercial enterprises, common investment policy, rules about the transfer of technology, reliable transportation and communication facilities and mechanisms for dispute settlement in the form of a Caribbean Court of Justice.
These protocol agreements have been signed and are applicable to the member states of CARICOM provisionally pending national consultation, government legislation and implementation by October 2000.
Importantly, the West Indian Commission did not recommend a federation of the West Indies but a community of sovereign states that would retain their separate sovereignties but deepen their economic and social integration.
The West Indian Commission also recommended that regionalism be broadened to include the countries of the Caribbean Basin, that is the non-CARICOM members of Central America, Cuba and the dependencies in the form of an Association of Caribbean States.
The Association of Caribbean States (ACS) of which there are 25 countries from the Caribbean and Central America was formed in 1994. Some of its major decisions so far are to establish a free trade area and to set up a World Sustainable Tourism Zone in the Caribbean and to foster technical cooperation.
Its importance is to reduce the historical distance between the English and non-English speaking countries of the Americas and create a larger market. It has a market of 200 million. At a later meeting the ACS accepted six observer countries, including Argentina, Ecuador and Peru.
The centre of the ACS is CARICOM. The ACS secretariat is based in Trinidad and is headed by a Jamaican economist, Professor Norman Girvan.
The ACS was a strategic effort to find an alternative to American-led schemes on American terms. However such schemes are still in the making. The Free Trade Area of the Americas is set to come into being in 2005 and a possible Caribbean/European free trade agreement might eventually replace the Lome Agreement. The Caribbean therefore has to adjust to these more global arrangements.
The main thrust of the region is to accept the inevitability of these developments and try to negotiate for the best terms of incorporation as they can possibly get. The main argument for best terms is small size and the colonial legacy. The region tries to make a special case for small countries which need time and special intermediate arrangements to transform the colonial and dependent legacies of their economies to the new imperatives of globalism. The best current example is with the Lome preferential agreement and the American challenge of it. This challenge is a signal that the US will not accept post-colonial preferential agreements.
Against the reality that crucial negotiations will determine how well the Caribbean adjusts, CARICOM has installed a Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) and a CARICOM prime minister (Jamaica) has special responsibility for external relations. Further, Jamaica’s diplomatic service has been given new responsibilities to identify trade, market and investment opportunities abroad and re-balance their focus away from mainly consular activities.
Strategies for Globalism.
The state must play a leading role in guiding the economy in areas such as macro-economic management, political management, socioeconomic infrastructure and international economic diplomacy. (Farrell, 207-208). But for this it needs to:
- revolutionise its cumbersome and slow civil service and public administration procedures; (p.208).
- possibly pursue a political federation to make economic integration work.
- speed of response based on consensus;
- anticipatory capabilities base don superior information and intelligence systems that anticipate future changes in the global system and take advantage of them.
- a higher level of leadership intelligence supported by more competent, informed research and personnel.(pp.340-341).
- finding new export markets;
- developing tourism;
- applying the technological revolution to micro-electronics, biotechnology (agriculture), telecommunications, new materials (synthetics);
- economic integration;
The study of politics in the Caribbean must accept that the national state and economy, especially of small dependent countries, are very limited in what they can achieve. The condition of democracy and the capability of the state rest on economic conditions which are created globally.
Interest in the ‘global Caribbean’ therefore is needed to concentrate a new consciousness and civic energies on the global plane of events. It is surprising that in these small states so much debate is daily concentrated on national issues with so little regard for international ones except as human interest stories ( airline crashes, floods, OJ Simpson-like cases). In contrast the South Summit recently held in the Caribbean (Cuba), precisely on global issues, Commonwealth meetings on governance, justice and development, and issues for small island developing states get scant attention.
Politics in the Caribbean must, in other words, also be about politics and the global Caribbean.