GT22D - POLITICS IN THE CARIBBEAN
Topic Eight THE GLOBAL CARIBBEAN
March 27-29, 2001
Global politics has had two consequences for governments and politics in the Caribbean:
(1) The need for a new view of politics, one where issues are seen in global terms, power is understood in terms of a global network, participation is possible through international movements and national government and politics are not as central anymore.
(2) The need for new forms of empowerment by small Caribbean states to act as world players in response to the challenges of globalism. This requires that states reorient their focus to international relations and societies similarly do so through transnational relations.
A New View of Politics.
Politics in the Caribbean is but a part of world politics, the world economy and world society. It is usual for politics to be analysed at the local/ territorial level; or at the regional level. Governments are elected or rejected by nationals in national elections on their performance in managing the national economy, on how crime affects the nation, on what national unemployment levels are, on the basis of national public opinion.
But governments are locked into a world system in which they have little or no control over many events that affect national politics. The boundary between what is national and what is not is blurred for many issues. The ideas of >national politics=, >national government=, >national power=, >national control= and >national sovereignty= are seriously compromised in a world system in which global processes impinge on, influence and even determine the fate of societies.
Globalists believe that as national boundaries become indistinct, the traditional conception of national politics and national sovereignty become outmoded. They say one must understand global processes to understand how society=s structure is being changed, what the possibilities of politics are, what options exist for economic development and what forces shape social issues.
The traditional conception of politics as a national phenomenon comes into conflict with this new reality in two ways:
- consciousness: many people still hold to a national consciousness or awareness of the causes and effects of events. They see problems as largely having a national origin and therefore as being amenable to national solutions. Therefore, a national government can be blamed for society=s problems or by electing another party, it can solve the problems. Politicians themselves perpetuate this false consciousness by promises of salvation if elected. While people are aware of world events they treat them more as world news - as separate and distant events.
- democracy: democracy gives a national electorate the power to choose their national governments on the assumption that governments have the power to make things better for the electorate and if things are not better, then the government must be held accountable and changed for one that will make things better. This idea holds true for big countries and powerful governments. Democracy is a misrepresentation of reality and a miscasting of blame on relatively powerless governments in the case of small countries in which governments weild minimal international power.
While elections are important for freedom of choice it assumes too much that changing governments can change the major problems that a country faces. This is not to say that changing governments has no importance, only that there are limits on the changes that governments can make in a dependent society. In these countries electorates are likely to become frustrated by the ability to change governments but the inability of governments to change the critical aspects of society.
Change: World Events vs National Governments.
World events usually cause more fundamental changes in the Caribbean than national governments do.
- Trinidad=s economy has gone from boom to crisis and boom again depending on whether world oil prices are high or low. Governments were changed in the 1990's during an economic crisis caused by low oil prices;
- Barbados almost went to the IMF in the early 1980's because of the effects of a world recession on its economy.
- Cuba=s economy went into a major crisis after the end of the cold war and the loss of markets in the socialist countries;
- Off-shore Caribbean economies are faced with a crisis because developed countries want them to make their bank secrecy laws more transparent, the laws their economies have lived off;
- Eastern Caribbean banana exporting countries are faced with a crisis because of the phasing out of the Lome Convention and protected markets in Europe. The entire sugar, banana and rum industries in the Caribbean might become minor sectors in the next few years.
- Crime and drugs are not merely national problems with national solutions but international problems that have to be solved by cooperation with countries like the United States from which the guns come and to which the drugs go.
- The future of trade rests with the Free Trade Area of the Americas and WTO negotiations for the whole region.
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.
Evan Luard describes this global world in political terms as one that has become a single, closely interrelated political system. 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.
In this system, the importance of national politics has generally passed to the global sphere. Luard says, in a global world, AThe 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. A
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.
But for small developing countries the problem of confronting globalism is far more difficult because of the inequalities of power that exists. Examples of such inequalities can be seen in the relative power of world leaders, citizens and economic wealth.
In this globalism and on the central question of politics - the distribution of power - there is inequality between states. States have unequal power to control and shape events.
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. On the other hand, 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.
Attempts to further limit the power of Caribbean prime ministers is short-sighted because that will only make them impotent in world politics.
No matter how important a citizen of a Caribbean country might be in his country he is not as important as a citizen from the developed countries because he has unequal power to them. For instance, American citizen 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: Inequalities.
Thomas Klak suggests that the Caribbean is perhaps the most globalized of world regions. 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 Acentre@ and a Aperiphery@. 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.
1. Rich and Poor Nations.
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.
2. Investments and Markets.
World investments are concentrated in the core. Eighty one per cent is concentrated in North America, the European Union and Japan, increasing from 69% in 1967. 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.
4. Political Marginalization.
Politics becomes subservient to economics. Nation states are losing their capacity as sovereign rule makers. In short, AStates 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.@
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, Klak says, is becoming more irrelevant in geopolitical terms.
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.
1.The Dependency 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.
Klak sums up the familiar position of the dependency School. Historically, the Caribbean was integrated and modernised through a process of dependency. Although the region is largely politically independent it still suffers from dependency on external authorities, suppliers, markets and geopolitical agendas. United States policies in particular, capitalist states and classes suppress political regimes that favour the working class and bind these countries to unequal trade. This is reinforced by the dominance of the Western media which propagates a US lifestyle for Caribbean peoples. This results in migration and leads to the paradox where Caribbean peoples are more internationally integrated than before while Caribbean states become more marginalised. ACaribbean people and states are under tremendous pressure to respond, adjust and cope as the region undergoes a rapid and profound transformation of a variety of norms governing society as a whole and making a living within it.@
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 world has become a Aglobal village@ in which traditional distinctions between core and periphery are blurring, there is a convergence into one world economy, differences are evening out and foreign trade, investments and opportunities for development are more widely distributed across nations and regions. Free markets, free political systems and free trade allow states, economies and peoples to integrate and share in the benefits of the growth in world trade. Countries can best participate by exploiting special market niches to benefit from competitive advantage.
The Caribbean=s Response.
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 responses have been:
(1) Structural adjustment;
(2) New Governance.
(3) The deepening of CARICOM;
(5) The Widening of Regionalism;
(5) Democratizing world organisations;
(6) Penetrating big governments;
(7) Joining international social movements.
(1) Structural adjustment is designed to make Caribbean economies more open to globalism. entails the package of reforms such as: privatisation, liberalisation and deregulation to create greater competitiveness.
These changes have been inevitable. The problem is, the pace of change and the extent of liberalisation. The region has been forced to liberalise too quickly so that imports have flooded in, creating heavy demands on foreign exchange and increased debt.
(2) New Governance.
New governance in the form of the World Bank=s good goveranance reforms are designed to limit the role of the state in society. While structural adjustment is designed to expand the domestic market, and the influence of the world market, good governance is to limit the role of the state. It is also designed to give the market players more access to the state through greater >accountability=, >transparency=, to the market.
The Caribbean does believe that more effcient state systems are needed but they would like less emphasis on a reduced role for the stateand more emphasis on human development programmes compared to market development.
(3) The Deepening of CARICOM.
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 in which each state would retain its separate sovereignty while deepenening its economic and social integration.
In Jamaica, the country that caused the break-up of the Federation of 1958-62, the political parties have said they were not in favour of joining any new West Indian federation.
However, Barbados has stated an interest in forming a federation with the Eastern Caribbean. There has been talk in the 1990's of Trinidad, Guyanaand Barbados joing a federation first and others who were interested joining later.
The point is that the idea of federation is not dead and counties might find it necessary to join one in the future. Jamaica, being more isolated and having a political party like the JLP with a strong history against close regional cooperation, is unlikely to be a part of any such federation. The hysteria over the Caribbean Court of Justice, an idea central to regionalism, is opposed by the JLP. This is symbolic of its opposition to regionalism since the Court would be necessary to settle trade disputes and disputes over treaties.
(5) Widening Regionalism.
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 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 rebalance their focus away from mainly consular activities.
(6) Democratizing world organisations.
As world organisations come to have greater decision-making power in matters that affect each society, Caribbean and developing countries have been demanding that they become more democratic. The powers of the developed countries on the Security Council of the United Nations is a case in point. Caribbean countries favour reforms so that regions are represented rather than the major powers alone. This would give a greater voice to regions such as the Caribbean.
Also, the IMF and World Bank have it written in their charters that only an American and a European can be Managing Director and President of these organisations, respectively. In addition, their Boards of Directors are made up of representatives of the developed countries. In the World Trade Organisation, the >big four= - The US, Canada, Japan and the European Union monopolize decision-making power. All of these organisations must evolve more democratic structures so that their memberships are not only global but their decisions also reflect a democratic globalism.
(7) Penetrating big governments.
Caribbean populations abroad must do more to get themselves elected to governmental positions in countries like the US, UK and Canada where there are large numbers of them. Since their home governments in the Caribbean have little international influence and their host governments do, then they must use their right to vote to elect their own representatives or representatives sympathetic to the case of the small, developing Caribbean states.
Caribbean peoples abroad must organise themselves and become active political players in the governments and politics of the countries that matter most. They can have the effect that Jews in America or Cuban exiles in Florida have on US foreign policy.
(8) Joining international social movements.
Non-governmental actors are gaining more recognition and influence in international politics. They are now regularly invited to world summit meetings along with governments, such as summits on poverty, women=s rights, and the environment. Caribbean NGO=s must establish links directly between peoples of the world and join international social movements. They can make an impact on issues of the environment, human rights, trade rights, the conduct of muntinationals, and a host of other international civil society issues.
Because governments can impose sanctions on other governments, less powerful governments are timid to take on more powerful ones. Because aid-receiving governments are under treaty obligations to aid-providing institutions, they can suffer bad international credit ratings if they don=t comply with the terms and conditions of aid providers.
The advantage that international NGO=s have is that they are not a part of these networks of obligations and because they have members from all over the world, no one set of nationals can be targetted for punishment. International social movements played a vital role in the failure of the last WTO meeting in Seattle because the meeting left out issues vital to developing countries. But Caribbean peoples did not play an important part in this. In the future they must position themselves to have a voice. Action on the domestic level is futile if the decision-makers are operating at the international level.
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 in the media. Politics in the Caribbean must, in other words, also be about politics and the global Caribbean.
 Evan Luard, The Globalization of Politics: The Changed Focus of Political Action in the Modern World,1990, p.11.
 Ibid, p.12
 Ibid, p.11
 Ibid, p.vii
 Luard devotes much of his book to these issues.
 Klak, op.cit., p.6
 This very issue was one of many discussed at the South Summit of the Group of 77 in Havana, Cuba, April 2000. These figures were given by Cuba=s foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque.
 Klak, op.cit., p.7
 Ibid, p.9
 Sunday Gleaner, April 2, 2000, ANAFTA Damage to the Caribbean,@ reports these figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean: Foreign Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean,1999.
 Klak, p.10
 ECLAC Report, op.cit.,
 Cited in Klak, p.16
 Ibid, p.13.
 These two perspectives are summarised from Klak=s >thirteen theses on globalism=, op.cit., pp.3-23.
 See The West Indian Commission, Time For Action: The Report of the West Indian Commission,1992.