Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Rt. Ex. Errol Barrow: Barbadian Statesman, Caribbean Visionary

Alicia Nicholls

January 21st of each year is the day that Barbadians celebrate Errol Barrow Day. Our first prime minister, the late Rt. Ex. Errol Walton Barrow is one of our ten national heroes and our beloved ‘Father of Independence’.  His stately portrait graces our fifty dollar bill, while a majestic bronze statue poised in his likeness commands the attention of those walking through Independence Square in Bridgetown.  On this Errol Barrow Day, I see it fitting to discuss the legacy of Mr. Barrow both in terms of his contribution to Barbados and to the Caribbean region.

It could be said that one testament of a politician’s greatness is when he or she is able to draw praise from both sides of the political aisle. Politicians and ordinary Barbadians, whether BLP or DLP, frequently speak of Mr. Barrow and his contribution to our country with the deep reverence one usually reserves for religious figures. Respect for Mr. Barrow goes far beyond these shores. In a tribute to Mr. Barrow included in the book “Speeches of Errol Barrow” edited by Yussuff Haniff, the Rt. Hon. Michael Manley, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, described Mr. Barrow poignantly as follows “[t]hat Errol Barrow was a deep, passionate and unwavering Barbadian is impatient of debate”. But Mr. Barrow was more than a politician.  He was a statesman and a visionary who saw it as the region’s birthright that the Caribbean should have a share in the world.

Mr. Barrow was born on January 21st, 1920 into a politically active family in the northern parish of St. Lucy. His uncle was the great champion of social justice, Dr. Charles Duncan O’Neale. His sister, Dame Ruth Nita Barrow, would later become our first female Governor-General and earn international acclaim as a nurse and champion of public health causes. Mr. Barrow served for seven years in the Royal Air Force in the UK, and pursued studies in Law. Upon his return to Barbados, Mr. Barrow joined the then incumbent Barbados Labour Party and served as a Member of Parliament before leading a group of disenchanted former BLP supporters in 1955 to form the Democratic Labour Party. In 1966, under Mr. Barrow’s leadership, Barbados moved from a mere British colony to an independent nation. Mr. Barrow’s sudden death in office from a heart attack in 1987 brought great outpourings of sorrow across the island for the man who Barbadians fondly remember as the ‘Dipper’.

I was born the year after Mr. Barrow died. But I feel no less passionate about our ‘Father of Independence’  than any other Barbadian who had had the privilege of watching him stroll into the House of Assembly ready to get on with the people’s business.  While I may not have had the privilege of hearing his dry wit or seeing him mingle unassumingly with the regular folk over ‘a bread and two’ and some mauby, I like many subsequent generations of Barbadians have benefited from the myriad of far-sighted economic and social welfare policies he instituted which have provided a pathway for economic and social mobility for the underprivileged and have set the foundation for the high standard of living and prosperity that Barbados today enjoys despite its small size and few natural resources. Thanks to Mr. Barrow, Barbadians benefit from free education from primary to tertiary level, free school meals, the National Insurance Scheme and countless other social safety nets. His foreign policy emphasized principles of regional and international comity but also a strong sense of sovereignty and independence encapsulated in his oft-quoted phrase “friends of all; satellites of none”.

Mr. Barrow enjoyed excellent relations and close friendships with his  regional contemporaries. This is not surprising. Mr. Barrow, along with regional greats like Norman and Michael Manley of Jamaica, Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago and Forbes Burnham of Guyana, just to name a few, belonged to a cadre of immediate post-colonial Caribbean leaders who were imbued with a sense of national pride, but also recognized that their countries’ economic survival required development within a regional framework.

Under Barrow, Barbados was one of the founding members of the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) in 1965 and its predecessor, the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) in 1973 which he described a la Neil Armstong as “a giant step for us all”. In Mr. Barrow’s speech “Towards a United Caribbean”, a statement made in the House of Assembly on June 19th 1973 on the establishment of CARICOM, Mr. Barrow celebrated the prospects of CARICOM and his vision for what its successful operation could do for Barbados and the region. In discussing the importance of CARICOM for Barbados, Mr. Barrow argued that “the Common Market should provide an opportunity for our industrial and agricultural sectors to leap forward”. He understood the potential of intra-regional trade to help reduce dependence on extra-regional imports and to promote the economic development of the region. It was during this era that several important instruments for the integration movement were either established or the groundwork for their establishment was laid, including the Common External Tariff and the Harmonisation of Fiscal Incentives Agreement.

However, for Mr. Barrow, the necessity of Caribbean integration went beyond the possible economic gains. In extolling the desirability of developing closer relationships among the countries of the anglophone Caribbean, he recognized the “need to protect our small communities from exploitation by undesirable influences”. Indeed, self-reliance was a strong theme underlying his vision for the region. His anti-colonial fervor is encapsulated in another oft-quoted saying of his “no loitering on colonial premises after closing time”. He strongly opposed the US invasion of Grenada while he was in opposition. He took a strong non-aligned stance during the Cold War, arguing that the Caribbean should be a ‘zone of peace’.  Mr. Barrow recognized that political sovereignty was of no moment if economic sovereignty were surrendered to foreign interests. Pushing for less dependence on developed countries, he criticised what he saw as a “mendicant mentality” in the region, arguing forcefully that begging from developed nations would not solve our problems.

While psychology was not one of Mr. Barrow’s professions, his speeches reveal his great thinking on the Caribbean psyche and its impact on the state of the region. Despairing over the slow process of regional integration, he spoke of the need to overcome our imbued sense of inadequacy if we are to progress as a region. He lamented that while Caribbean integration was a ‘fact of daily experience’, it was something that yet was not institutionalised. Indeed some of the reasons for the failings for Caribbean integration which he outlined in his speech ‘Caribbean Integration: The Reality and the Goal’ delivered to the CARICOM Heads of Governments Conference in Guyana in 1986 ring true today. To Barrow, one of the biggest shortcomings of the integration movement was the failure to communicate that the regional integration movement was more than trade. There was the need to better communicate the regional project to the peoples of the region, by emphasising the strong cultural ties which bind us, and educating them on “the meaning and purpose of all regional institutions”.

As a law student, I have sat in lectures and nodded emphatically when I listened to my lecturers speak passionately of the need for ‘Caribbeanising our legal systems’ and the role of the Caribbean Court of Justice in developing our Caribbean jurisprudence. However, back in 1986 Mr. Barrow had also spoken on the issue of Caribbeanising our legal systems in an address to the graduating class of the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School of the University of the West Indies St. Augustine in 1986.  Although confessing that he had initially supported the retention of the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Mr. Barrow acknowledged the tediousness of the appeal process to the JCPC and suggested that the region establish its own Court of Appeal. I am sure if Mr. Barrow were alive now he would be pleased that we now have the Caribbean Court of Justice which was established in 2001 and inaugurated in 2005. Unfortunately, while all CARICOM members have accepted the CCJ in its original jurisdiction, only three members (Barbados, Guyana and Belize) have made it their final court of appeal. Fortunately, the new Portia Simpson-led government in Jamaica has indicated that it will make the CCJ its final court of appeal.

It is impossible in one short blog post to do justice to Mr. Barrow’s legacy. While a proud Barbadian, Mr. Barrow also held a deep attachment to the region, an attachment which regrettably seems lacking in many of our regional leaders today. His speeches on Caribbean integration should, in my humble submission, be required reading for all Barbadian and Caribbean secondary school students doing social studies or history.  Though delivered more than twenty years ago, these teachings of self-reliance, regional self-confidence, unity and independence could be transposed to the current dispensation and still be relevant. Indeed, I believe they are needed now even more than ever.

Alicia Nicholls is a trade policy specialist and law student at the University of the West Indies. You can contact her here or follow her on Twitter at @LicyLaw


Job Opportunity: Trade Policy Adviser (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat)

Trade Policy Adviser (Aid for Trade)

Just came across this. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is seeking applications for a trade policy adviser (aid for trade).  If you’re interested, try to apply soon as the deadline is February 10th 2012.

Find more info at this link:

Good luck! 🙂

Embracing ‘Mother India’: Some thoughts on prospects for enhanced India and Trinidad & Tobago trade

Alicia Nicholls

I was quite delighted when I read in the news last week that the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, the Hon Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is currently on a ten day official mission to India at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister, the Hon Manmohan Singh. Though I am not Trinibagonian or Indian for that matter, the news piqued my interest, particularly because I am a firm believer in south-south trade and development.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about the prospects of enhancing Brazil-CARICOM trade. This week, the state visit by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar serves as a good backdrop against which to consider the prospects for enhanced Trinidad & Tobago-India trade.

India-Trinidad & Tobago connection

Trinidad & Tobago proudly calls itself the land of steelpan, calypso and chutney. Successive waves of European colonialism, indenture-ship and later waves of migration have made the twin island republic one of the most multicultural societies in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Trinidad & Tobago and India share more than just a deep passion for cricket. Though separated by many thousands of kilometers of land and sea, they are united by deep historic and cultural bonds rooted in the colonial experience. Indo-Trinibagonians are estimated to comprise 42% of that country’s population. Take a walk down the streets of Port of Spain on an average day and you can see restaurants and street vendors selling Indian-inspired local delicacies like roti and buss-up-shut. The uptempo rhythm of Chutney music shares the airwaves with soca and calypso and national holidays like Indian Arrival Day, Diwali and Eid-ul-Fitr are celebrated with reverence.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whose ancestral village is in Bihar in India, is the first woman and the second person of Indian descent to ascend to the reins of Government in Trinidad & Tobago. She is also the first woman of the wider Indian diaspora to become a Head of Government.  Accompanied on the mission by a high-level ministerial and business delegation which also includes cricketing legend, Brian Lara, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar is the chief guest at the 10th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) ‘Global India-Inclusive Growth’ in Jaipur and will be conferred the coveted Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.  The PBD is a prestigious annual event which unites distinguished persons of Indian origin across the world. The event is part of India’s wider efforts to court and harness the potential of its vast diaspora for socio-economic development in the homeland and Trinidad & Tobago has seized the opportunity with open arms.

Trinidad & Tobago-India Bilateral Trade

Trinidad & Tobago and India have long shared strong diplomatic ties, which have been cemented through formal and informal cultural exchanges over the years, including the establishment of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation in Port of Spain and the provision of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme scholarships to  Trinibagonian students each year.

Trinidad & Tobago and India already do a fair and growing amount of bilateral trade.  According to a recent study published by the Export-Import Bank of India, Trinidad & Tobago is the leading country for Indian imports from the region, accounting for 79% in 2009-10 and is the second largest importer of Indian goods from the region (after the Bahamas).  The report reveals that manufactures of metals account for nearly half of Trinidad & Tobago’s imports from India followed by petroleum products, primary & semi-finished iron & steel, pharmaceutical products and plastic & linoleum products. Trinidad & Tobago is also the largest destination for Indian investment in the region, receiving 67.5% of these flows. The main sectors  for Indian investment in Trinidad & Tobago include finance, iron and steel and metal and food processing. Several major Indian multinational firms like Arcelor Mittal and the New India Assurance Co already have a presence in that country. India and Trinidad & Tobago also have a double taxation treaty.

Embracing ‘Mother India’

The move by Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar to capitalize on India’s overtures towards engaging its diaspora for homeland development is a smart and strategic one. Despite its current economic woes, India remains one of the most robust and dynamic economies in the world.  Currently the world’s tenth largest economy, India is predicted by the economic think tank the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) to become the world’s  fifth largest economy by 2020.   Besides the gains which Trinidad & Tobago-India trade present for south-south trade, Indian expertise and investment could help in Trinidad & Tobago’s export diversification, while greater trade links with India could help reduce the vulnerability associated with an over-reliance on too few export markets.

Moreover, the move to embrace ‘Mother India’ is one which has global precedent. The Pacific island nation of Mauritius, which bears several similarities with Trinidad & Tobago including a large Indian diaspora, has strategically deepened its economic and cultural links with the sub-continent.  Mauritius is not only among the top direct investors in India, but the island is currently one of the preferred destinations for Indian outward FDI and serves a gateway for Indian investment in Africa.

Though Indian investment in foreign countries has slowed, closer economic ties between India and Trinidad & Tobago could make it easier for Indian businesses to invest in and do business in Trinidad & Tobago and vice-versa.  The Export-Import Bank of India study cited several areas of potential sectors of Indian investment in Trinidad & Tobago, chiefly energy, fish processing, film and ICTs.  Besides its low energy costs, well-skilled workforce and favourable investment climate and incentives package, the twin island republic’s geographic location  has also been touted by its Prime Minister as the perfect base for Indian investment in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region and for Ayurveda and wellness centres specialising in traditional Indian medicine and healing.

In terms of Trinidad & Tobago-India services trade, there is much potential as well given the skills and know-how which Indian professionals could continue to bring to Trinidad & Tobago, particularly in the areas of engineering, traditional Indian medicine and information technology. This expertise sharing will not be one-way. As Prime Minister Persad- Bissessar  acknowledged, Trinidad & Tobago can provide to India over a hundred years of technical expertise in oil and natural gas production. Indeed, Trinidad & Tobago is already sharing this expertise with other developing countries, including Ghana.

There is also much scope for expanded cultural industries trade and tourism given the strong cultural affinity many in the Indo-Trinibagonian community feel with ‘Mother India’ and the popularity of Bollywood music and films in Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad & Tobago has also signaled an intention to promote steelpan music in India. Despite the long distance and prohibitive costs of air travel, Indo-Trinidadians seeking to trace their Indian roots and to learn about their ancestral home could be a good target market for Indian tourism officials. In regards to Indian tourism in Trinidad & Tobago, the Trinidad & Tobago government has already waived visa restrictions on Indians visiting that country for tourism and business purposes within a 90 year period.

Indeed, the prospects for deepening Trinidad & Tobago and Indian trade are bright and exciting. According to the joint statement released by India and Trinidad & Tobago, bilateral agreements have already been signed on cooperation in the areas of air services, culture, technical education and traditional Indian medicine. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has also offered Trinidad & Tobago as a venue for hosting PBDs in the Caribbean. I think it would be useful for Trinidad & Tobago and India to encourage cooperation between their respective investment promotion agencies in order to better inform potential investors of investment opportunities in their respective countries and to facilitate the flow of investments between the two countries.  Just two more days are left in the official visit. I look forward to what other prospects they bring.

Alicia Nicholls is a trade policy specialist and law student at the University of the West Indies. You can contact her here or follow her on Twitter at @LicyLaw.

IDB Cultural Center Grants 2012: Call for Proposals

I just saw this in my Twitter feed and thought I’d share it. If you are interested in learning more, visit Good luck! 🙂

IDB Cultural Center Grants 2012: Call for Proposals

The Cultural Center of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has launched a call for proposals from arts and cultural institutions to fund small-scale cultural development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean through its grant program.

Applications must be submitted before January 31, 2012 to the IDB offices in the 26 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. For information on the call for proposals, visit “2012 IDB Cultural Development Grant Program”.

The Cultural Development Grant Program was created in 1994 to promote development of projects that promote local knowledge and traditions, revive cultural heritage and values, support artistic excellence, and contribute toward community development through economic and social activities in innovative and sustainable ways.

The projects are evaluated for their viability, educational scope, effective use of resources, ability to mobilize additional financial resources and the long-term impact on the community.

The IDB may approve from $3,000 to $7,000 per project. Local organizations are responsible for providing the remainder of the resources and supporting the project on a sustainable basis.

Is the Caribbean Basin Initiative still relevant to CARICOM countries?

Alicia Nicholls

For my latest article on CBI, click here.

In late December of last year, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its ninth report to the US Congress on the operation of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). As the CBI approaches almost thirty years in existence, it is worth pondering on whether the CBI, initially passed during the Cold War, is still relevant to CARICOM countries today.

The Caribbean Basin Initiative refers to the preferential trade concessions extended unilaterally by the United States under several key pieces of legislation to seventeen sovereign countries and dependent territories washed by the Caribbean Basin.  Instituted by the Reagan administration under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) in 1983, the CBI is said to represent a permanent commitment by the US to encourage the development of strong democratic governments and revitalized economies in the Caribbean Basin. The preferential treatment accorded under the CBERA includes duty-free treatment for most products, and in other cases, tariff rates which are much less than the most favoured nation (MFN) rate. Amendments to the CBERA and the passage of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) in 2000 and the Trade Act of 2002 have increased the number of items eligible for preferential treatment and granted NAFTA-parity to some items.  Haiti benefits from additional concessions, primarily for apparel, under the  Haiti Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act of 2006,  the HOPE II Act of 2008 and the Haiti Economic Lift Programme (HELP) Act of 2010.

Trade under the CBI

The US is the Caribbean’s main trading partner and trade under the auspices of the CBI accounts for much of the US’ imports from CBI countries.  The USTR report reveals that in 2010 total US imports from CBI countries was $10.1 billion, representing 0.5% share of total US imports from the world. CBI countries were the eighteenth largest market for the US exports to the world. Although there were originally 24 beneficiary countries, five Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic became parties to a free trade agreement with the US (CAFTA-DR), thus losing their beneficiary status. Panama has also recently signed an FTA with the US (Panama-US).

Some challenges

The CBI is a unilateral arrangement. The benefits are granted by the US to certain eligible goods from CBI beneficiary countries without reciprocal treatment being demanded for US goods. The CBI statutes outline several eligibility criteria which must be met before the president can grant such treatment to any beneficiary country. The CBERA was passed during the height of the Cold War and many of the eligibility criteria under the initial act and in subsequent acts have the objective of furthering US national security and foreign policy goals. In some cases, these eligibility criteria do work in the region’s interest. The recognition of internationally recognised workers’ rights and commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, to combat corruption and to  promote the rule of law are things which most CARICOM countries would readily demand of their governments. However, some criteria like the stipulation that no communist country can be a beneficiary country and the requirement of beneficiaries to provide  ‘equitable and reasonable access’  to their markets and basic commodity resources are much less innocuous and could arguably limit policy space and the right of the beneficiary countries to choose their own political and economic path to development without fear of repercussions.

Unilateral preferential arrangements like the CBI also bring with them a measure of uncertainty due to their unilateral nature.  CBI concessions can  be unilaterally limited, suspended or withdrawn in the case of non-compliance by a beneficiary country with the eligibility criteria or where imports from the country or a group of countries is deemed to cause ‘serious’ injury to domestic producers. This uncertainty is heightened by the increased international hostility towards non-reciprocal trading arrangements which has cast a shadow on the future of CBI. Like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the CBERA does not qualify under the WTO’s ‘Enabling Clause’ because it discriminates among developing countries and thus requires a waiver. Although the CBTPA extends the CBI through to September 2020 or until an FTA is signed with the US, the WTO waiver expires in 2014. This means that the  CBI preferences would no longer be legal under the WTO rules after 2014 unless another waiver is obtained.

Besides these inherent structural problems with the arrangement, not all countries in the region have benefited equally from the CBI. Its benefits have tended to be concentrated in a few countries.  Since the inclusion of petroleum products for preferential treatment, Trinidad & Tobago has benefited the most thanks to its resource base and manufacturing capacity.  With the exit of the CAFTA-DR countries, that country is now the leading CBI exporter to the US with petroleum products and methanol now making up the bulk (76%) of CBERA exports (from non-CAFTA-DR countries) to the US market in 2010 and almost all exports of such products come from Trinidad & Tobago.  Another ‘winner’ is Haiti. After Costa Rica joined the CAFTA-DR, Haiti became the second largest exporter to the US under the CBI. According to the USTR report, apparel not only accounts for over 90% of Haitian exports to the US but almost all of Haiti’s apparel imports enter under the CBTPA and the HOPE Acts.

Once a leading exporter of ethanol and apparel to the US under the CBI, Jamaica’s ethanol and apparel exports to the US have declined.  The Bahamas has in fact now superseded Jamaica as the third leading source of US imports under the CBI.  For some countries like Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados, the majority of exports to the US enter under normal trade relations (i.e. at the MFN rate) as opposed to under CBERA or the CBTPA. Not only has there been concentration in the gains from the CBI but the CBI has led to little economic or export diversification in CBI countries. Petroleum products and apparel account for most CBI exports to the US. Moreover, even before the exit of the CAFTA-DR countries, CBI countries’ share of the US import market has been on a downward trend from 3.1% in 1983 to 1984, to just 0.5% in 2010, according to the USITC.

Through their lobbying efforts and the aid of some empathetic members of the US Congress, CBI countries have succeeded in getting some important additional concessions which have helped make the CBI more beneficial. However, the CBI is a goods-only arrangement, meaning that only designated goods exports, as opposed to services exports, benefit from preferential access. Most CARICOM countries are now services-based economies and stand to benefit more from an arrangement which also provides market access for their service providers, particularly through Mode 4 (temporary movement of natural persons).  The CBI’s utilisation by regional exporters and its effectiveness have been limited by stringent rules of origin requirements and conditions, remaining non-tariff barriers to trade and declining margins of preference as the US continues to sign FTAs with other more competitive developing countries.  Some of these challenges were highlighted in a recent report. The argument can also be made that the CBI is based on an outdated school of thought which posits that free trade and increased exports automatically foment development.

Contemporary Relevance ?

Despite its many drawbacks and weaknesses, it is submitted that the CBI still remains relevant for CARICOM countries today even though some countries clearly benefit more than others and the developmental impact has been largely disappointing. It remains relevant because, for all its flaws, the CBI still provides a margin of preference for the region’s exports in a world where such non-reciprocal preferences are quickly shrinking away in favour of greater competition and a more ‘level’ playing field. The majority of the region’s exports which receive preferential treatment in the US market still enter under the CBI, as opposed to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) which has less favourable preferences than the CBI. For some countries like Barbados, no exports to the US entered under the GSP for the past few years and exports enter either at the MFN rate or under the CBI. Moreover, the CBI’s continued attractiveness is evidenced by the fact that according to the USTR Report, Suriname has indicated its interest in receiving beneficiary status and is currently in talks with the US to this effect.

Though the extension and reform of the CBI to address the challenges outlined would be the preferred option for the region, it is unlikely that WTO members would be willing to grant another waiver, especially given the opposition that the current waiver encountered. With the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) off the table for the foreseeable future and the US actively engaged in pursuing FTAs, it is inevitable that CARICOM will at some point have to pursue an FTA with the US.  A CARICOM-US FTA which has a trade and development focus could be beneficial to CARICOM countries if it provides market access for the region’s  service providers, allows for special and differential treatment (especially for lesser developed CARICOM States) and includes technical and capacity building assistance to help the region meet its commitments and develop its export capacity to better capitalise on the market access gained. However, given the asymmetry in bargaining power between the US and CARICOM and the US approach to FTAs, it is probably unlikely that CARICOM would be able to gain from the US all of the concessions which it had gained from the EU with the Dominican Republic under the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement.

For my latest article on CBI, click here.

Alicia Nicholls is a trade policy specialist and law student at the University of the West Indies. You can contact her by email and follow her on Twitter at @licylaw.