Letter: Need for CARICOM intervention in Ross University’s proposed move to Barbados

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Dear Sir:

I write as a CARICOM nationalist in order to stir up support for the very urgent need for the heads of government to meet on this matter of Ross University’s proposed move out of Dominica to Barbados.

Back some years ago, two events of similar great consequences for regional unity tested the mettle of community members and on each occasion our leaders fell short. The first was the overthrow of the Maurice Bishop administration in Grenada and the second was an uprising on Union Island in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Today, it is the open door acceptance by Barbados of Ross University School of Medicine with little or no solidarity with fellow CARICOM state, Dominica, and at a significant negative impact upon its battered economy. It was said to be ‘a business decision’. Business decisions have consequences and this one will impact 30 percent of the Dominican economy immediately. It is akin to Sandals pulling out of Barbados overnight with St Lucia accepting it the next day.

The underlying problem is capital imperialism using vulnerable small island states as a deck of cards or draughts board to push economic agendas against national interests. Clearly, the sudden decision of Ross, a pawn unit on the board of a large American outfit, is the culmination of an attempt at undermining the sovereignty of the state of Dominica by demands its government could not give in to. Its virtual abandonment of not just a working 40-year relationship but billion dollar investments in plant and goodwill is obviously not related to the vagaries of the island’s location in hurricane alley, for so is Barbados.

The lower cost of living for students and more favourable administration costs in Dominica are to be compared with the very high cost of living in Barbados, an unfavourable exchange rate, and absence of a campus custom built for this type of operation. I do not buy the reasons given by Ross, whose CEO I predict will be axed over this poor ‘business decision’ as she describes it.

My primary nationalist concern is with the politics of this. There is no way that Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley and Eric Williams would have tolerated this, for it eats at the very foundation of everything the regional community stands for.

Allowing one member state to advance must never be at the expense of another as is the case here where the new kid on the block Mia Mottley has fallen hook line and sinker to neo-colonialist power moves of a large American player on the CARICOM chess board. Yes her country’s embattled economy can do with this move and its 4,000 nationals bringing the Yankee dollar on a sustained basis. But at what cost? The obvious cost is the destruction of CARICOM and certainly the good relationship that has existed between the tight OECS economic bloc within CARICOM and Barbados.

CARICOM has to take a political stand on this and stop it in the bud, for the precedent, if it is allowed, will not end there as American and other companies with economic might will be able to force demands on fledgling economies against national interests, a matter that is intolerable and undermines everything the regional integration movement has stood for.

Dr Roosevelt Skerrit must not be the head of government to call the emergency on this one for he is understandably holding out hope of a reversal of this inexplicable ‘business decision’ and would not wish to compromise ongoing discussions in that regard. But clearly CARICOM must take a stand on this, for it undermines sovereignty and, if it does not, then it will open the door for Exxon to move from Guyana to Grenada or Trinidad, BP to move from Trinidad and Tobago to Guyana, and Sandals to move from Antigua to Tobago to give obvious examples.

Action on this is required now to prevent this consummation of a monster in our region, for if it is allowed then CARICOM would have outlived its purpose.

Herbert Volney
A former Supreme Court Justice, Parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister of Trinidad and Tobago; of St Lucia and Dominica parents born in Montserrat

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8 COMMENTS

  1. What a nonsensical point of view. The fact that regional integration is a pipe dream that would not benefit anyone is demonstrated by this instance of smart thinking on the part of Barbados. Elected politicians owe it to THEIR CONSTITUENTS (and nobody else) to secure ever higher standards of living and opportunities. The idea that Barbados’ politicians should subvert the interests of their electorate in order to pursue this silly pipe-dream is frankly treasonous. It makes me so happy as a Bahamian that our government continues to signal its absolute lack of interest in regional integration.

  2. These older intellectuals seem to be stuck in the past. Caricom has never realized its purpose and has frankly been a failure to the Caribbean people. Companies always look for best possible location for thier growth, within Caricom is no exception. It is up to the leaders to ensure the country puts itself in best possible scenario to keep and attract new businesses. This is just a failure on part of leadership of Dominica to ensure they dont loose 30% of GDP. Call a spade a spade. The Dominica n voters just need to do the wise thing. Get rid of a government who after 18 years did not put country in right place for future growth and development. As a matter of fact Caricom should stop thinking it is a charity case like R. Skerrit has done.

  3. Dominicans at home and in the diaspora should start a pitition to stop the ROSS move to Barbados. I would be wholely in favour of this. This move is going to cripple Dominica small economy and cause misery in all sectors and households triggering an increase in poverty and and braindrain. Dominican need to some how drum up the pressure to have caricom/ROSS to consider overturning this decision at the earliest opportunity to avoid further tension between Caribbean states. We are too small a region to allow distrust to permeate our political and economic infrastructures which could result in irreversible damage to our entire regional success.

  4. This is so poorly reasoned that it’s difficult to believe that the argument comes from a former judge. I understand the scale of the impact that the decision has on the economy and welfare of Dominica and its emotional impact. But to argue that CARICOM should somehow restrain the movement of business entities within (or beyond?) the region is simply absurd. This situation signals the need for a more enlightened approach to the management of the peoples business through the region. To fail to see this is to seriously betray the trust that people have in their institutions. At least, Mia Mottley seems to understand this.

  5. But, Herbert, have you not heard from “Dr.” Skerrit that Ross only contributed 6.2% of Dominica’s GDP? So you see, he and his good friend Mia have no qualms about this loss of Ross. All the Dominicans that relied on Ross will simply leave the country for better goverened shores as you, me, and even Skerrit has done!

  6. First of all Mia Mottley is not a newbie. Secondly, Would the reaction have been the same if Ross went to another Caribbean island that it was considering?

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