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