OECS: Insanity or genius?

According to the website “Brainy Quote” Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

He is also quoted as saying that “any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex … It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

These two quotes could easily have been intended as criticism of the actions of West Indian politicians over the years. This has become more evident lately.

Like politicians all over the world, ours seem to have forgotten the lessons of history, which have them doing basically the same thing over and over again. Whether they expect different results, or just don’t care, we really don’t know.

The focus of our commentary here is the headlong rush to regional integration by way of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The history of West Indian integration is littered with the corpses of failed or aborted attempts to have some sort of central control of our diverse islands but the politicians keep coming back to the same solutions.

In the beginning, there was the West Indies Federation, which lasted from 1958 to 1962 when Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, the two largest of the original islands, decided they wanted no part of it. At that time the fear was that the bigger, more prosperous islands would be overwhelmed by “small islanders” looking for work.

Quite understandably the “big islands” want to trade with us but don’t want to share our economic woes.

Since then, all the islands have been granted independence. Things have changed somewhat in that many of the “big islanders” are now flocking to our shores to find employment. This is because the economies of the smaller islands have made significant advancements due to the tourist industry.

We would have thought that the politicians would have taken the hint that people are capable of taking care of themselves when stripped of bureaucratic nannies. Not so. The attempts at creating more bureaucratic levels of authority within the original members of the West Indies Federation have been bewildering.

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) was originally the Caribbean Community and Common Market when it was established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973. Before that there was the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) and, of course, the original WI Federation.

This “big island” group has since been expanded to include non-English speaking Caribbean territories as well as the original WI Federation participants.

Not to be outdone, the “small islands” created the OECS in 1981. The Treaty of Basseterre was the agreement for that one. It is the successor to the Leeward Islands’ political organisation known as the West Indies Associated States (WISA).

When these groups are added to our own elected island governments it adds up to a startling number of layers of bureaucracy. No wonder our businessmen complain about being choked with paper work and red tape.

We can see the sense in cooperating with each other on certain matters to benefit from the efficiencies of scale, but it does not require a completely new layer of government to achieve this.

This brings into consideration Einstein’s second quote mentioned at the beginning of this editorial: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

It took our feisty governor general to set the OECS straight over the recent hijacking of our Parliament building for their regional meeting. Here, we had the spectacle of the OECS taking over our legislative building, complete with their own wooden mace and ready-made Speaker of the House. The GG quite rightly objected when our own elected Members of Parliament did nothing.

What we need to get across to our politicians is that we need less government, not more. We need less bureaucracy, not more. The cost in frustration and money is too great to be tolerated.

Government’s role should be to facilitate the efforts of the population in finding their own solutions. That is not accomplished by establishing taxpayer-funded organisations one on top of the other.

If Einstein was correct about the definition of insanity then our West Indian politicians must be a bunch of raving lunatics.

Our suggestion is to slow down the integration process and show that we have the genius and courage to get the essentials working right first.