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In our own hands

“Every student of political science, every student of economics, knows that the race can only be saved through a solid industrial foundation……… Take away industry from a race…. and you have a group of slaves….. A race that is solely dependent upon another for its economic existence sooner or later dies.” — Hon. Marcus Garvey

How do we rid ourselves of the undiversified, mono-cultural economy that has so plagued us in the Caribbean over the past 500 years? How do we rectify our lack of industrial production; our inability to feed ourselves; and our foreign derived tastes for food, clothes and every other type of consumer fashion?

In teasing out an answer to these questions, let us begin with the Caribbean economist who has best analysed our common economic predicament – C.Y. Thomas of Guyana.

Professor Thomas examined the under-developed economies of the Caribbean and recognised that their intrinsic dependency was based on two sets of “divergences” — divergences between patterns of resource use and patterns of demand and divergences between existing patterns of demand and the basic needs of the masses of Caribbean people.

Simply put, what we produce locally is not used locally; what we use locally is imported from abroad; and what we crave and import from abroad is not what is required to meet the basic needs of the people for food, clothing, shelter and health care.

And, of course, these “divergences” are the result of colonial penetrations that separated the productive forces of our Caribbean societies from their roots in domestic markets.

Thus, our condition of “under-development” is constituted by the large variety of “dependent economic formations” that have emerged from the constraints of this separation and externalisation of productive and market forces in our Caribbean economies.

Not surprisingly, therefore, Professor Thomas proposes that the correct remedy for our condition would be to put in place two sets of “convergences” that would reverse these separations — the first “convergence” being a relinking of local production and local markets, and the second being a bringing of existing patterns of consumer demand more in line with the basic needs of the population.

And Professor Thomas proposes a fundamental economic strategy and programme to bring about these “convergences”: the establishment of a number of basic agro-industrial and manufacturing industries such as iron, steel, textiles, rubber, wood, cement, glass, paper, aluminum, plastic, leather, industrial chemicals, vegetables, dairy products and fruit.

Furthermore, the added significance of these basic industries and the basic goods that they generate is that they will facilitate the production of many other commodities — including consumer commodities — for both local consumption and for export to foreign markets.

So, as Marcus Garvey suggested almost 100 years ago, we have to industrialise — or perish!

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