Inniss upset over region’s handling of rum issue and its standard of leadership on a whole
An outspoken senior Government minister has heaped harsh criticisms on the regional grouping – CARICOM – accusing this region’s prime ministers of poor leadership and of being unaware of the true realities facing Caribbean citizens because they’re locked up in “lofty offices”.
Donville Inniss levelled the criticisms in an interview with Barbados TODAY ahead tomorrow’s formal opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government summit in Antigua and Barbuda at which Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will be in attendence.
Inniss, the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, is angry that the bloc is yet to give its support to Barbados, which stands to lose in the region of $60 million annually and hundreds of jobs as a result of a rum controversy with the United States.
“The prime ministers and other politicians will get together and talk but I say it is time that they face a bit of reality. It’s time that prime ministers in the region really get out of their lofty offices, get out on the streets and understand the importance of solidarity on key matters.
“Stop the dressing up in expensive suits and [eating] all the fancy foods and face reality. We faced the banana issue [before] and today we’re facing the rum issue,” he said.
At issue is around US$500 million in subsidies being given to spirit producers in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, which the minister says creates an uneven playing field. Inniss, who has been lobbying for support, including within CARICOM, to avoid Barbados having to go the route of the World Trade Organisation, said regional states have not been supportive.
He said the attitude within CARICOM was both “sickening” and “embarrassing”.
“I remember very well when St Lucia and the OECS had the bananas issue, which is not dissimilar to this one, where a US entity – Chiquita – was out there using their power and might fighting to get great support and subsidies from the US Government and literally squeeze banana producing, small developing states out of the market.
“Barbados didn’t produce bananas but we supported the cause because we saw the bigger issue,” he pointed out.
“Today, it is Barbados’ turn in terms of rum and I am so embarrassed as a minister, as a politician, and as a citizen of this region to look behind me and find that there’s no one from the CARICOM region backing us.“I, as a politician in this region, am totally embarrassed about the lack of interest on the part of region. I am not at all happy with what passes as prime ministers in this region and leaders at all.
“The region deserves far better than what we are currently getting. Next year, it may be some other issue but there’s a level of insularity that permeates the entire Caricom region and I think the citizens of the region deserve far better than they’re currently getting,” Inniss added.