Neil C.A. Paul
As I move into another phase of my life, I am frequently asked to consider the road travelled during my sojourn and perhaps to offer my own glimpses into the future. Well, I am no soothsayer, and any attempt to see into the future is probably vainglorious, arrogant even. I do however, humbly offer some reflections of my journey for what they are worth. My intention is not to offend but rather to link into the conversation and perhaps create some further food for thought.
THE ROLE OF A UNIVERSITY AND ITS ACADEMICS
The first reflection concerns the role of the university and its academics in the development of the Caribbean civilization. I have pondered this question for some time now, and while it is commendable to produce scholarly work, published in academic journals, I think this falls short of real impact. Scholarly articles and peer reviewed journal articles are mostly cited by other scholars and academics and hardly seem to contribute to development of our civilization. Perhaps they have in some cases, but I contend that they are far from enough. Two issues should be considered here. Firstly, one of the metrics used for promotion of academics is publication in peer reviewed journals and is therefore, important in the career of the academic. Secondly, these articles remain the purview of other academics and hardly feature in areas of national development, as they should, unless specifically commissioned for that purpose.
The question is what can be done to improve the contribution and value of the important scholarly work of our academics, towards the development of our civilization. I think that one of the metrics for promotion should be the extension and communication of the results, research findings and recommendations to the relevant stakeholders through various means, such as seminars, or webinars. If one believes that the research done is important and provides recommended solutions and suggestions which will make a positive impact, then these solutions should be shared with the stakeholders so that they can contribute to the development of our civilization.
THE NEED FOR GREATER ACADEMIC MENTORING
The other concern of note is the mentoring of younger academics and students in the research process. It appears that there is a competition among academics to publish and as such there is not the sharing and mentorship evident in other similar Universities. This criticism is based on fact that there are very few multiple author peer reviewed publications from Cave Hill. Where they do exist, it is mostly co-authorship and single authorship rather than multiple authorships where senior academics are in fact guiding their younger peers through the treacherous waters of academic publishing.
Many academics, depending on the field of expertise, are in a sense forced to research areas which are not relevant to the development of our civilization, primarily because the Journals and other publications set that agenda. Where Caribbean journals exist they are treated in the University as inferior (second and even third tier) to the more established publications so that our academics instead use other preferred outlets. We must develop the cultural confidence to ensure that we treat our own indigenous publications with respect.
The concept of mindfulness is also a necessary ingredient in any organization involving people. It is important to treat people as you would treat your family, with love. Here I am speaking about the universal love of brotherhood and sisterhood. People give much of themselves in a caring environment. The arrogance of treating students like they don’t matter has no place in a university. More so, the treatment meted out to staff who are considered by some to be not their equals, is also reprehensible. This is particularly true among some academics and the way they treat non-academic and administrative staff. People remember you for how you treated them and how you made them feel, rather than for your academic qualifications and accolades.
In my time, I have heard people remark that you don’t have to like someone or be friends to work with them or other similar comments. While this may indeed be true in some measure, and in some societies, people work much better when they like their peers. The problem with the view that you don’t need to like or be liked to work well, is that it is rooted in a culture of individualism without the empathy of the collective village community ethos. As such it does not quite fit into the paradigm of the evolving Caribbean civilization which is based on the village and its antecedents of the ways in which we live. This is exactly why we have lost our way and adopted these platitudes of the North American and to an extent the contemporary European civilizations with their ills of racism, individual privilege and the destructive capitalist ethic, which by the way is slowly imploding.
Another important reflection pertains to Food Security in the Caribbean. The data suggest that CARICOM countries import in excess of US$5 billion in food annually. There was a time when governments invested in the agricultural sector, and as such we produced much of what we ate. As I argued in an SRC Trading Thoughts on this matter, trade liberalization and the end of trade preferences for commodities such as bananas, laid waste to the agricultural sector as we know it.It seems to me that the Caribbean needs to make a decision about the agricultural sector. Do we want to produce what we eat or do we want to be exporting agricultural products? It may well seem that we can indeed do both, however, we must first develop the sector before getting into export. It seems pointless to be involved in exporting to earn foreign exchange, and then turn around and import food with said foreign exchange. We must also stop talking about developing the agriculture sector and do the work of implementing the solutions to food security, which we know only too well. I am aware of several food security programmes which Caribbean people discussed but never fully implemented. These include the Caribbean Food plan of the 1970s, the CARICOM Small Ruminants Project, the CARICOM Roots and Tubers Plan, the Jagdeo initiative, and the Caribbean Agricultural Plan (CAP) to name a few. With the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Inter-American Institute on Cooperation for Agriculture (IICA), Ministries of Agriculture and Caribbean agricultural experts and various other actors, Caribbean countries developed Regional and National Food and Nutrition security policies and Action Plans. All with good intentions but many not implemented.
THE CARIBBEAN’S ROLE IN THE WTO
It appears that Caribbean countries have bought into a tourism vision which is beset with problems of sustainability and is patterned on the model of the plantation (see Levitt, Beckford etc). The current COVID pandemic has laid bare the futility of the current tourism industry model and the ill-advised direction of most Caribbean Governments to follow the paradigm of food importation as advised and recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and trade liberalization championed by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The evidence indicates clearly that we are losers in this game, and I daresay that we were expected to fail because clearly the rules were stacked against us from inception. Two examples of that failure reside in the now infamous decisions in the EC-Bananas cases and the lack of any resolution for Antigua & Barbuda despite the Antigua Gambling case being decided in their favour. By the way, it is noteworthy that the decision to force compliance in the banana case was implemented in spite of the fact that Caribbean banana industry did not even produce 1% of world trade in bananas. The result was the decimation of the economies of those Caribbean countries who produced bananas. Despite this failure of the banana industry, we still remain members of this august body – the WTO. The Caribbean never sets the agenda in these fora. We are forever trying to adapt to the agenda of the more developed countries and jumping through hoops as the goal posts are shifted continuously. For example, the WTO refuses to accept the nomenclature of SIDS, long accepted by the United Nations.
DEVELOPING OUR CULTURAL/CREATIVE INDUSTRIES
But all my musings are not negative. It is indeed noteworthy that the Cave Hill Campus has launched the Faculty of Culture, Creative and Performing Arts. In my estimation, this is a positive step and will probably enhance the natural linkages among trade, tourism, agriculture and the creative sectors. And why these linkages? I would daresay that it is a natural consequence of our cultural development in the Caribbean. Why the creative sector? Allow me to digress a little. The Disney Project or as it is popularly known, Disneyland in the USA, now a global industry, had its genesis over four decades ago when it opened in 1971. At that time, Walt Disney is reported to have said at the launch of the project, that “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there was imagination left in the world.” Today, Disneyland parks can be found in countries other than the United States – in Hong Kong, Japan, France and China. It is interesting to note that this whole enterprise began with the folk culture of the USA, bringing to the fore Mickey and Minnie Mouse and a host of other figures of the US folklore. The project has expanded over time and now includes other aspects such as science and technology, the movie world, and countless attractions which may not even have been conceived at its genesis.
So why am I highlighting Disneyland? Well, according to Amy Watson (2019) writing for Statista, the global revenue of the Walt Disney company for 2018, amounts to 59.43 Billion US dollars up from 55.14 Billion in 2017. That is a lot of money, and of course the hotels and other ancillary enterprises benefit tremendously as a result of the presence of Disney Land. Clearly, as has been demonstrated, the creative industry is certainly or should be one of the pillars of development in the Caribbean, with its rich cultural history and folklore.
Each Caribbean country possesses a rich trove of folk stories, festivals, characters, culinary/gastronomic delights and mythology as well as an equally impressive cadre of writers, poets, dancers, actors, dramatists, story tellers and other creatives which is the foundation for developing a somewhat unique theme park project for the Caribbean. But this cannot be a state enterprise. It must be driven by the private sector with appropriate incentives and encouragement to invest and make this a reality.
I am reminded of the many stories depicting the wisdom of Anansi the Spider and his guile which was used to his benefit and, of course, to pass on many life lessons from our ancestors. This, and the many traditional stories could form the basis for the development of different themes parks in the “Caribbean Anansiland project”. Consider for a moment, the many creative persons in the Caribbean who can be employed and make a good living if we developed a Caribbean cultural enterprise. The suggestion is not by any means to copy Disney Land, but certainly we can develop the idea in our own unique way. For instance, the many great plays such as Dereck Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain, the works of Naipaul’s House of Mr. Biswas and the many others, will form the basis for abridged versions to expose our populations and tourists to the cultural antecedents of the Caribbean. Can you imagine a circumstance where the creatives among us will be in constant demand and will make a living worthy of their skills? The poets, storytellers, painters, wirebenders, drummers, dancers and stilt walkers (moko jumbie) and other creatives will have an opportunity to demonstrate their craft throughout the year instead of periodically at festival times. Ramesh Chaitoo (2013), pointed out that …”Despite the Caribbean’s great potential in the entertainment sector, important domestic challenges – emanating from both public and private sectors – have long impeded the successful growth of creative industries”. We therefore have to remove the impediments to allow the sector to grow and take its rightful place in the further development of the Caribbean Civilization. Now, it should be obvious, that I have narrowed the use of the term Creative Industry to the performing arts, writers, dancers, musicians, painters and the traditions of the Caribbean. The broader definition is more encompassing and includes “an array of commercial and economic activity and their derivatives, including advertising, architecture, craft, design as well as the performing arts”.
REFORMING OUR TOURISM INDUSTRY
It is also interesting to note that we spend much of our resources and effort in the tourism industry and have not quite made the linkages to ensure that Caribbean people benefit. In this regard, it has been suggested that the tourism Industry in the Caribbean was developed for tourists, and often the local people don’t feel that they are part of that industry. Moreover, it appears that there is little opportunity for the creatives among us to be employed. Well, that is not absolutely correct as in the broadest sense of the creative industry, there is some engagement at least some are being hired but it seems limited to the festivals.
Festival tourism has been promoted to be one of the solutions to increasing local participation by including Caribbean creatives. This is a useful strategy, however, it is still limited and seasonal. We must develop an inclusive year-round creative industry which employs the skills of our creatives on a sustained basis.
INFLUENCING THE GLOBAL AGENDA
These are a few of the many thoughts which I have pondered. I have others, but I am not able to articulate in this short article. We must try to influence or set the agenda of the many organizations of which we are members. I remember well that former Barbados Prime Minister, the late Owen S Arthur, in our many conversations would lament the fact that we, as small states have no effective voice in the many organizations which affect the economies and livelihoods of our people. The Caribbean civilization has produced many luminaries and Nobel laureates and it is time that we shake off our fears of retribution of the advanced economies and challenge the status quo, particularly where we are impacted.
Perhaps the solution to the problematique of the development of the Caribbean civilization is rooted in Caribbean Unity and strategic liaisons with other regions sharing similar challenges such as the pacific. That, my friends, is the subject of another discourse.
Neil C.A. Paul is the outgoing Director of the SRC who retires July 31.
 Nat Berman (2019), Money Inc, How much is Disney Worth?
 The Walt Disney Company (2012), The Origins of Disney Parks Expansion: The Florida Project Press Conference,
 Ramesh Chaitoo (2013), The Entertainment Sector in CARICOM : Key Challenges and Proposals for Action, Inter-American Development Bank,
 Hendrickson, Michael et al(2012), Creative industries in the Caribbean: a new road for diversification and export growth, ECLAC Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean, Port of Spain, July 2012