Our Nutmeg Pool, being the largest structure in our country, its size seems with time, to have out-lived its usefulness as Grenada slowly transitioned out of a once 100% agrarian economy to a more lucrative blend of service-base and tourism model. The decline in Nutmeg and Mace prodiction/processing over the years was met with an underutilizarion of the building space where it now uses approximately one fifth (if that) of the square footage necessary to accommodate peek Nutmeg production.
In its hay days, the pool was once filled to capacity, with nutmeg being stored on its parking lot adjacent to its main entrance due to storage space limitations.The Pool had fallen victim to the post colonial period that saw the salvaging of estates all over Grenada. With a declining agricultural labor force and the expansion of competitors in foreign markets, this meant the eventual cessation of capital expenditures and renovation initatives. Our Gouyave Nutmeg Pool remains standing, more so as a symbolic structure of the last bastion of a colonial era, soon to be forgotten, as it awaits that eventual faith of decay.
Although the Pool continues to be the largest private sector employer in our parish dating back to over seventy five years, it is one which had received some scrutiny over the years for its labor practices and hazardous working conditions. But the more pressing economic concern is the relationship between the Grenada Cooperated Nutmeg Association (G.C.N.A.); our Ministry of Health (add, Safety) and the Nutmeg Producers. It is one, which in my opinion, had required a revisitation in light of the controling and parting interest that had existed at the time of its initial implementation and probably remained in place to this day.
But the Pool is not only part of an economic institution. Its iconic structure, centrally located in the epicenter of our town, adds definition to the symbiotic business relationship that exists in our structurally niched economy and commands recognition.
In our Grenada contemporary political history, the Pool workers had played a pivotal role in Sir. Eric Mathew Gairy's advent into politics. As a union leader and later, head of government, he had provided them and other estate workers with what they saw as "their economic emancipation", one which was desperately needed and may have catapulted Uncle to reverence among the "laborer class" that eventually wanted to "paint the sky red" if they were denied his leadership.
This may be unnerving to a lot of readers here, depending on which side of the economic spectrum they fell at the time. But since the Julien Fe`don's Revolution of 1795, literally no one saw it fitting to take up the mantel of liberation for our Grenadian people and challenge the British establishment until Uncle arrived in 1949. That Nutmeg Pool parking lot was one of Gairy's spring board to political notoriety or as some would say.....infamy.
But it was there, with the pool as a silhouette that Uncle had delivered his messages to the workers. Just imagine, as recently as 1955, nutmeg pool workers were earning $1.00 for a day's work. To put it in perspective, that was $5.00 for a whole week's work; $20.00 a month; $240.00 a year. No! vacation; No! Sick days and in some cases, parents had to seek their childrens help to finish their tasks in order for them to be paid.
"Ah like writing it dat way, it makes for easier digestion".
Sir. Eric Mathew Gairy fought and was able to secure a 10 cents or 10% increase for all. Within two years Uncle increased their wages to $1.20 later to $1.50 followed by $1.75. And all this was going on while the Bishops, Coards, Steeles and Bratwaits were sippingTea..."Tay" in the French Quarters with Allister Huges.
They never set foot on that Netmeg Pool Parking Lot.
Monsieur Louison from the French Quarters
Whatever we produce must be sold in a global economy where we have no power to set the price paid for our labor. Today I bought one pound of coffee bean from Kenya, Africa (Kenya AA). It cost me $16.00 US dollars. The coffee planter in Kenya got less than $1.00 US dollar for that pound of coffee. Yes, it costs money to do business and move raw materials and bring it to market and customers– we know that. But this kind of gap in producers and consumers is way too wide.
What can we do to lessen the gap? That to me is where all of us should be putting all our energy and creative thoughts into resolving. We can also come up with more creative ways to harvest nutmegs. Like putting nets under trees to catch the falling nutmegs, and just pulling the net into a harvesting tractor which can cut down on the labor cost and the need to have many workers walking the floors of nutmeg trees picking up one nutmeg at a time. We get tied up in all this arguments over estate owners, workers, and our leader of choice and ignore the real reason why the resources we have are not profitable and lead to nation building. It has been that way from the first day the British wanted the island to hand it over to their private investors to produce raw products to export and be taxed by the mother country.
We produce for almost nothing towards our country, the investors – British Land owners, ship to their mother country, it is taxed, that tax money is used to buy gold which is then stored in the Bank of London, and then more paper money is printed against that stored gold, and the British economy expands. Meanwhile, if they can keep the locals where the raw materials are extracted fighting each other, that’s a good thing for them. Gairy, the workers, and the planter class, should have gotten together and demanded more money for our raw materials and then have a fair distribution of the pay check. Instead, Politicians like Gairy saw an opportunity to elevate themselves by exploiting the incapacity of the working masses to clearly understand where the source of their evils lies. It was not too hard to get workers to hate. But that hate never left the island. The British were not afraid of Gairy because he could successfully demand better prices for the raw materials the workers produced. They feared the disruption he could cause in their supply of raw materials. His pseudo nationalism was just a nuisance to business for them. And as a developing nation we suffered as we burn down our own estates and eliminated the only jobs poor workers knew all their lives how to do. IMO, that was not a sensible approach. In the end we gained nothing! More useless revolutions that would soon consume us just like the others before.
St. Paul, Sah!
Taking a retrospective view of the circumstances that may had propelled Sir. Gairy into the role of a nationalist leader, begs to ask the poignant question which I implied in my initial piece. Why him and no other? given the exploitative economic conditions of the quasi Slaving of our people that existed at the time. I am of the opinion that the simplistic view of Gairy that was adopted among his opponents in Grenada was an accomodation of appeasement by the few in the " Petit Bourgeois Class" who had chosen the role of least resistance to placate the established order. It was a clear example of "tribal dissonance" disguised as retaining one's national identity that played into the collapse of the Federation. So today we are discussing the fallout, which has become our inability to shape our individual national economic identity in the absence of a more unified "United States of the Caribbean"; a lost opportunity.
Reading your piece, it became more clear that the failed efforts of our Caribbean Federation in 1962 was indeed the most devastating decision to impact our people and remained so to this day. In the interest of retaining our individual national identity, It left us exposing all our political, social and ecomomic vulnerabilities in a controlled market that demanded the efforts of joint partnership in order to be competitive.
But to the central issue of your economic philosophy expressed in your rebuttal, where, said you, (Paraphrasing here with improvisations)..... we should focus on commanding better prices for our products from the world's controlling powers that be; an effort you believe to be an impediment to our transitioning forward, there is a fundamental truism that needs to be addressed here.
At the risk of being declared personae non gratae, let us be honest with ourselves for a moment and recognize the fact that our Grenada's economic position in the world is that of a microscopic consumption economy. We are restricted by four of the major qualifiers that determine a country's ability to control the prices of their products. They are Necessity, Quantity, Quality and Market. If one was to apply these principles against any of our products, it would become clear that we would not be sitting at "the table of discussions as holders of a strong hand". Any politician running who adopts this as part of their manifesto would undoubtly receive thunderous applauses (ah la Comrade Bishop and Coard) from the audiance but in reality it is only the gravitas we may have.
Credit must be given to our Prime Minister and Doctor, The Right Honorable Keith Mitchell for recognizing this very early in his political career. But at the end of the day, we must first position ourselves to answer the following questions:
"Are there any special characteristics of our products that we can use to demand our inclusion into the decision making circle?
What can we use as leverage in order to lay claim to that seat at the pricing table?
Do we have an economic survivability index strong enough to support the exclusion of our products from the market?
I am sure you are beginning to see the picture much clearer now! It is the harsh reality we must face in order to perform in a global market and we do not have to look too far for an example of this. The Trinidad experience with oil is a prime one and they can only meet two of the qualifiers, Necessity and Market and they are fifteen times larger than we are. Therefore investing political capital on this would be an exercise in futility. Again! nice idea, sounds good without a doubt but restricted by smallness. Singularly, we cannot meet any of these requirements but a West Indian/Caribbean Federation with over one million square miles could have changed all of this.
Now, should we therefore conclude that the retaining of national identity among small countries creates a chasm of impediment to economic growth in a global economy thus designating them only as consumption economies? Maybe this was the conclusion Barbados came to realize over a half century ago when we were on par with them but now, they have left us in their dust!
Monsieur Louison from the French Quarters
Thank you for this thoughtful refutation – and I sincerely mean it. On the question as to why Sir. Gairy this can take a book. From the cradle to the graveyard Uncle was always driven by selfish desires and revenge for the indignities his class suffered at the hands of Grenada’s Petit Bourgeois class. This hardly fits into a decent definition of a true nationalist IMHO. The Petite Bourgeois Class of John Batiste Du Grand Marquis (St Andrew) was no saints either. So opportunity was ripe for a man who had learned the simple ways in Aruba to of exploiting the mistreatment of workers. The right place; the right time, sums it up as to the question of why Uncle. He was not that terribly hard to understand. Not to mention that his believers were terribly lacking in the whole understanding of the national consequences of his reckless political escapades. Their immediate concerns like all suffering people in any nation were self-gratification. This is something all Revolutionaries fall victim to when they try to rid themselves of Imperial and Colonialist powers. Gairy or PRG. The end results are the same. They will eventually be consumed by the masses whose personal needs take priority over national development.
There is a simple reason why WestIndian Federation failed: Our Islands “Leaders” back them were a class whose only status was the opportunity to an education in Great Britain that made them the big fish in a small pond that they were not willing to give up just yet as we struggle to ID ourselves. WestIndian federation would have made each individual leader less important in the eyes of the collective. As Jean-Baptiste Victor Hugues said to Fedon and his comrades: you cannot all be leaders of the Revo. It was the main reason for Fedon’s failure to liberate the Parish of John Baptiste De La Basse Terre (St George) from the British rule which could have liberated the entire island. Our ‘Father of Federation’ Monsieur Theophilus Albert Maricheau (Marucheau) – shamefully Anglicized (Marryshow), in the twilight days of his life admitted this to be the cause of Federation failure. This was no ordinary Grenadian man either. With parents P.I. Maricheau (Marucheau) and Euginia de Souze (DeSuze), he could not have been more a Gouyaveman. Both the Marucheau and the DeSuze Gouyave family paid big for their part in seeking independence from British rule. If there was ever a question as to why T.A. Marucheau, this Gouyave linage can easily answer that. As a real Gouyaveman, it was in his blood to resist servitude of any kind. In short what I am saying is: the focus should be a true Leadership. T. A. Marucheau was a true leader. He failed because too many of the other Federation leaders wanted to keep their newly minted status in their small pond.
Now heading into your question of our impossibility to demand a seat at the economic tables of our new masters to demand a fairer price for our labor and raw resources. I believe our old and continued way of going about this is wrong. Today what would have been the Federation of islands consume nearly all their products that can be produced in the federated Islands. Even if Trinidad and Tobago and “Little England” is left out of the party, we can make tremendous improvements on the road to self-reliance on locally produced products we consume. THIS MUST BE DONE BEFORE we start the begging process of getting a seat at the end of the table on the global market. We cannot go begging when we cannot get our own local act together. No need for big changes. We already have the EC$; let us use it better. Let us take control of it. Let us encourage local consumption and development with the resources we know for the last 400 years. If Mark Green could have revitalized a dead Cocoa market like you said our Nutmeg is today, then we can do it ourselves. And by local I mean within the economies of the small islands and not just Grenada. We need to find a way to create local business and manufacturing that is based on the Capitalist system like China did, and keep the greed on the low. Any other system where the selfish geed of human nature is suppressed by the state will result in poor economic conditions. We know that from the last 100 years of failures of these systems. And you don’t have to give up your unique Island national identity to accomplish this. The French are not Germans today because of the European Union. Grenadians will not be Bajans in a federation of EC islands! Thank God for that! But we can work together for common causes that will benefit the union more that we have today as loose economies consuming products from nations who barley know we exists except when it comes to immigration issues on their front doors. Japan has NO natural resources. It is small, and has fantastic human resources it put to work which get it a seat on the table with the other Big Six. No I know you are probably thinking this man is crazy comparing Japan to Caribbean islands. Once we get our local economy together, we as a federation can use that combined strength in production and produce products locally that can demand a better price on the global market. Even sunshine and sand could be better marketed. The current condition of our tourism market is a national disgrace. And the few hotels and areas that are up to standards are out of reach financially for an ordinary foreign visitor or visiting JCB.