The consequence is, of course, that the new manufacturing industry creates very little new employment. The figures produced for advertising purposes by the Industrial Development Corporation make the point. The information recently offered is that so far 376 manufacturing industries 310 of which have received some form of aid have provided 14, 174 jobs in well over ten years. A good figure you might think, but not when you compare it with the 10,000 new jobs which need to be found every year merely to stand still. In other words the jobs created by new manufacturing industries over the last decade or so will provide employment or merely one year’s supply of new persons seeking jobs on the labour market. Or to judge again by some more recent information. We need cast our minds back only a short distance and recall a very interesting interchange between the Prime Minister and one of the directors of the Carib Beer Factory when the Prime Minister visited that establishment recently. The Prime Minister was informed that Carib hoped to sell beer to the Carifta countries in unprecedented amounts. He congratulated his informant and enquired how much employment that was going to generate. The reply was none; the machinery to cope with the expected increase in demand already existed.
The fact is that the use of foreign raw material, the use of capital-intensive technology, and one other factor we might mention – our own inordinate taste for other peoples’ goods conspire to create rather than alleviate unemployment. What we have we despise, what we don’t have we crave. The months of April to July or August see us all busy sweeping almonds out of our yards, burning them or devising other means to get rid of them. As far as we are concerned the only energy we use on almonds is calculated to destroy them as fast as we can. Yet the supermarkets shelves reveal that almonds are among the highest priced imported commodities purchased by the local housewife. Or for that matter we can look at fruit of any kind. The difficulty about a proper fruit industry in the West Indies is the failure to organize the cultivation. One topi-tambo tree in Port of Spain, another one in Couva; six guava trees in Brasso, ten more in Toco. Who can make efficient use of topi-tambo, guava or anything else in those circumstances? Take apples at Christmas. We will never get rid of apples at Christmas unless we bring to bear on the problem the imagination that will attempt to have our best fruit available at Christmas. No one in his right mind will choose an apple in preference to Julie Mango or cimite or penny-piece or balata, but they have to be available at the right time. If we want to defeat apples at Christmas we simply have to make our best fruit available at Christmas.
All this points to a very exciting and rewarding role for business in our society, a creative and important role; but so far it is not the role that business has chosen. Carifta suggests quite strongly by its perspectives that it will be a long time before business in the West Indies will involve itself in that kind of creativity. Instead it remains wedded to the mindless imitation of the techniques which, like the boxed car or the ‘blank’ sock, it imports complete and packaged from abroad; and with them it imports, too, the ideologies and the strategies by which it lives as we have already observed. Neither the small men nor the small islands of the West Indian society will benefit from these techniques and these preoccupations.
The small men of the West Indies have been awakened by the current debate to the realities of the Carifta exercise, and the politicians of the small islands are alert to the shortcomings of free trade. In fact if free trade fails it will be the small islands that will make it fail, and with much better reason; than the larger territories had for ruining the Federation. All the questions which we have so far avoided in the larger territories will have to be faced in the smaller islands if free trade is to be for them a meaningful and serious exercise. The need to locate industry, the realisation that the extended market and tariff protection will not by themselves bring prosperity to the smaller islands, the absolute necessity to devise an industrial system in which the smaller islands can play a dignified and rational part, the creation of a new character for the West Indian society, all of these will force new and urgent considerations to the fore in very short time. The fate of the small islands is inextricably linked with the fate of the small man in the West Indies. The small islands are the poor and humble of West Indian social, political and economic society and, unlike the small man they possess political power. The considerations which the plight of the small islands will force into the open will make or break not only Carifta but West Indian society itself.