The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

When I heard that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt of Dominica was in Anguilla for an official visit, I immediately thought that this presents a wonderful opportunity for regional collaboration. There is much to be learned from and shared with our regional colleagues. Our proximity to each other, shared history, culture, experiences and our understanding of each other’s challenges are a good foundation on which to build long-lasting partnerships.

I often think that we should give more priority to cementing our place in our regional family rather than looking to Mother England for everything. While many of our regional neighbours are also resource challenged, there are many areas of excellence and experiential best practice that we can benefit from. Additionally, as a region we certainly have the collective capability to devise solutions for our own problems rather than constantly seeking the assistance of those who do not understand our context and are unsympathetic to our challenges.

I am sure many people reading this will reflect on the failed attempts at regional integration and the demise of several regional institutions. However, there is no shame in failure once we learn from it and there are many successes of which the region can boast including the University of the West Indies, the OECS, CARICOM, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency to name a few. These institutions, though not perfect, are prime examples of what can be accomplished through regional collaboration. Anguilla has benefitted tremendously from its association with many of them. I recall vividly that in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma some of the first persons on the ground were not UK officials, but the Head of the OECS Authority, the Director General of the OECS and the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. The outpouring of support from our Caribbean neighbours can never be forgotten.

There is much that we can learn from each other. I believe Anguilla is already a centre of excellence for hospitality and we can position ourselves as the regional experts for luxury tourism, providing training opportunities and attachments for properties around the region. Similarly, we could learn from Dominica about how to go about providing affordable housing for our people given that their housing revolution, which includes the building of 5000 homes, is already in progress. Additionally, the development of the cannabis industry in St Vincent which is now reaping dividends is something we can learn from given that our Government is interested in the legalisation of marijuana. A partnership with the British Virgin Islands can give us some needed insight into marina development as well as building a more lucrative financial services industry. Possible collaboration with the manufacturing sectors in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to develop franchises in Anguilla can also be explored. The conversion of sargassum into fertiliser in St Lucia is something we should have a keen interest in as this could possibly enhance the quality of our soil and increase crop production. For good practice in the development of public infrastructure, we can look to Barbados for guidance and assistance. There are many more examples, but I will stop there.

While our regional colleagues may not be able to provide monetary assistance, there is much that can be gained from establishing meaningful relationships with a view to benefitting from their expertise and experience. We can learn from their mistakes and their successes without having to reinvent the wheel. We may not need to replicate what they do, but may want to establish linkages where our people can benefit from what they are doing in their countries. The possibilities are many, but we must be willing to explore them. Mother England doesn’t have all the answers and will not always have solutions which are the right fit for Anguilla. It will serve us well to build stronger relationships with our regional family.