West Indies Federation

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Account for the failure of the West Indian Federation

Federation is the act of forming a political unity under a federal government. In 1958, the British Caribbean colonies came together to form a West Indian Federation. There were ten units in this union: Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Montserrat, Grenada. This attempt was short-lived as it was resolved in 1962.

There are several reasons for the failure of the West Indian Federation; the federation was a weak one, the question of custom union and freedom of movement was not resolved, there was also the conflict of where the federal capital should be located and the withdrawal of Jamaica from the union.

The Federation of 1958 was only given residual powers hence it was a weak federation. The Federation was given the responsibility for affairs which the unit governments did not consider important. The Federal Government was given the powers to administering the funds of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, the West India Regiment, the University of the West Indies Administration costs, the Federal Shipping, Meteorology, Immigration and Exchange Control. The unit government maintained control over such important matters as taxation, education, health and agriculture. Therefore the Federal Government was restricted, especially by inadequate revenue because it had no control over taxation. Most of its meager revenue was already committed, and there was little left for anything constructive.

The Federation was also weakened by the British Government by allowing the units to make their own constitutional progress outside the Federation. Jamaica and Trinidad had political leaders who did not join the federal government and they put the constitutional development of their own islands before the Federation. Furthermore by the time Federation came into being in 1958, it was out of date as far as constitutional development in Barbados, Jamaica...
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