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AS I SEE THINGS: Change vs real change

Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Change vs real change

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In what I can only describe as frank and honest in his opinions, Donald Trump, in a recent appearance on the Greta Van Susteren Show on the Fox News Channel, lamented the direction in which his country – the United States – is heading and also pointed to several factors that have contributed to the declining power of his country.
The highlight of his contribution was that the current president, Barrack Obama, campaigned on a platform of change but in reality the country needs not just change but real change. Among the real changes needed is the restoration of America’s productive capacity so that the country stops losing jobs to China.
Indeed, anyone familiar with Mr Trump would know that he is certainly not a keen fan of President Obama’s financial and economic policies.
But politics aside, the empirical evidence in support of Mr Trump’s quest for real change in America is overwhelming.
With unemployment at over eight per cent, a federal budget deficit of US$1.3 trillion, a national debt of US$15.3 trillion and a trade deficit of US$727.2 billion (of which $294.9 billion is with China alone), it is rather simple to conclude that America is urgently in need of real change and at a rapid pace.
These changes are essential ingredients for a full and sustained global economic recovery, given the indubitable strength of the United States’ economy worldwide.
But while we all wish to see real change in the world’s leading economic power, should it not also mean that we in the Caribbean too deserve real change?
In the previous election cycle, the winds of change blew from Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica and St Lucia to Trinidad and Tobago. Already, the former governments of Jamaica and St Lucia have been given strong reminders of what can happen when change is promised but real change fails to occur.
And if the incumbents in Barbados and Grenada fail to take adequate notice and begin addressing the people’s business in serious ways, they too are likely to return to opposition benches following their next general elections.
Given all that has been written about the recent performances of Caribbean economies and the grim forecasts for 2012 and beyond put out by leading institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, one cannot resist the temptation of asking precisely what real changes are necessary to turn our economic fortunes around.
The reality is that several things can be done to return our economies to the glory days of high economic growth rates, low inflation, low unemployment, surplus on the current side of governments’ financial operations, and low national debt.
What, then, are some of the solutions?
In no particular order of importance: Caribbean economies must be restructured through diversification both within and across major sectors; we must develop new mechanisms for economic intelligence gathering; we must significantly increase the international competitiveness of our important exports to shift our economies away from the Honduran-based concept of a “banana republic”; and we must fully embrace the best talent on display in our respective countries and in neighbouring islands.
If we in the Caribbean are interested in real change by virtue of our deeds and not our words, then there we go!

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