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AS I SEE THINGS: Are we taking note?

Brian Francis

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AS SMALL, OPEN CARIBBEAN ECONOMIES, change in the global environment will always affect us one way or another. That should come as no surprise to anyone.
The key for us, therefore, as clearly vulnerable countries is to be able to respond to those external shocks with confidence and craftiness. This means that our financial and economic policies have to be designed based on scientific analysis and reasoning and must be tailored to problem-solving.
The Caribbean will never be able to successfully tackle its most pressing financial and economic difficulties in isolation.
Furthermore, solutions to our unending financial and economic challenges cannot be sustained if they do not incorporate developments in the external environment, whether regional or international in nature.  
Hence, as we plan our strategic responses, we must simultaneously take on board changes that are occurring all around us at sometimes accelerating rates. But the million-dollar question that arises is this: are we really taking note of those changes?
Often, we in the Caribbean make mention of developments that are taking place in the region or globally. But does that amount to any serious action or reaction on our part? Absolutely not!
To be serious, our financial and economic policies have to be designed to reflect the possible impact of regional and international issues on our domestic economic environment, thereby confirming our anticipation of contagion effects and our desire to do something appropriate in response. Such is what true leadership requires and nothing else will suffice!
Clearly, as small and vulnerable economies we in the Caribbean have no choice but to continuously monitor every major development in the global environment and be prepared to respond forcefully when necessary. Are we doing that?
To drive the point home, let’s look at two critical developments in the United States and ask ourselves whether or not Caribbean countries are really taking note and, if so, what they are doing to cope with the potential downside of those developments.
In his February 24, 2012 talking points memo entitled Leadership, Part 2, Bill O’Reilly said this: “On the debt front, as we all know, there is no relief. Predictions are if President Obama’s re-elected, the national debt will rise to US$20 trillion by 2016. Even those who support Barack Obama are having some doubts about his leadership.
    “If you vote for the president this time around, you are again voting on hope that his policies will finally begin improving the country.
    “Leadership is the key to getting this country back to prosperity. The question: do any of these guys in either party have what it takes?”              
Further, O’Reilly added: “However, as we’ve been reporting the oil companies are sending products overseas, gasoline exports have doubled over the past two years.     
    Under President Obama, gas prices in the [United States] have also nearly doubled. Obviously we need some relief or the economy may slide back into recession.”
    There we have it: fears being expressed over rising gas prices and mounting debt in the most powerful economy in the world. Do we fully understand and appreciate the implications these developments could have for the entire global economy? Are we taking note?
Indeed, these are important questions because even though clear signs were everywhere about the possibility of a global financial and economic meltdown in 2007/2008, like other nations we in the Caribbean did very little
to prepare ourselves for the subsequent fallout. And we are paying a heavy price for this lack of preparation to this day.
Are we going to be caught asleep at the wheel again? I hope not!