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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Ukraine crisis: How Barbados fits in

Tony Best

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Ukraine crisis: How Barbados fits in

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When Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, deployed some of his country’s military forces in the Ukraine recently, Barbados wasn’t on his mind.
But Dr Aurel Braun, a visiting professor of Government at Harvard University in Boston and a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Toronto, the alma mater of Bajan Austin “Tom” Clarke, who is one of Canada’s celebrated novelists, immediately saw a connection.
But why would Braun, the author of The NATO-Russia Relationship In The Twenty First Century, think of Barbados when he analysed what motivated Putin to intervene militarily in Ukraine in what so far has turned out to be a vain attempt to reinstate Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukraine’s allegedly corrupt and ousted head of state?
Braun thinks Barbados’ economic strength as reflected in its per capita income reminds Putin that Russia isn’t the global superpower of yesteryear and any dreams of returning to those glory days should be forgotten.
“It should be kept in mind that today Russia is but a pale remnant of the Soviet Union with a unidimensional economy and a per capita income GDP roughly that of Barbados,” was the way Braun put it in the Toronto Globe & Mail.
“Its economy is increasingly stagnant and large-scale political dissatisfaction in many part is smouldering just beneath the surface.
Much of what the political science expert said about Russia and indeed about the Ukraine was irrelevant to the Barbados’ foreign policy posture, but the economic picture cried out for closer examination.
Take the case of the per capita incomes of the countries involved. Russia’s per capita income (purchasing power parity) was pegged at US$ 18 100 last year, up from US$17 800 in 2013, according to the World Factbook. The Ukraine’s was US$ 7 400 last year while Barbados’ was US$25 100.
Little wonder, then, that the World Bank ranked Barbados as an “upper middle income country,” but it listed Russia as being “upper middle-income,” and the Ukraine a “lower middle-income.”
And the UNDP’s Human Development 2010 report put Barbados on the list of the world’s “developed” countries with Russia and others.
“Barbados is one of the wealthiest and most developed economies in the Eastern Caribbean and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America,” states the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Harold Hoyte, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the NATION and a member of the board of the Barbados Central Bank, in a 20-minute address that was praised for its even-handedness and clarity, told Bajans in New York last week that their homeland was “undergoing an economic crisis” and “the ugliness of the Barbados economy today is as a direct result of ugliness of our politics over the past two decades”.
He delivered the feature address at a symposium organised by Canon Dr Llewellyn Armstrong and by St Leonard’s Church, a 75 year old independent Anglican-oriented and Barbadian-owned and operated house of worship in the heart of Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant community. The session was arranged to discuss the state of the Barbados economy and pinpoint what should be done to put it back on a road to recovery.
Although Hoyte, a founder of the highly successful NATION newspaper, didn’t mention Russia or the situation in the Ukraine, he felt that his birthplace had fallen from grace.
Some figures tell an interesting story:Russia has a US$ 2.5 trillion (PPP) economy; the Ukraine’s US$337.4 billion; and Barbados $7 billion.
Last year Russia’s economy virtually stagnated at 1.3 per cent real growth; Ukraine’s had a 0.4 per cent growth rate; and Barbados’ slipped back into recession with no growth at all.
Barbados’ public debt was more than 90 per cent of GDP but Russia’s was less than 10 per cent; and the Ukraine’s was 40 per cent.
Russia’s unemployment rate was pegged at 5.8 per cent; the Ukraine’s eight per cent and Barbados the highest of all at about 12 per cent, according to the World Factbook. It explains why Braun was brutally frank about Russia.
“Mr Putin has failed to transform Russia into a modern state, has wasted vast resources, missed all historic critical opportunities, and depleted international prestige,” argued the Canadian political scientist.
That explains why Joseph Brean, a writer for Canada’s National Post, the country’s major business daily, found Braun’s reference to Russia and Barbados so attractive.
Like Dr Braun, he thinks it underscores Putin’s overreach for greatness.