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AS I SEE THINGS: Caribbean development options


Brian M. Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Caribbean development options

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As we look across the Caribbean, there is no denying that many of our countries have still not been able to overcome the difficulties posed by the 2008/2009 global financial and economic crisis.
In the case of Barbados, that position is confirmed each time the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados presents his economic reports.  For the Caribbean as a whole, the economic reports from the Caribbean Development Bank, particularly those for the past two years, have been even more instructive because they have noted the weaker performances of those countries that rely on tourism as compared to those that depend more heavily on commodities.
In a nutshell, therefore, the present state of Caribbean economies suggests quite clearly that as a people we have to seriously look at all of the options available for not only addressing our current economic difficulties but also for the development of our respective countries in a sustained manner. To succeed in this regard, we have to be creative and bold in our strategic considerations. Why?
It is no secret that many of our Caribbean countries are facing significant challenges on the fiscal side, leading in part to the accumulation of more public debt that now stands as a major limiting factor in our quest to grow our economies. The response by many governments has been to increase taxes.
But an increase in a tax rate in a situation where the base of the tax is declining only serves to inflict more hardships on citizens as opposed to raising revenue. 
?Grow, develop economies
?Hence, as long as our economies remain in their low-growth states, it would be extremely difficult to resolve their fiscal problems through revenue-enhancing measures. The logical solution, then, is to find ways to grow and develop our economies that would redound to more employment and by extension greater tax revenue generation from both the direct and indirect sides.    
Let’s face it. The performance of Caribbean economies over the years is directly linked to the characteristics of our economies that include small population and physical dimensions and heavy dependence on one or two major industries (for example tourism or agriculture). 
Admittedly, these features do present real challenges for Caribbean development and are clearly not easy to overcome. Our options therefore are to either continue with the status core or to explore other strategic interests. 
Since failure should never be considered an option, it is clear that we in the Caribbean must begin to look seriously at all available alternatives that would give us the best hope for future development.
Already, issues such as the benefits of joining ALBA, the decriminalisation of marijuana and its permitted use for medicinal purposes (and hence the likely economic benefits that can be derived from such action), casino gambling, aid for trade, and reparations have all been put on the table for deliberations by Caribbean people and rightfully so. These are real issues that can have significant positive effects on Caribbean development and therefore should not be taken lightly.
Going forward, I could only hope that eventually all of us in the region would be able to speak with one voice when it comes to these as well as other matters that are deemed relevant in our quest to grow and develop our economies.  We ought to act wisely because our development options are rather limited.

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