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AS I SEE THINGS: Reassessing economic management


DR BRIAN FRANCIS

AS I SEE THINGS: Reassessing economic management

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Anyone who has been following the news from within and outside of the Caribbean in recent times would have to agree that the challenges facing small open economies like ours are intensifying. Hence, new coping mechanisms may very well have to be adopted in order for us to be able to secure and expand on some of the socio-economic benefits we have enjoyed in the past few decades.

Indeed, some countries in the Caribbean are under severe fiscal and debt crises while simultaneously struggling to record and maintain reasonable rates of economic growth.  Yet, issues of high unemployment, crime and violence, access to continued free education and health, and various diseases continue to present themselves as formidable forces to be reckoned with. 

At the global level, the leading economies in the world continue to struggle to come up with the right mix of policies and strategies to generate economic growth that can benefit the entire international community, the Ebola virus remains a major threat to the stability and security of many countries, and international terrorism seems to be gaining new momentum that could place additional stress on the safety of all nations – big and small.

Quite clearly, if it was possible for Caribbean countries to shield themselves from the effects of all those developments taking place regionally and internationally, then, one could have reasonably concluded that there would be no problems continuing with business as usual. But to hold that position is to be quite naive. You see, in a world that is characterised by increasing globalisation, national borders are naturally being eroded and hence countries quickly begin to feel the effects of developments taking place beyond their shores.

Under such circumstances, small and vulnerable countries like those in the Caribbean have little option but to constantly reassess the way in which they manage their economies in order to safeguard their future. In the absence of any blueprint that one can immediately adopt, the only way forward is for us as a people to become more creative and aggressive in repositioning our economies to make them more flexible to cope with changing realities.  But how exactly can we achieve this goal?

One approach to the management of our economies in these challenging times is to think in terms of our carrying capacities. In other words, we have to reassess the manner in which socio-economic policies are arrived at and determine in the process whether or not we can afford the things we do as small countries. Major policies, then, will be determined on the basis of net benefits or losses, having taken into account such issues as the financial, social, environmental, legal, and political impacts, among other things. With that sort of approach, gone, therefore, will be the days of, say, governments making economic decisions that are based almost exclusively on the benefits to be derived from a political standpoint without any serious considerations for other effects.

Even if you disagree with my approach, I do hope, though, that you would accept that given what is happening in and around us in the region that a reassessment of the management of Caribbean economies is absolutely necessary for our continued survival.  And hence, it is time for serious action.

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