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EDITORIAL: Sad truth of our vulnerability


EDITORIAL: Sad truth of our vulnerability

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THE PAST TWO WEEKS have clearly shown us how vulnerable this region can be to external developments which can destroy our economies, even as we try to put in place the policies to pull our nations and their people up the ladder of economic and social progress.

Recently, we had the ill-advised blacklisting of our financial centres as uncooperative financial centres which had not done enough to prevent the scourge of international tax evasion by exchanging information relevant to its prevention. We have started to put this matter to rest.

The CARICOM Heads of Government Conference which took place here last week, highlighted aspects of the vulnerability of our small nations to the force of climate change and the dangers of environmentally unsound practices to which we are the more vulnerable because of our small size. Discussed also was our dependence on tourism as a main earner of foreign currency with which we pay for our imported food and fuel.

If we needed a potent reminder of our exposed position, the speech of Perry Christie prime minister of the Bahamas must have touched a nerve.

He told the audience that he had to return home urgently to deal with unfolding issues concerning a US$2.4billion hotel and casino tourism development project in his country. The developer had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States. As a result, the project had ground to a halt and the prospect of some 2 500 new jobs for young people was threatened.

As he saw it, the case showed the complexity of the region’s international relations and its vulnerability to economic shocks, since, a single large investor when it collapses can throw the entire country off track.

The observations of the Bahamian Prime Minister are on point. We in Barbados have seen the halt of the Four Seasons project which fell victim to the 2008 international economic turmoil, and Antigua and Barbuda well understands the issue, for the collapse of the Stanford business empire caused severe economic problems for that country.

We are all indeed vulnerable and there is precious little that we can do to prevent some of the events which bring such economic trauma in their wake. Our leaders therefore have to be constantly on the alert and planning on a contingency basis becomes imperative. It is at meetings and conferences such as the Heads of Government that these problems can be highlighted and solutions sought since the issues are common to the region.

This country has had a leading role in bringing the problems of small states to the international attention and while we applaud the efforts of our leaders to seek international developmental assistance for this region of small democratic states, the caution of the Bahamian prime minster must always be ringing in our ears.

He says that “the general lesson is that no matter how people speak of new development models in our region at the end of the day, the entity of last resort, that must step up to the plate when all else fails, is the government.”

We support Prime Minister Christie’s call for the G8 and G20 financial institutions to recognise that per capita income alone should not determine whether small vulnerable nations should get developmental financing.

Our economies may have improved, but we are still exposed, vulnerable and in need of further development.