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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Clinton victory a win for the Caribbean


BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Clinton victory a win for the Caribbean

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It may not be a clear case of counting the proverbial chickens before they are hatched in November, but United States (US) Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, the daughter of West Indian parents, is supremely confident Hillary Clinton is going to be the next US president.

Just as important: she thinks Caribbean nations would be better off economically with Clinton in the White House.

“I know who is going to win,” Clarke told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY a few days ago at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, where the Haitian Studies Institute, a newly minted research centre, was launched. “It’s going to be Clinton and certainly not Donald Trump,” she said.

That’s why the five-term member of the House of Representatives, whose seat on Capitol Hill was once occupied by the late Shirley Chisholm, whose run for the Democratic presidential nomination paved the way in the 1970s for Clinton, is beginning to think ahead about how Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Grenada and their neighbours will fare after Clinton takes the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol in Washington in January as she expects.

And with Caribbean states still reeling from a long list of financial and economic woes -– skyrocketing national mounting debt in Barbados and Jamaica;  anaemic  growth in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados; nightmares in the Bahamas, Belize,  Jamaica and their neighbours when it comes to correspondent banking; uncertainty over the future of  financial services across the region; and the pain of austerity measures in a host of countries – Clarke sees better days ahead for region once Clinton takes over from President Barack Obama.

“What’s great about who I believe is going to be the next president, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is that having been the Secretary of State she has an in-depth knowledge of the [CARICOM] region and there will be welcomed conversations within the State Department” about what to do to help spur growth in the Caribbean, insisted Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat.

 Viable region

“We will welcome the appointment of a new Secretary of State who will view the Caribbean as a viable region for a partnership with the US in collaboration for economic support and for real meaningful relationship building and that will be our task, our goal,” was the way she put it.

By “we”, the federal lawmaker was referring to members of the Caribbean Caucus in Congress, a bi-partisan group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers she co-chairs and feels can make a fundamental difference in placing Caribbean economic interests on the front burner.

“Our task will be to build on the continuity of a number of initiatives started by the Obama administration – security and energy plaguing many of the countries,” she said.

“We are talking about the cost of energy and the conversion to renewable,” issues with which all of the island-states plus Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname are grappling.

That’s not all. Diminishing correspondent banking, a potential economic and financial earthquake that could undo the pathway the states routinely use as a bridge to link up with the American financial system seems on the cards.

The Obama Treasury Department as part of its fight against the financing of terrorism and drug trafficking wants to dismantle many of the banking relationships, ignoring the major damage such a policy can cause on business, the remittance of funds and on indigenous banks while giving the Canadian financial institutions a decided advantage.

“We are hoping that there would be some resolution of the correspondent banking issue even before Clinton takes office because every day that goes by without any real movement from the US corporate banking sector to rectify this situation the harder it would become for Caribbean nations to take effective measures to conduct financial business,” warned  Clarke.

“We in the caucus are going to press nevertheless and hopefully there would be individuals among her appointees with the background knowledge and ability to collaborate and ease the burden the Caribbean has felt and is feeling as middle-income states.”

Interestingly, the issue of financial services presents the Republicans and Trump with an opportunity to make a set themselves apart from the Democrats.

Traditionally, the Republicans have sided with the Caribbean in the battle over financial services in the region and that’s based on their stance on security and tax issues. The Republicans believe corporations and wealthy individuals should have greater leverage when it comes to paying taxes, meaning the less they pay the better off America’s financial health.

That’s why they don’t press the Caribbean as hard as the Democrats on offshore banking and tax avoidance.

The Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, more so than Trump, could be expected to keep the door open to existing arrangements. But it’s in the other areas which offer the Caribbean more leverage. Slashing immigration, deporting them, and being hostile to foreigners can do considerable damage.

The Republican standard-bearer, whose racist rants against Blacks in prior years and his verbal onslaught directed at Mexicans and other Hispanics during the recent Republican primary season has sent shilling  warnings about what’s in store for foreigners if he is elected president.

Caribbean leaders, who in the past argued that the region often got a better deal from the Republicans than the Democrats, shouldn’t be deluded into believing that Trump would offer them a helping hand under any circumstances.