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THE ISSUE: Too early to tell


SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

THE ISSUE: Too early to tell

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Should the Caribbean be worried about receiving reduced support from the United States?

Some Barbadians and other Caribbean nationals reacted with trepidation at Donald Trump’s surprising win in last week’s United States presidential election.

There are a large number of Caribbean migrants working and living in the US, and in light of Trump’s statements on the campaign trail about ridding the country of immigrants, many people from the region are feeling uneasy.

But there are those who argue that history has shown that Republican administrations have been known to provide more financial support for the Caribbean, much more than the Democrats. So for several individuals in the region, it is a bittersweet moment.

The Caribbean is located virtually on the doorstep of the US and over the years the region has benefitted from its larger neighbour’s support. Some observers have said that much of this help was in the area of security and that in essence the Americans were merely seeking to help themselves in the area of securing their borders from illicit activity.

In recent years, however, that help has been less visible, something that has been noticeable especially because of the economic challenges countries like Barbados have faced.

The US Department of State said since 2010 the American government committed US$437 million in funding to the Caribbean through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). CBSI “brings members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic together to collaborate on regional security with the [US as a partner]”, the Department said.

Last year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and CARICOM signed agreements that would see countries of the eastern and southern Caribbean benefiting from US$172 million in development assistance.

Officials said US$89 million of this would “target the reduction of youth involvement in crime and violence in target communities”, US$52 million was “designated to achieving epidemic control of HIV/AIDS among key populations”, and $31 million “will go towards reducing the risks to human and natural assets resulting from climate vulnerability”.

Of late, the US and the Caribbean have also increased their collaboration on energy. The US said it was “committed to working with the Caribbean and Central American sub-regions, and their international partners, to create systems that will enable more efficient use of energy at lower costs to their citizens”.

While the incoming Trump administration’s plans for the Caribbean will not be known for some time, President Barack Obama’s government has already outlined the support it intended to provide the region within the 2017 financial year.

The Washington Office On Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organisation advancing human rights in the Americas, recently released what it called “a first glance at the 2017 foreign aid request for Latin America and the Caribbean”.

It said the budget request submitted to the US Congress was “a 9.5 per cent increase over 2015 levels of assistance”.

“”WOLA identifies US$1.78 [billion] in assistance specified for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017, based on the preliminary budget documents,” the organisation said.

“Other money will come through the Defense Department’s budget, which is a principal source of anti-drug military and police assistance to the region”.

The WOLA report pointed out that a lot of the financial support identified was for Colombia. With a new US administration set to be installed in January, for now it’s a case of wait and see for Barbados and its neighbours where future help from the US is concerned. (SC)

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