Page 13

TERRITORIAL REPORT THE CARIBBEAN - A view from within -by D.S. Barbour Despite the outward similarities of all tropical islands, those in the Caribbean are remarkable for their diversity, not only socially and historically but more especially in terms of their present economic and political circumstances. The experience of a colonial past is one of the few things left in common between the political paths taken by Puerto Rico, Barbados, Cuba or Haiti. However in terms of economics, all the islands for the most part rely on foreign currency earnings from commodity and agricultural exports and tourism to fmance the imports of oil, materials and manufactured goods necessary to maintain development and satisfy the increasing aspirations of their increasing populations: the differences lie in the methods and the success of the various governments in attempting this balancing act, an act made ever harder by world economic conditions. Against this background one can see on a small scale, and therefore with some clarity, most of the major issues currently being played out in the world arena, and most especially those between north and south (developed countries versus the Third World) and between east and west (Moscow Marxism versus Washington capitalism). The Caribbean area is one of great strategic importance both to superpowers and to aspiring regional powers, and this has recently spurred the U.S.A., Mexico, Venezuela and Canada to propose a 'Carib bean Basin Initiative', a long term aid package of economic assistance designed also to ensure political stability. Reactions and assessments vary, but the Initiative at least suggests that the Americans have at last realised that some enlightened contribution is necessary to keep their "backyard" peaceful while at the same time allowing the Caribbean some genuine independence, as in most islands this is a local political necessity. 'Political stability' of course in this context means not only stability but also the absence of far left tendencies, and although the Caribbean appears at present a fairly peaceful place, stability has recently been or is currently under threat in Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, St. Lucia and Dominica while over all looms the threat (or, according to one's point of view, the inspiration) of Cuba, the example of the revolution in Grenada and the nightmare of Central America. Despite its importance, the global perspective is often lost in the maelstrom of local concerns but I shall now try to add a few specific comments on individual countries, taken in the order in which they feature in our current sailing schedules. Puerto Rico: As a country associated with the U.S.A., Puerto Rico has its own peculiar problems. The most industrialized Caribbean island where many American companies operate because of tax advantages, cheap labour and marketing benefits, Puerto Rico still faces major obstacles of overpopulation, unemployment and poverty, and its struggles to rectify this have been hard hit by recent U.S. Federal cuts and the cold hand of 'Reaganomics' and the American recession. Nevertheless, there are said to be more millionaires in San Juan than in any American mainland city and Puerto Ricans do not have far to look to see the economic advantages of their present relationship with the U.S. In fact, whether or not to press for full statehood was one of the issues in the recent closely fought Puerto Rican elections in which Governor Romero Barcello and his administration were returned for another four years. Barbados: Familiar to many as 'Little England', Barbados is often hailed as an example of what diligence and discipline can achieve for a small island of limited resources. Good government over the years has given Barbadians an exceptionally high standard of living but any economy based on sugar and tourism must be a little precarious. The last few months have illustrated this clearly, as the Barbados Labour Party government of Tom Adams after securing its re-election last year has imposed austerity budgets to enable Barbados to survive its current recession. Earnings from both sugar and tourism were reduced this year, reflecting the world market and the American recession, and various social trends including the high level of wage settlements must be given a warning for the future. Nevertheless, Barbados will surely remain, at least by the standards of the region, both stable and prosperous. Trinidad & Tobago: The Trinidad & Tobago of today was shaped by oil and Dr. Williams. The Doctor has gone and the oil bonanza may be over but the legacy will be around for generations. It includes political stability and the total supremacy of one party, the Peoples National Movement, and also a determination to develop a local industrial base on a vibrant mixed economy and to set up local industry downstream of the oil and gas piplines to provide a measure of genuine national independence. The success of this 13


Harrison News Letter No35