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Territorial Report (Contd.) Trinidad & Tobagoworthy determination has been mixed, for while there has been a fonnidable economic boom and peoples' living standards and purchasing power have risen tremendously there have also been some heavy prices to pay many of which are yet to be fully realised. Thus local agriculture is collapsing in the face of oil financed imports, the future viability of the gas-fired heavy industry at Point Lisas is open to doubt and the shortcomings of the local infrastructure have justly earned an international reputation. In addition, one can see many of the social tensions nonnally associated with the rapid arrival of oil wealth. Duly elected in November under the telling slogan of "Fete over, back to work", the PNM under George Chambers is attempting to tackle these problems. Oil reserves are dwindling, while extraction costs rise and the world market falls. The natural gas reserves are more than plentiful, but production is still far short of even local requirements. Efforts are being made to enforce social discipline, to increase productivity and to control inflation. All in all, the next few years will be very telling, but the country is still well placed to retain its position as the leading economic power in the region. Curacao & Aruba: The major two of the six islands comprising the Netherlands Antilles, these islands are politically and economically linked to Holland, which explains their high level of development. Originally Dutch colonies, the islands remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, governed by their own parliaments. Both have been trading centres throughout their history, catering for everyone from oil tycoons to Colombian smugglers. They are also important oil refining centres for crude from both Venezuela and the Persian Gulf: refineries are run by Shell in Curacao and by Esso in Aruba. Tourism is the third main source of revenue, and in this as in other areas, Aruba has recently been catching up with its bigger neighbour. The six islands retain great independence of spirit, so much so that there is considerable resentment on the part of Aruba at the predominance of Curacao. This is shown in the support enjoyed by the Aruban popular leader, Mr. Croes. If he gets his way, then Aruba may soon find itself alone to sink or swim, and its prospects cannot be considered rosy. Dominican Republic: Despite its great natural wealth, this is a country in crisis with an economy battered by high imports and falling revenues from its major commodity exports such as sugar, bauxite, gold, coffee and tobacco. A new President and government is to be elected in mid-May for a four year term and the elections are expected to be closely fought between the new candidate of the ruling centre left party and the right wing under the aging Balaguer, several times President and former strong man under the dictator Trujillo. Weak government under President Guzman has certainly contributed to the crisis especially as it was politically unacceptable for his party to seek monetary assistance from bodies such as the I.M.F. Thus Washington watches the Dominicans with concern, while they glance nervously at Haiti and Cuba. A great deal depends on the elections and the performance of the new government, but there is no doubt that recovery or decline are both possible and 1982 sees the country at a crossroads. Haiti: The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is getting poorer and the slight improvements of the early days of 'Baby Doc', President Jean Claude Duvalier, are now forgotten. The country has no dollars and things are now tight even for the small but wealthy middle class. Bauxite has been worked out, agricultural exports are down, aid from several donor countries has been withdrawn due to local corruption while the iron grip of the Duvaliers may have been slightly weakened by domestic and international scandals and the adverse publicity from the 'boat people' and the various 'invasions' by exiles. At the same time the land's ecology has been devastated by erosion resulting from charcoal burning, which is the only source of employment, heat and cooking for many of the rural poor. Clearly Haiti, with its huge problems and huge population represents a potential threat to all its neighbours. There are certain signs, prompted doubtless by American pressure, of the administration attempting some organisation in order to qualify for I.M.F. assistance, but the future is very uncertain and it is hard to find cause for optimism. Jamaica: After a year of violence and eight years of socialism under Michael Manley, Jamaicans in 1980 elected a more right wing government under Edward Seaga and have started the long haul back to economic prosperity supported by heavy financial assistance from the capitalist world. The change 14

No35  

Harrison News Letter No35

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