PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ANEEL KARIM
UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the Future of the Caribbean Forum, May 2015, Trinidad and Trinidad.
are classified as middle-income. What we’ve seen is a decline in aid to the Caribbean, as donor countries shift their attention to conflict-ridden countries and their own constraints, such as the ongoing refugee crisis. It has become more difficult for Caribbean countries to get concessional financing, meaning that funds have to be borrowed at higher interest rates, increasing the already high debt burden.
From Dependency to Unity Meanwhile, in the last decade, the international trade landscape has undergone seismic shifts. We’ve seen the emergence of mega-regional trading blocs such as the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific partnerships. It is the sovereign right of any country to participate in arrangements that suit their national interest. At the same time, the reality for us is that if we do not quickly recognise this trading landscape
and build our collective regional capacity to effectively participate, we will be eclipsed. Take the crushing blow dealt to the banana industry in the Eastern Caribbean, when preferential trade agreements to Europe and the UK were lifted. We account for less than half of 1 percent of global trade. In fact, when you remove Trinidad and Tobago from the equation, the rest of the Caribbean accounts for less than one quarter of 1 percent of world trade. Also, the reference to us as plantation economies still applies, in that we consume what we don’t produce and produce what we do not consume. In the region, we are now almost completely dependent on tourism and foreign imports, leaving us totally vulnerable to external changes. It is time that we “go regional” with our businesses and consumer patterns, developing more robust intra-Caribbean production and trading partnerships, deepening and expanding our SouthSouth relationships, and leveraging Commonwealth connections as well.
THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –