WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

2013- A Year of Lost Opportunities for Caribbean Countries

2013- A Year of Lost Opportunities 2013 was not a good year for any of the 14 independent member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – not even for three of the four commodity-exporting nations Belize, Guyana and Suriname, despite their economic growth.

The fourth commodity-exporting country, Trinidad and Tobago, had no growth to speak-of.

All the countries were beset by high unemployment; there was high debt in 10 of them; decline in inclusive economic growth in 11 of them; unsustainable fiscal deficits and widening trade deficits in goods and services in all of them; and foreign exchange losses in many of them.   Additionally, bank lending and private spending tightened in 11 of them causing a contraction in the private sector to which all countries had been looking to lead economic recovery in the wake of cash-strapped governments being compelled to retreat as both investor and employer.

Underlying all this in every CARICOM country there was (and is) an insistence by governments to seek only national solutions even though there is great bewilderment about what national measures could be taken to improve the economic situation.  Bewilderment led to inaction as governments failed to engage meaningfully with other crucial actors in their countries, such as the opposition political parties, the trade unions, the private sector, and the Universities, to develop an agreed national plan to help take their economies out of a prolonged stagnation.  Throughout 2013 there was a pervading atmosphere of “not knowing what to do”.  In this climate, those governments in IMF programmes did what the IMF said they should, and so too did the governments whose circumstances brought them to the IMF’s door.  But, IMF-inspired measures focus on austerity measures such as job losses and wage freezes that heighten economic contraction.

Of course, national solutions must be sought, and they would best be sought within a framework of genuine dialogue and engagement with all the important players in the country’s economic fortunes. To do this, important hurdles have to be jumped including – and especially for Guyana where the two opposition parties command a majority in parliament – the sincere and constructive involvement of opposition political parties.



It is dangerous for CARICOM countries to assume that their problems will be solved by the full resolution of the economic crisis in North America and European Union (EU) countries.  While there is recovery in both places the proportion of wages in national income in the US and the major EU countries has declined in real terms leading to contraction in spending.  For the Caribbean, this translates into fewer tourists or tourists who spend less.  It has also been difficult for investors to locate money in the North American and European capital markets for investment in the Caribbean unless projects are high-yielding, such as gold mining, or they get exceedingly generous tax holidays and other concessions that may not benefit the economies in the long-run.

In this circumstance, not only are the benefits in terms of tourism and investment likely to take longer to “trickle down” to CARICOM economies, but the global economic environment is far less favourable than before the recession started in late 2008.  As an example of this, China’s economy which grew at an average 9.5% for the decade 2001 to 2011 declined in 2012 to 7.8% and looks likely to be 7.6% in 2013.  China’s appetite for commodities is already decreasing, pushing down prices paid to commodity-exporting countries including those in CARICOM. What is more, since loans that CARICOM governments have contracted with China are denominated in Yuan which is rising in value against the US dollar, repayments will escalate, placing a bigger burden on already dwindling government revenues.

CARICOM countries also embraced a full Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU in 2008.  A limited review of the EU-Caribbean EPA is said to be taking place now to determine whether it has delivered on its promises.  It would have been wise of governments to involve all trade unions, private sector, political parties, and academia in a transparent review that fully advises the public of findings.  That has not happened.  But, the region should fully review the EPA, which so far, has not delivered promised market access for Caribbean goods and services, and has not realised any significant new investment. Further, the EPA will lead in all Caribbean countries to a reduction in government revenues as a consequence of the removal of tariffs on goods imported from EU countries.  To replace such lost revenue, governments will have to increase taxes on their own people at a time when taxation is already burdensome.  

Caribbean governments, collectively, should be calling for at least the suspension of the terms of the EPA until the countries of the region can restructure and re-align their economies collectively with national plans that are integrated with a regional integration strategy.  For it remains a stark reality that none of the CARICOM countries on its own  – including those that now benefit from commodity exports – can deliver on a sustained basis the economic benefits, physical infrastructure and social systems their people urgently need. The EU knows this reality very well, but it is most unlikely to suspend the EPA unless there is certainty that national restructuring by CARICOM States will indeed be integrated in a regional development framework.

So, while the present difficulties of CARICOM countries require national solutions that are genuinely “national”, such national solutions will not be enough; notwithstanding the unsubstantiated belief by some parochially-minded groups that their small economies can miraculously succeed and thrive on their own. 

In previous commentaries I have pointed to three critical areas that require regional attention and that could have a beneficial impact on the economies of all.  They are: regional food production and distribution, maritime transportation and energy production and distribution. These are regional solutions that should be addressed on a parallel track with national plans.  They are not mutually exclusive.

CARICOM governments failed to grasp this reality, and 2013 became a lost opportunity. In practical terms, this means that CARICOM must go beyond occasional cooperation.  The New Year must see a concerted effort to examine how regional action can help national survival. This requires a stronger institutional base for CARICOM than it now has as well as a change of mind-set and a will to act regionally. It is not enough to wait for global economic circumstances to improve; reliance on mere trickle down is a fool’s hope.

The New Year can be a year of improved prospects if CARICOM governments end the ‘pause’ they applied to economic integration in May 2011.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean Diplomat.

Hits: 1286

23 Comments In This Article   

HEADER   

@Dessalines » 2013-12-31 15:19

#23 Observer... » 2013-12-31 16:28

Thank you for your respond. I know about that. And I have spoken to many many many persons about getting this funding. No one seem to be willing to go through the bureaucratic hurdles to get this in place. Even the present government is sleeping. And as you say, if you don't use it you'll loose it. Simple as that. They refuse to give governments money that is all. It has to be private sector.
1
1
+
−

Observer...

@ Observer

#22 Dessalines » 2013-12-31 15:19

I'm in agreement that we are not exposed to funding available from Europe, Canada and the EU. About 6 - 7 years ago a friend of mine was employed by INTERREG I OR II and I remember them telling me that funding was close to 40 million euros for projects in the Caribbean. Every year that we did not draw down on these funds through project the funding was reduced in the EU budget. I do not know what it is now but I doubt it is more than 10 million euros with the new INTERREG IV program.
I agree that it is a failure of government because private citizens rarely are exposed to these seminars/meetings etc when these programs are announced. One project that would definitely get funding is a ferry service between the OECS and French islands or even the wider Caricom. However this has to be a private/public partnership since it would be inter regional.
2
0
+
−

Dessalines

@SlyThatGuy & King Dodo #4

#21 Observer... » 2013-12-31 14:30

So let stick to the issue here, "did the Caribbean Islands Lost opportunities this year 2013?" Let's here you views on this and if you don't like mine just click on thumbs down. That is what I did for yours so far. Have a prosperous 2014 and may your comments be uplifting giving food for thought and inspiring. No one has all the right answers.
1
1
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy & King Dodo #4

#20 Observer... » 2013-12-31 14:26

I am fortunate to live if more then one continent. Times are hard in Antigua and I feel it for the ordinary Antiguan. I see how the big Europe and America are systemically keeping the islands poor. The things we care about like debt payments, those are so small our debt is nothing when you look at the books of some of these countries. And that is relatively speaking. I said it one already, money laundering is not an Antiguan problem. It is a western European and an American problem. You know how much Europe is laundering money from Russian billionaires. But they have the gale to tell us about money laundering. Europe most part have already legalize marijuana, after they have called us drug countries. Now America is following and what happen we still do not have a regulated marijuana industry. By the time we are ready they have already set up their own farms and do not need ours.
1
0
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy & King Dodo #3

#19 Observer... » 2013-12-31 14:20

I was charging our collectively Caribbean Governments to do more to educate the people. Because you know long time ago these countries use to give the monies to the governments. Now they refuse to do us unless they remain in control as to how the funds are spend. Nothing political whatsoever in my comments but the minute you guys saw the government you related this to the UPP government which you have to defend come what may. Sad stories is what you are. I am a professional in my field and a businessman that does not need government in anything I do. But my business brings me in contact with many different people. I personally know all and I mean all the politicians most of them as personal friends and we sometimes sit and drink and lime together. And politics is not what we talk about. I couldn't care less about our small minded Antigua politics, but it breaks my heart to see Antigua being kept behind when that is really not necessary.
1
0
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy & King Dodo #2

#18 Observer... » 2013-12-31 14:15

You guys are so ready to defend everything called government that you are not even aware that my story goes back 26 years ago. Europe was net yet formed under the EDF and countries had in their budget available funds for development for under developed countries. And let me tell you. It is not my job but on a daily basis up to date. I point small entrepreneur in the direction of applying for outside technical help. The Canadians give that through a program called CIDA. There are American programs as well and I know a gentleman an Antiguan who is assisting the St. Lucia government and small businesses to tap in these funds.
1
0
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy & King Dodo #1

#17 Observer... » 2013-12-31 14:07

I have though long an hard whether or not you guys were worthy of any response. And quite frankly you are not. But it bothered me a lot to leave it as it. The good gentleman Ron Sanders wrote a piece for discussion. I commented on the piece, and you guys chose to comment on my comment. So in fact it became about me. No problem and I further explained my comments. But now you guys had to go even further to be personal. Glad this medium exist where you could be in disguised. Cause personally I would not even have a discussion with your kind. Straight from the gutter. And believe me I can fight gutter style and gangster style. Cause I am known not to except any big talk from no man. I have that from my Dad. So to call one name is when you have to be able to back it. But let me leave it as is.
1
0
+
−

Observer...

Serious political shortcoming

#16 King Court » 2013-12-30 13:28

Tenman, why do you have to refer to the double Sir article, did you ask the same questions concerning the Free Trade Area if the Americas. There was no local dialogue, information was never disseminated by the former ALP government. Today, the same Ron knows much more than what he knew before.....a serious political shortcoming.

Additionally, Tenman, I see you are easily gullible, so I will excuse your ignorance.
2
1
+
−

King Court

Selfish,vile and corrupt

#15 King Court » 2013-12-30 13:16

Observer, as a former political appointee in the Ministry of Finance, you have now accumulated enough funds to start you own business. My **sment of your career and political affiliation were correct, that cannot be denied. Obviously, that's one reason why you advocate the return of the ALP to power. Evidently, you are dependent on their return to plunder the treasury for your own development and the no bid contracts your company enjoyed.

You have exposed yourself as selfish,vile and corrupt all for the sake of financial gain!
2
2
+
−

King Court

@ Observer

#14 SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-30 12:53

If you acquired knowledge from the minister (whomever you spoke to) that funds were available but the public was unaware of it and you made no effort to raise public awareness, it's because YOU didn't want other people to benefit from this knowledge. So you decide to do nothing instead. As ordinary citizens, many of us take the attitude that, "I'm not obligated to help to empower or encourage others." But we quickly complain about our government the instant something go wrong.
1
2
+
−

SlyThatGuy

@ Observer

#13 SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-30 11:51

People like you seem to always seek out reasons to whine and complain about the government. Let me ask you this: When you found out from the minister that people did not even know that Small Business Funds or Loans were available to help them begin or strengthen their business, did you start informing people about the availability of the funds and how to apply for it? I doubt you did any such thing, and it's exactly what I mean when I said we don't need our government to show us how to do everything we need to do in order to be successful. You, as an individual, could have done so much to educate the public about about the availability of the funds and about the importance of taking advantage of it. The lawyers knew it was there and took advantage of it because they're wise people who read to stay informed. It's dumb people like you in our society who don't know how to empower themselves and others that are always crying down the government for no good reason.
0
2
+
−

SlyThatGuy

@SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-29 10:37 #4

#12 Observer... » 2013-12-30 08:08

By the way it is called export development. Which should be part of the ministry of Finance and Economics.
1
1
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-29 10:37 #3

#11 Observer... » 2013-12-30 00:03

I'll charge the government for having not educated the small businessmen about their opportunities for funding. Its seems that only if the funding is for government directly they will go and apply for it. Just like the European Development Funding for the Montserrat pier at Heritage Quay. There are funding available through Interreg. This is also a European Fund for small businesses. And believe me SlyThatGuy in Europe the businessmen get updated be it through various Unions and their Chambers of Commerce. They have monthly news letters and other mediums to constantly update them. I use to have a trading company and simply by becoming a member of the Chamber I was getting every information I needed.
1
2
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-29 10:37 #2

#10 Observer... » 2013-12-29 23:52

Lawyers because of their vary education are the ones making more use of this. You will see lawyers representing clients in other OECS countries. But there are quite some more professionals that can and should make use of this economic zone. And it is all about educating. And believe me it is our governments that have the agreements who need to make them public and hold workshops etc. so that our business sector will make use of the. Many years ago I was living in Europe and was exposed to many government funds that were available for small businesses in the Caribbean. And when I came home I enquired from the minister why the business community is not making use of these funds. He told me they don't even know about them. And the way these things works. If you don't use them you'll lose them.
2
1
+
−

Observer...

@SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-29 10:37 #1

#9 Observer... » 2013-12-29 23:45

Is that your only contribution to my comments. Is it not the governments that signs agreements? So who then should inform us of the various treaties they sign. Even the OECS treaty is not really known by our businessmen and women. OECS is one economic zone but yet we are trading as if we only have Antigua as our territory. Every business should establish themselves in all the OECS islands and take full advantages of the products/services they produce of distribute. One such business that toke advantage of this is the Lottery. They have offices in all the OECS island and beyond. Yet we are playing one Caribbean Lottery and other games. And where is the head office incorporated. I was told in St. Kitts.
3
1
+
−

Observer...

Observer

#8 tenman » 2013-12-29 14:26

Observer agree with your comment about insufficient information provided by government about the EPA. Recall Sir Ron Saunders (see barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=columnists&NewsID=9962)and other notable west Indian analysts saying the same thing. I am at pains to understand how any private citizen would be able to garner information on Economic Partnership Agreement without government providing a frame work. A 2008 report on its impact stated:
Quote:
We avoid to put emphasis on the (EPA's) effects on domestic production, due to the fact that information at the product level is scarce and of low quality see http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2008/march/tradoc_138081.pdf
. There is another report which points out due to information asymmetry we are at a disadvantage
..
2
2
+
−

tenman

@ Observer

#7 SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-29 10:37

I'll be honest with you, educating our small business owners is NOT the responsibility of our government! I actually cannot understand why people like you constantly think our government should always hold us by the hand and lead us everywhere we need to go and show us how to do everything we need to do in order to be successful. How to run you business--small and big business owners alike--is your responsibility. Your government might aide you with financial backing if it's necessary but it's your duty to, first go to school ( business cl** or workshops training people to be managers), learn everything associated with operating a business, and do your own research to have control over your business.
3
3
+
−

SlyThatGuy

@Mr. Sanders #2

#6 Observer » 2013-12-29 00:18

I have always charged that Caribbean people are not ready for Caricom and you confirm it by indicating the selfish way our leaders try to solve a common problem nationally. We in the Caribbean could do so much better if we could only be less selfish and work together. But you saw the brawl between Trinidad and Jamaica the other day. Wait until Guyana and Surinam start up again. We have so much we can trade between the islands, but jet we prefer to trade with the USA, Canada or Europe. We need to urgently invest in better Caribbean port to port shipping lines. Just like LIAT these lines do not have to be profitable, but we need to give our merchandise the chance to be on the markets in Caricom and for a reasonable price. We are just a sring of Islands and Guyana and Surinam on the continent. And maybe that could be the birth of our own Caribbean cruiseline. Each island will have to make contributions in the form of a federal tax to pay for it. Maybe when we ingtroduce a few federal taxes that are used for the benefit of caricom we will see the light
5
0
+
−

Observer

@Mr. Sanders

#5 Observer » 2013-12-29 00:09

As a small businessman I find that our governments are not educating our businessmen enough on the advantages they can take from the EPA. And we do not have the trade missions to promote the Caribbean products. Not even tourism we can seem to market as one in Europe. Caricom should have fought England with the extra tax they levied on passengers. We should have use the same method and put extra taxes on British or products coming to the Caribbean. Tourism is a service that we are selling and every obstacle that is placed in the way to prevent us the maximum benefit we should counter act.
3
2
+
−

Observer

@tenman » 2013-12-28 11:56

#4 Observer » 2013-12-29 00:01

We use to have a policy in the ministry of finance that you cannot pay lets say a company in Trinidad in USD. And I could understand that. When working for an International construction company I operated for that very same purpose several foreign currency accounts. Knowing how much USD I would need for a project I would make sure I bought USD upfront at low rates. And FF when they were low and so one. Our company operated practically in every continent in the world. And the purchase department was centralized. I wonder if in the ministry of Finance they start opening a Chinese currency account. Actually how many goods entering Antigua today are made in China? And who is importing these goods and what currency are they paying for it? Questions they should seek answers on in the Finance Ministry.
4
1
+
−

Observer

RE 2013- A Year of Lost Opportunities for Caribbean Countries

#3 SlyThatGuy » 2013-12-28 22:45

Those other 13 CARICUM countries also need Gaston Browne and the Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP) to rescue them. Really. Had all 14 independent member States of the Caribbean Community been headed by Gaston and the ABLP, they would have never experienced a bad year; there would have no doubt been a steady increase in productivity, which would have stimulated economic growth in every one of these countries. Can you believe before this report surfaced I was totally convinced Antigua and Barbuda was the only Caribbean country in financial trouble. Now, if our financial troubles are due to the incompetence of Prime Minister Spencer, what those 13 other countries financial troubles are due to?
3
5
+
−

SlyThatGuy

RE: 2013- A Year of Lost Opportunities for Caribbean Countries

#2 Vere Bird III » 2013-12-28 14:47

Have no fear TRUE LABOUR is here!!
0
10
+
−

Vere Bird III

short term thinking

#1 tenman » 2013-12-28 11:56

Quote:
What is more, since loans that CARICOM governments have contracted with China are denominated in Yuan which is rising in value against the US dollar, repayments will escalate, placing a bigger burden on already dwindling government revenues.
Recall the current government, when in opposition, lambasting the former one for not hedging loans (eg. Royal Antigua). When it comes time for the WPP, they who claimed to know better, did worse. We now have much more debt in Chinese currency. This currency appreciation the writer mentioned, means the seemingly junk WPP (Government refuses to have an independent inquiry into the plant), is costing us even more. One should not be even surprised, based on the past, that the new airport though shiny at first, in no time will also be junk
..
6
4
+
−

tenman

Add comment

Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on Small States in the global community.

 

 

Follow us on Facebook

Spotlight on Education

Previous Next
Govt to give Two Uniforms
Antigua St. John's - Minister of Education Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro has confirmed...  Read more

App

Android LogoDownload Caribarena's Android App Click To Download

Find us on Twitter!