Regional Socio-Economic Policy Needed
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
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We are now beyond certain that immediate steps must be taken to formulate a regional socio-economic policy that will not only focus on the current malaise that envelops the Caribbean but must also focus on a developmental model which serve the region through the next half century.
We say half century because we are looking at the next two generations, who we believe, will have great challenges if they want to prosper in the region. On a daily basis, we witness that the one legged economic policy of putting all our eggs in the tourism industry basket, may not be in the best interest of our struggling economies. While we recognize that the industry is a considerable foreign exchange earner, we also must recognize that it takes as much as it brings because at least seventy percent of the foreign exchange earned may very well be finding its way out of the same economies in order to satisfy the demands of the industry. Failure to have a symbiotic relationship between the tourism and agricultural industries has resulted in hotels importing basic agricultural produce such as tomatoes. Even the fish used in many hotels throughout the region are imported because we have not been serious about developing a modern regional fishing industry.
On the other hand, we have some countries banking on developing the so-called service industry. The problem they encounter is the slow implementation of policies in this area. Most regional countries are simply incapable of competing with other countries, whose services are world class and are offered at the speed of light.
Traditionally, we have believed that once we educated our citizens there will be jobs for them. However, the information highway and the new global economic landscape have essentially made many of our graduates almost unemployable. In other words, their qualifications are no longer relevant to the new economic order or job market. It is now obvious that our education system is also failing us and in many instances is actually contributing to the retardation of progress in the region.
In the meantime, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now seen as the savior of our region. The IMF’s medicine is not only bitter-it simply does not work! We have Jamaica still struggling after thirty years of the fund’s involvement and advice. The belief that laying off public sector workers and promoting low wages will not work in the Caribbean, where the standard of living, in spite of all our struggles, is still higher than the other countries, whose workers accept wages that are very unattractive to our Caribbean workers.
It’s now up to us. Time is running out .Our regional leaders must design a progressive regional socio- economic policy.