2016: Danger Ahead For Caribbean

The Caribbean Is One Nation.

Submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Group

2016 greets the region with low oil prices playing havoc with its strongest economy, Trinidad and Tobago. Suddenly, the Trini saying that “money is no problem” rings hallow. Money is a problem and already the recently elected Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, has asked his countrymen to eat healthier foods because the administration has imposed value added tax (VAT) on a number of basic items. Shades of the late Guyanese President, Mr. Forbes Burnham, who under intense pressure in an economy that was in deep trouble back in the 80s encouraged, some would say forced, his citizens to eat local. They really had no choice because the country could not afford to import much of anything. But Guyana survived.
The low oil prices are bringing little comfort to our island economies because they have been so poorly managed, that any savings from the reduction cannot be passed on to the consumer. Many governments are struggling to keep their foreign reserves healthy and the cycle of “perpetual poverty” for many will continue. While the rich would continue to enjoy the scarce sweets of the land, the poor would forever be struggling to find bus fares for their children to get to school and depend on the state services that are over burden because of high demand.
We have often warned that the environment presents one of the greatest and gravest threats to our region. Failure to properly mange garbage disposal and refusing to replace century old water mains, now pose a direct threat to many Barbadians, who are now resorting to government owned water tanks to supply water in rural areas. The persistent dry weather is destroying the efforts of those who make a living from agriculture. Without a strong tourism industry, the Barbados economy will be instantly paralyzed.
The drought is not confined to Barbados, and it is not the only country, that has put almost all its eggs in the tourism basket. St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada and Jamaica, also have their economies connected to the mighty tourist dollar. All of these countries are grappling with the same economic and environmental challenges. It is not a pretty picture anywhere in the region.

2016 will be extremely challenging unless we move swiftly to put social and economic programs in place to deal with and confront the threats to our very survival. The days of sophistry and political one upmanship must become things of the past. Otherwise: “Crapaud smoke we pipe”.
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