Category Archives: Politics

Time to think again

Life in the English-speaking Caribbean is much more complicated than it should be. A collection of small islands and nations have struggled to do things that many larger countries have failed to do well, and at a cost that governments would be ashamed to admit. I will just list a few of the more obvious ones that affect daily lives.

First, almost every country has its own currency, and we all struggle with the need to change money every time we travel. Admittedly, the group of islands in the Organization of East Caribbean States have a common currency, which says something about their sense of commonality and willingness to integrate. but, most of the rest of us have to change our national dollars for other dollars. Most of our countries do not have freely convertible currencies, but some countries willingly allow the exchange of currencies: outlets in Trinidad will take the Barbadian dollar and the EC dollar. In Barbados, it is less common to find outlets taking other Caribbean currencies. In many of our countries, the US dollar is readily accepted. Some have argued that the region should adopt the US dollar formally as its currency; most recently, former PM Seaga has proposed that option for Jamaica. Such a move would not be new in the region, but with people who try to be fiercely independent, it would be a hard sell. But, it was no so long ago, though under British colonial rule, that we all used the Pound sterling.

Second, customs and immigration procedures. I am really at a loss to understand why we could not have agreed on common forms for customs and immigration; in fact, most of the forms are minor variants of each other. As a corollary, and perhaps with machine-readable passports it may be easier, could the region not be inventive and have customs and immigrations information generated automatically as passengers check in? Maybe, we could show the world how to do things efficiently. The regional mobile phone companies have seen the benefit of making the region ‘seamless’, by having systems that allow use of phones when you travel without imposing roaming charges while calling within the region. Would it not be wonderful to move from country to country without felling that you needed to relearn and redo everything? It’s enough to have to learn to eat cou-cou, or bammy, or cook-up rice, or crab and dumpling, or conch/lambi, or drink Red Stripe or Carib or Stag or Piton or Kubili or Banks. So, to the powers that be, give the people a little ease, nuh.

Jamaica celebrates 45 years on independence

Jamaica celebrated 45 years of Independence on August 6. The debate about what the country has achieved since the end of British rule is not one that can have a definitive conclusion. There are enough statistics that show progress in many social and economic areas. There are also many statistics that show a worsening of economic and social development. The country has been under continuous transformation, and that has not stopped. I feel that the conclusions people draw will reflect their political position. There is nothing wrong with that. Continue reading

Conference on the Caribbean: A Participant’s Perspective

caricomheadssmall.gifDuring June 19-21, Caricom heads of state and its secretary-general attended a conference in Washington DC, hosted by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the Organisation of American states (see conference web site). The heads of state had an historic summit with the US government (see White House statement); long overdue many agreed, but it had been a long time in the planning and fell well in Caribbean American heritage month. The White House statement makes most of the right political noises on issues such as protecting democracy and enhancing security, expanding trade and building the services sector. Whether Caribbean citizens will feel that any of this really has them in mind will be for time to tell.

The conference and summit have left those present in Washington with some sense of optimism because Caribbean issues were put in front of American government officials as well as offiicals from important multilateral agencies. That optimism, however, needs to be set in a realistic context: the Caribbean is small and is not amongst the US administration’s highest priorities (one can judge this by the ease with which US officials absent themselves from proceedings). With President Bush coming to the end of his 2nd term, he may be seen as a lame duck, so whatever “commitments” his administration made could be added to the litany of promises yet to be fulfilled.

The conference also showed that there are plenty of leaders in the extended Caribbean community, not just amongst those who have assumed political leadership positions. Successful and striving would fit many of the women and men present at the conference who are in business, non-profit organizations, studying, or whatever field they are in. That should be a good signal because we have seen in recent months some startling lack of leadership, decision-making and vision within the region and things associated with it. Continue reading

Fire in de belly! Election fever is starting

fnm-fire-belly.jpgThis year will see several general elections in the region, and The Bahamas have kicked off the races. In the Caribbean we put the party feeling into most things, including politics, and it’s good to see people getting out for rallies and “enjoying” their democratic rights. There are no certainties in elections, but opposition supporters are chanting loudly “It ain’ long now!” or “It ova!”, as they expect a massive victory. So far, the debates have been heated and the supporters fervent. We hope that this will continue to be the trend, without any descent into violence against candidates or supporters. fnm-fire-crown.jpgHowever, recent reports of possible arson with the burning down of the constituency office of “Tommy” Turnquest, a very promintent member of opposition party, Free National Movement, indicate that this may be too hopeful. Continue reading