Tag Archives: Caribbean development

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.