How the Caribbean dealt with the Financial Crisis: beach-time or policy?

Hanging out on Reggae Beach, Jamaica

A recent trip to Trinidad and Tobago found me walking in the midst of two organised protests. One was by the employees of a major Bank and the other by a group of Public servants. Now there is one thing you should know about protest action in the Caribbean, particularly Trinbago – it is not a solemn affair! The issues are serious indeed, but the method of highlighting them can involve singing to a soca tune, some dancing and a musical interlude with just about any physical object.

Witnessing these two groups in protest reminded me that the Global financial crisis is global. The shores of the Caribbean were not spared. It also had me wondering how the different islands were affected in terms of livelihoods and macroeconomics. More than this, I was curious about the measures Caribbean Governments may have put in place to help the citizenry. My search led me to a document done by a number of international NGOs & think tanks – AWID amongst them. The document is Bringing Human Rights to bear in times of crisis: A human rights analysis of governments responses to the economic crisis  (March 2010). The following measures were highlighted in the Caribbean region:

“In the relatively resource-poor Caribbean, for example, governments have a good record of strengthening social spending and social protection in response to the crisis. The government of Antigua and Barbuda subsidized utilities for pensioners and increased pension payments. Social welfare payments increased by 10% in Dominica and the minimum wage was increased. In St. Kitts and Nevis, the government distributed 224 acres of land to rural workers for agricultural production. In Grenada, a free milk program for families with small children and persons with special needs was instated.19 The government of Bolivia—one of the world‘s lowest income countries—raised the minimum wage 12% post-crisis, and spent more than 2% of its GDP investing in a number of social protection programs. These programs, transfers and bonuses helped to simultaneously offset the adverse impacts of the global downturn, bolster demand and economic activity, support particular disadvantaged groups (older persons, children, pregnant women and others) and help sustain people‘s struggle out of poverty” (Extract from the report – pg 8)

As an unrelenting champion of things Caribbean, there is one thing I would point out and seek to alter:- the Caribbean is not necessarily poor re: natural & human resources but has certainly practiced poor management skills in its development & deployment. Economic resources however – yes there is much to be desired.

That’s my two cents for today! Care to add?

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