Lifeline To A Sinking Caribbean

A small party in Barbados is taking regional governments and political parties to task over their response to the impact of the global economic crisis on the Caribbean. The People’s Empowerment Party (PEP), headed by David Comissiong fingers the political leadership in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago for their lethargic response  to a PEP suggestion to address the crisis regionally.

The following is the full text of the PEP statement:

As the international economic crisis begins to hit home more forcibly in the Caribbean, [Barbados] Prime Minister David Thompson has responded by traipsing off to Britain, China, the United States and Canada to beg for help, while the governments of Jamaica, Antigua and St Vincent are all making a beeline for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)!

Make no mistake about it, the Caribbean is facing a serious crisis! According to the ‘United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’ the exports and general trade of our region is expected to decline by some 30 per cent during the 2008 to 2009 period. And even the supposedly oil rich nation of Trinidad & Tobago is slipping into a crisis, with a projected TT $18.9 billion decline in government revenues for the 2008 to 2009 period.

Two months ago, the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados warned Barbadians that their country had fallen into a recession that was manifesting itself in a 8.8 per cent decline in tourist arrivals, and sizeable contractions in the manufacturing and construction sectors. And now the IMF has instructed the Barbados Government that it must impose a programme of austerity, tax increases and government cuts on the Barbadian people!

So, as a prelude to increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT), laying off Government workers, raising the cost of natural gas and bus fares, and selling off government assets, Prime Minister Thompson is trying his luck in an international begging effort.

It is clear therefore that all of the CARICOM countries are now on the slippery slope of descent into the ugly waiting arms of the IMF! The likelihood is that they will all be picked off one-by-one as they foolishly persist in trying to go it alone in an international environment that is getting progressively dangerous with every passing month.

Once again, the Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) is forced to say:- “We told you so”! You see, way back in the month of January 2009 our party sent a letter to all of the CARICOM Prime Ministers, and to the leaders of all of the political parties of CARICOM (both government and opposition), warning them about the impending crisis, and urging them to adopt a collective emergency programme to defend the livelihoods of the Caribbean people.

Way back in January, we warned these political leaders that – “It is already bad now, and it is going to get worse, much worse! Indeed, if we do not respond proactively and appropriately, we can confidently expect years of mass unemployment throughout the Caribbean, collapsing social infrastructure and programmes, massive balance of payment crises, spiraling crime rates, and general social disintegration”.

We then went on to urge them to bring together the governments, the governing political parties and the opposition parties in a major CARICOM-wide convocation for the purpose of adopting a plan of collective action that would have bi-partisan support and buy-in.

We recommended a package of collective measures that would be designed to preserve existing social welfare programmes and public sector jobs, as well as to aggressively and systematically establish new, collectively owned structures of production, thereby expanding our regional economy and stanching the outflow of precious foreign exchange.

Sadly, but revealingly, our appeal fell on deaf ears, and out of a total of almost 80 letters sent out, we received a mere two lukewarm responses. But it is still not too late! Once again the PEP urges Mr Thompson, Ms Mottley, Prime Minister Golding and all the other political leaders of CARICOM to acknowledge and act upon our proposal!

     

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