Some interesting developments have been unfolding in the Caribbean in recent years and have increasingly gained public attention of late. Those of us who have an interest in the politics of the region observed the ‘clash’ that occurred in the parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis last week between Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas and Premier Vance Amory of Nevis. The issue which sparked the conflict has to do with “an attempted sale of Crown lands by the Nevis Island Administration to an Iraqi national and funds alleged to have been sent to the federation as payment for the proposed sale” – PM and premier square off in parliament over Nevis petition . Prime Minister Douglas suggested there was alleged fraud associated with the transaction and called for an investigation to which Amory asked the Speaker to have to have the statement withdrawn.
In the build up to the 2008 General Election Barbados Underground posted frequently on the subject of land use policy (or lack of) in Barbados, citing reasons that were also applicable to the region. St. Kitts and Nevis is an example of a Caribbean country that has shifted to a 100% service based economy with tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI) now driving the economy. If we are to listen to some pundits in the local media who are impressed by the progress made by St. Kitts and Nevis, and recommend a similar economic model for Barbados, recent events should alert to the dangers of doing business with foreign investors from non Western countries. There is a saying one cannot have two masters. In the case of Barbados with a heavy reliance on international business anchored in Canada and the United States we should exercise caution.
BU’s read of the region, Guyana included, is that our governments are resigned to implementing a policy of attracting foreign direct investment as a key driver of economic activity. This approach has taken on an urgency in the last five years post meltdown of the global economy because traditional growth structures have been decimated.
Many English speaking islands, including Barbados, have had to take a hit to its human development index because tourism and FDI, key external economic drivers, have had a downturn in recent years. Events of the last six years should have forced our government to radically examine consumption and investment decision making with a view to retooling our economies by utilizing indigenous approaches to encourage growth strategies.
Barbadians have heard that a middle eastern investor has come to the rescue of government to bail the Paradise Beach project – as the case with most government initiatives Barbadians wait patiently for full disclosure about the deal. The Chinese have been very active in the region investing heavily in many of our impoverish economies. It should be evident, even to the dullard, that a heavy reliance on FDI is not sustainable, and if we were to examine the risk reward experience of St. Kitts and a few others in the region it is clear the political leadership of the region is bereft of wholesome policy initiatives to advance our region. The idea of functional cooperation seems to have fallen by the wayside.
The CLICO and Stanford experience has exposed the lack of a robust oversight culture in the region. To enter the murky world of foreign investment market from non Western sources, BU remains sceptical to it being a sustainable economic driver. We need not mention the lack of transparency legislation to ‘try’ to keep regional politicians honest.