September 24, 2020

As I See Things: Managing C’bean economies


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Layout 1By Brian Francis, From Nation News Barbados

Although the expectations generally can be considered mixed throughout the region, there is nonetheless some optimism among certain sectors of a turnaround in the economic fortunes of Caribbean countries in 2015 and beyond.

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Only last week, for example, the managing director and chief executive officer of Republic Bank (Barbados) Limited, Ian De Souza, expressed confidence in the ability of the Barbadian economy to improve in the coming year on account of enhanced performances in tourism and construction. Similar expectations have been alluded to on many occasions by both the Government of Barbados and the Central Bank of Barbados.

At the international level, the Inter American Development Bank is also predicting some improvements in Caribbean economies in 2015 with economic growth in the region of about two per cent. This author has absolutely no problems with those who are bent on avoiding the “doom and gloom” scenario for Caribbean economies in the coming year and beyond, choosing instead to look on the brighter side. Indeed, given the apparent lack of significant consumer and investor confidence in some Caribbean economies, any forecast of positive growth should help tremendously in bringing about some changes in the perceptions that people hold of our small and fragile economies.

The challenge for us in the Caribbean is that despite the developments taking place locally, regionally and internationally, the future stability and performances of our countries will still depend mostly on the manner in which we manage our economies. If we continue to accept that external forces are the main culprits in our weak and deteriorating circumstances, then, the “wait and see” approach that has become evident in some instances will suffice.

However, if we accept that structural, institutional and governance issues present real dangers to our economic environment and hence are having serious negative implications for our growth potential, then, the only feasible response is to rethink the way in which we manage our economies and start immediately addressing some of the more pressing problems that continue to stifle our economic progress.

And clearly, in that context, there are no shortages of issues that ought to be brought to the fore without much hesitation. Even though it is impossible to explore all of the major problems affecting the performances of Caribbean economies in this column, I firmly believe that the issue of citizenship by investment ought to be given high priority in the coming year. You see, given the fiscal stranglehold that many countries have found themselves in it became imperative to explore this non tax source of revenue that on the surface seems rather harmless to our ailing economies.

As admirable as that programme is in terms of the contribution it has and continues to make to the treasuries of those countries involved, the time is perfect for a complete review of this initiative and the consideration of alternatives. I have reached this conclusion based on the numerous issues that have been raised by countries such as Canada and the United States about some of the individuals that have been granted citizenships under this scheme and the possible long-term fallouts that can eventually override the millions of dollars in benefits the countries now enjoy.

In short, therefore, as we enter 2015 and plan for the other years ahead, we in the Caribbean must take a more serious look at the things we do as part of the overall efforts at managing our economies and resolving current socioeconomic problems. Otherwise, the unintended consequences may prove too disastrous.

  • Brian M. Francis, PhD, is a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus. Email: [email protected]

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