Saving The Caribbean – One Island, One Person, One Community At A Time

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By Joseph Edward Doway

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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 21, 2020: Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, CDB, stated recently that the “Caribbean could become poorest region in the world by 2050.” 

I say we should be prepared that it may occur in 2025, if we as a people do not educate ourselves.  Dr. Ram continued by saying that doing business in the Caribbean is getting more difficult. 

As someone involved in seeking financing for developments in the Caribbean, I totally agree.  In fact, change will not come until the people of the Caribbean can stand to elevate themselves and create a “Culture of Independence.”

As I mentioned in an article years ago where I touched on the subject of ‘Doing Business in the Caribbean,’ the effects of mental slavery continue to exist in the Caribbean.

As a young man in the 60’s, I can recall as students we would say that “The rich will always be rich and the poor will always remain poor.” Unfortunately, that resonated within some of our people from generation to generation. 

A few months, an Australian who came to the Caribbean to work as a chef told me that he never will understand why local businesspeople do not recognize their own. He further went on to say that our local people must stop behaving like crabs in a barrel, because at the end of the day, they are inviting the foreigners to take over. 

The solutions are very easy.  Let’s start by electing competent, qualified, compassionate persons to occupy top positions in government. 

The Caribbean’s biggest downfall is caused by some of the ministers in government who have no clue of proper governance.  In fact, they are there to enrich themselves. 

The young people in our Caribbean nation are realizing that governments have no interest in empowering the youth, because they do not want a culture of independence to exist.  And we know why.  That will reduce the dependence on government officials and allow for a greater option at the ballot.

But most important, we have to observe the “Me – Myself and I” philosophy that is prominent among our people in power, those with wealth and the decision makers at our lending institutions.  They take from the poor and give to themselves and their rich associates.  So, there is no love, just the constant greed.

For the Caribbean to succeed, more recognition must be given to micro-businesses.  Small and medium businesses are the ones that turn the economy of any country.  There is always the trickle effect associated with supporting the smaller businesses, because most of their earnings are circulated right within the island territory. 

Supporting local manufacturing, improving the environment, teaching our young people the importance of money management, improving the skill sets of the population, encouraging productivity, focusing on technology and providing funding at low interest rates are the only alternatives to saving the Caribbean. 

Government ministers must take into consideration that what ever they place on their election mandates must be a prescription for human development and they must put legislation in place to protect their people from the corporations that are only in the game for a profit, but careless about their employees or customers.  There must be laws protecting the Small and Medium Enterprises, the Credit Unions and Cooperatives.

The Culture of Independence means that individuals and committees must stop depending on Government Ministers for livelihood, but instead, work together to become sustainable through community levels, creating a driving force that is recognized internationally, regionally and locally.

We all know that the biggest hinderance entrepreneurs and business owners face in the region is the unavailability of finance.  That also includes the flow of funds through the Caribbean.  I had the experience of waiting 33 days for a wire transfer from one Caribbean island next door to the island I live on.  Do we realize how much a hinderance that can be to any businessperson and the economy?  We hear of complains of high import and customs tariffs, the high taxes on air travel and the cost of travel.   All of those are the leads to making the Caribbean the poorest region in the world. 

The result of that is the continuation of the BRAIN DRAIN, because our young people are forced to migrate to continents to earn a living.

Mr. Ram mentioned about the giving farmers access to credit and allowing their business to grow while improving economies.  I would extend that to every one who wants to go into business and again put legislature in place to have these loan sharks stay within a reasons interest rate, not the 10% to 13% that some of these financial institutions impose on their borrowers, in these very hard times. 

And when will CDB Executives recognize the upcoming dilemma that is real at our doorsteps?  Will our public officials acknowledge that fact?  I doubt it very much, but when you speak to the average business owner in the Caribbean, the cry is the same.  They have no help and do not know who to turn to.  When you talk to the technocrats in government, they say that their hands a tied

If it takes a village to raise a child, then let us use a community to create a Culture of Independence. If we do not look to save the Caribbean, then we will continue to lose the Caribbean for foreign investors. Our young people will continue to be working as bellhop, waiters, chambermaids at resorts, while the executive positions will be held by ex-pats, some of whom have no clue what living in the Caribbean entails. 

So, let’s look at some solutions: 

Let’s form a Caribbean organization that will be responsible for improving the region in these four main areas:

1.      Education – Financing – Training  

2.      Marketing – Promotion

3.      Policy making / reviews – Lobbying (A Voice)

4       Business Management Consultancy

This is aimed at helping individuals understand their role in Sustainable Development through providing reasonable, quick solutions, business counseling, protection of their enterprises, low interest loans , linking with international foundations and trust who will provide grants, preserve free competitive enterprise and maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our Caribbean Nation.

Access to capital

  • That organization must eventually provide an array of financing for small businesses from the smallest needs in microlending to substantial debt and equity investment capital. Which would allow for moving from not just creating necklaces and beach wrap dresses, to creating innovative products, all available for export. 

Hiring Employees with Disabilities

  • Hiring individuals with disabilities must be given full opportunities and facilitation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: – Mr. Joseph Edward Doway is advocate for sustainable development and founder / CEO / Lead Consultant at Brightmind Advisers Inc.

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