The negative impact of the global COVID pandemic continues to batter the economies of countries great and small, rich and poor, throughout the world. Naturally in a highly globalized world where inter-dependency is a feature and dependency of small-island states on the global economy makes them very vulnerable, Caribbean countries are very exposed. From the Bahamas in the north to Guyana in the south, all these nations are struggling to grapple with preventative health measures while desperately trying to come up with policies for the sustenance and even resuscitation of their economies.
These are by no means easy tasks for such countries, not made any easier by the concentration of more developed economies which have been worse affected in human costs on their own economic recovery. In addition our highly competitive and adversarial brand of politics results in a lack of national cohesion and the temptation on the part of some political forces to try to reap political capital out of the situation.
Unfortunately the situation is so dire that national interests must come above all else and that requires at least a basic minimum of national consensus as to policies for our survival, especially of the most needy and vulnerable. Try as we may reality catches up with us quite quickly. There are some in our midst who try to paint a picture of our country being the “worst” and put forward an alternative of the much-vaunted “citizenship by investment” initiative as our only salvation.
We have to be very careful. Take our neighbours immediately to the north and south of us. Both have embraced such schemes as the way forward and have won praises in some quarters because of it. Both have, unlike our country, taken the road of lockdowns to deal with COVID-19, only to encounter formidable challenges in getting out of the economic and social isolation.
The Prime Minister of St Lucia, Allen Chastanet, last Sunday night was forced to tell his people that his government “has exhausted all efforts” aimed at providing assistance to citizens in distress from the negative effects of COVID-19. Saying that this realization was “no secret”, the St Lucian leader appealed to nationals to follow the protocols and measures necessary to curb the spread of the pandemic .
Significantly though, he acknowledged the difficulty in raising funds, locally and overseas, to finance social assistance and stabilisation programmes. “We have no more money” was the grim message he conveyed to his nation.
Meanwhile Grenada, like St Lucia a major promoter of the “Citizenship by Investment” schemes, has found itself in difficulty as it struggles to revive its tourism industry on which it is highly dependent. Efforts to attract tourists from the UK and Europe have been stymied by Grenada’s voluntary downgrading of the Maurice Bishop International Airport. Claiming that there has been a delayed arrival of supply for the fire services at the airport, the announcement has affected the arrival of the vital British Airways connection from the UK.
Both Grenada and St Lucia are among the regional countries held up as models for the CBI scheme and their shortcomings in coping with the COVID fallout are cause for concern. Worse, a much-vaunted proponent of the scheme, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, was this week forced to put an end to its version of the scheme, called “golden passports” after the exposure of how it is being used by corrupt politicians to provide international crooks with passport cover.
These developments should provide us with enough food for thought about supposed “easy money” and “get rich” schemes. There is no substitute for innovation, hard work, honesty and reliance on the resilience of one’s people.