Elizabeth Morgan | CARICOM: Advocacy for Economic and Social Security – Whither the Passion? | Commentary – Community News
Social Security

Elizabeth Morgan | CARICOM: Advocacy for Economic and Social Security – Whither the Passion? | Commentary

β€œThe economic recovery of the Caribbean is subject to significant uncertainty related to the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

– IMF

“People in the Caribbean are facing some of the highest levels of violence in the world.” – Alberto Brunori, Regional Representative, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The past few weeks in particular have shown that passion for many things can be aroused within the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). But I often feel that the same passion is not focused on tackling the region’s social and economic challenges – continued sluggish economic growth and rising crime rates.

In August 2019, my article focused on the quest for economic independence which, while some progress has been made in the post-independence period, more for some than others, has proved generally elusive. At that time, I could never have imagined that in March 2020 a global health pandemic would envelop the world and have serious economic and social implications for the CARICOM region.

In early 2021, people warned that the recovery from the 2020 economic plunge could be sluggish, but there was some optimism that with COVID vaccines, a rejuvenation of the economy could be possible and life would return to somewhat normal. CARICOM heads focused on securing vaccines and developing recovery strategies. Unfortunately, as 2021 progressed, it became clear that those who predicted uncertain prospects were correct. The vaccines eventually arrived, but uptake was low; lower in some countries than in others. In addition, new variants of COVID-19 have appeared.

INFLATION NOW A CONCERN

For tourism-dependent countries, tourist arrivals should recover to 2019 levels. In addition, prices are rising, with shipping bottlenecks and other manufacturing and supply problems, and inflation is now a concern. The 53rd meeting of the CARICOM Council on Trade and Development (COTED) took place from November 23-24; however, I am still waiting to read the outcome of this meeting. COTED has a mandate to address the state of the regional economy and plan for economic recovery after COVID. We were told that the focus would be on implementing the CSME, which is still a long way from full implementation in its 20th year. The President of Guyana has expressed continued concern about trade barriers within the region, and thus barriers to the implementation of the CSME.

There is no doubt that the figures for trade in goods and services in this region will be well below those of 2019. For trade in goods with the main trading partner the US, CARICOM’s imports are quite significant for the period January-September 2021, at an estimated $9 billion. Exports from CARICOM countries to the US have been estimated at US$7 billion, of which US$5 billion are exports from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, the only two countries with a surplus with the US. The total deficit for the region is $2 billion. I find that commodity prices are rising, which is good for those who export petroleum products, sugar and other commodities, but not so good news for those who import.

LONG AND TURNING ROAD TO RECOVERY

In terms of trade in services (tourism) for January to August 2021, while for some countries tourist arrivals have increased in 2020, the arrival figures are well below 2019. In 2019, for example, the number of arrivals for Jamaica was estimated to be 1.9 million ; for this period in 2021 there were 870,000 arrivals. For the same period, the estimated total arrivals for the 10 main CARICOM countries, where tourism is a key sector, was almost six million in 2019, while the total number of arrivals in 2021 is two million.

Industry revenues will be low. The economic outlook is therefore not encouraging and further dampens the prospects for recovery from the pandemic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) points out in a recent report on the ‘Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean’ that the road to recovery will be long and winding, and that weak tourism growth will slow the recovery in the Caribbean will hinder.

On the social front, there are continuing concerns about rising crime rates in several CARICOM countries, and as the representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, there are three CARICOM countries with the highest crime rates in Latin America and the Caribbean – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Belize. It doesn’t stop there. Several CARICOM countries feature in the top 20 on the various lists of countries with the highest murder rates in the world. Crime, it is reported, is stifling growth and development in the CARICOM region and taking a heavy toll on the influx of investment.

So while there is a lot of passion and outrage around certain political developments in the region, or lack thereof, it would be very encouraging to see just as much passion and zeal channeled towards advocacy for tackling the economic and social crises engulfing countries. of this region. In my opinion, political independence is more meaningful when it is accompanied by economic and social security.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to [email protected]