The lands of the Caribbean archipelago are in crisis, perhaps their worst ever, a condition that stands in stark contrast to thriving South America. The Caribbean economies have been unable to find a niche in a globalized world economy. Jamaica’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 130 per cent, one of the highest, and its unemployment rate is 14.5 per cent. Even Puerto Rico, once the most prosperous of all islands, is bankrupt.
Since its inception, the Caribbean has been the most globalized region in the developing world — in terms of the powers that made it, the populations that formed it and its integration into the world economy as “King Sugar” financed several European empires. After independence, the islands latched onto special access and privileges in the markets of the old and new colonial powers.
Yet with globalization and liberalization, these privileges evaporated (the banana regime with the EU comes to mind; tax havens may be next), and Caribbean nations have been left holding the bag. Even tourism, hailed as the region’s last best hope, is succumbing to global trends. As the airfare share of a travel package gets lower, a Thai vacation can be cheaper than a Jamaican one.
Globalization embraces some and tosses out others. The Caribbean is being tossed out.
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