The Caribbean is focused solely on what it wants in the reparations debate, but what does Britain or other former colonial partners want?
I had the pleasure of having this discussion with the noted economist Jeremy Stephen. He notes: “If you feel that the billions (in today’s money) in compensation to former British slave owners would ever make its way back here in the region in any form that redounds to our benefit, or for the money to stay here, you, like many in Jamaica, are looking at the wrong thing.
“A man who managed to be educated at Ethan College, as a result of the millions (in today’s money) that was paid to his family a couple generations ago is now looking to help Jamaica incarcerate its people. This is seen as a benefit to Jamaica
when indeed it is not.
“Wait for reparations –– charity in its very nature is selfish –– since both parties have to benefit in order for it to be charitable. Think about it: would you ever give money to a cause that somehow doesn’t make you feel good about your having given to that cause? If it were indeed selfless, then you should be indifferent in your benevolence . . . .
“Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana and et al, stop with this reparations talk and let’s be real about one thing: if we have something they want, they will knock on our door. But the problem is that we don’t know what they truly want from us
that benefits us in the long term . . . .
“You see Cuba getting reparations from the States? Nope! But look at the money flooding in now though . . . .
“Stand there and wait for reparations!”
I concur to a degree. In my experience as an investment adviser, persons invest or donate to what they care about. I met an investor only interested in medical marijuana and another only interested in financial technology recently, and they were comfortable with their respective areas because they already knew the benefits to investing in those respective sectors.
I am only going to match these investors with regional opportunities that they are interested in. To offer them an opportunity in a different area I must first have their ear and educate them on the benefits of this different investment.
After reading commentary and opinions in Barbados TODAY and Caribbean News Now, after Mr David Cameron’s comments, I too came to the very relatively simple conclusion that we were missing the bigger picture.
What is the Caribbean currently asking for? A CARICOM Reparations Justice Programme –– a ten-point action plan:
1. Full formal apology.
3. Indigenous peoples’ development programme.
4. Cultural institutions.
5. Public health crisis.
6. Illiteracy eradication.
7. African knowledge programme.
8. Psychological rehabilitation.
9. Technology transfer.
10. Debt cancellation.
Does Britain care or see any benefit? Probably not.
Why ask for money when we, the Caribbean, can print
I am not suggesting the current printing of money, but it is
an admission that our printing press doesn’t carry the same weight as Britain’s. Why is this?
The majority of the world’s central banks hold the British pound and three other currencies –– the United States dollar, the euro and the Japanese yen. These four currencies make up the International Monetary Fund’s currency also known as special drawing rights (SDR). This gives these countries a large amount of autonomy, and means they can print large amounts of money without the adverse effects seen in Zimbabwe, for example.
So my next suggestion is the next logical step
Have a Caribbean currency and ensure that is linked with the IMF’s special drawing rights. Benefits exist for Britain and other major countries if we agitate the IMF to be part of the SDR.
There are vast reasons for Britain and other countries to support this, which would be strategic and economic in nature. A regional currency linked to SDR could also result in a much larger net wealth benefit to the citizens of the Caribbean than the previously mentioned ten-point action plan.
Formulated correctly, the currency and subsequent integration could benefit Guyana and Jamaica immediately by providing stability to their currency, and rescue Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean from their relative uncompetitive futures on current trajectory, and bring Trinidad a few more options and opportunities besides their oil and natural gas.
However, a regional currency has the drawback of putting the onus on the Caribbean to actually integrate and cooperate. Perhaps this time there is enough economic incentive (since the last major attempt at regional integration). For the sake of being an article, I have been brief because this submission could easily be part of many different dissertations. My hope is that this article would be forwarded far and wide, changing the discussion from solely what the Caribbean wants to what the Caribbean and its past colonial masters want.
(Craig Harewood is the investment director at OurInterest Inc. Visit www.ourinterest.org)