Kyffin Simpson: Treat the Caribbean Wisely

Article excerpt

WE LOOK FORWARD TO WELCOMING YOU MR. President-elect, at the Summit of the Americas in April 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a great privilege for us that you are coming to our area, and it is our hope that you will not overlook our region. I'll remind you that there are others who are quite ready and willing to fill the vacuum quickly with a completely different agenda from the foundations of our culture and way of life!

Our region sees itself as an important part of the Americas-and wishes to be treated accordingly. High oil prices, inflation and crime pose a significant risk to the Caribbean. Writing as a representative of Barbados, I hope you will address these critical issues.

Compared with other regions in the world, the Caribbean has done well. For example, among the 177 countries ranked in the most recent United Nations Development Programme' s Human Development Report, six Caribbean countries are classified in the category of High Human Development. Much of this development has to do with the natural resource blessings of the region, combined with high literacy rates. The challenges, however, remain difficult.

The geographic location of the Caribbean, so close to North America, has played a major role in the region's socioeconomic development. This has facilitated trade and the movement of people. The U.S. has been the Caribbean's major trading partner for decades. Additionally, many of our citizens have chosen to make the U.S. their home, to the mutual benefit of both regions. Many of these immigrants are skilled professionals: doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc.

But along with the benefits of geographic proximity, the Caribbean has suffered from some of Washington's policies. That's why our stake in the agenda of the new administration is high.

Mr. President-elect, reestablishing the U.S. position in moral and economic terms should be the two main challenges you tackle upon assuming office. In our view, the U.S. has to regain the moral high ground that it seems to have lost in world affairs. We see this as fundamental to the fashioning of a new agenda for the region. U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have lowered world opinion of the United States.

History has taught us that we must encourage those who live in our neighborhood to be friends, notwithstanding past differences and the difficulties in the achievement of this goal. This approach has proven to be the best form of defense.

It is in this context that we encourage you to once again explore options for bringing Venezuela and Cuba back into the fold of friends. For although we do not share the same political doctrines, we certainly share the same future. We do not have the answers, but we know that this part of the world will be far better off as a result, and that we all stand to benefit.

A second immediate concern for us in the region is the state of the U.S. and global economy. In the Caribbean, the high price of fuel influences the price of many commodities and serves as a catalyst for emerging inflation. …