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The US and the Caribbean: a Mutuality of Interests | Sir Ronald Sanders

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By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON,
United States, Friday June 7, 2019
– Once again, I have drawn attention to the danger
posed to countries of the Caribbean by the withdrawal of correspondent banking
relations (CBRs) from regional banks by global banks in the US.

As lead speaker at the opening of a Legislative Forum in the US House of Representatives on Capitol Hill as part of “Caribbean-American Heritage Month” on June 5, I told an audience representing the US Congress, the US Government, diplomats and US and Caribbean businessmen, the following:

CBRs are the life blood of global
commerce and human development. They are as vital to the world as are air
and sea transportation, telecommunications and the internet, and the fight to
end communicable diseases.

Without CBRs, nations will not be
able to pay each other for purchases of basic things such as food and medicine
and ordinary things like busses, trucks and motor cars.

Without CBRs, the global financial
and trading system would come to a halt, and affected countries will collapse
into poverty from which recovery will be costly both in time and money, but
more importantly in human life.

This grave threat has been hanging
over the Caribbean now for almost half a decade; and it shows no sign of
abating, despite statements to the contrary.

Right now, in many parts of the
Caribbean, most banks are reduced to having only one correspondent bank, and at
an extremely high cost.

Not only have the fees for these
CBRs reached prohibitively high levels, they are taking longer periods of time
to deliver services because of heightened scrutiny. Where in the past a
cross-border transaction could take two days, it can now take as long as two
weeks from our smaller indigenous financial institutions.

The cost of doing business in our
region is escalating, even as we try to cope with high debt, incurred largely
to recover our countries from disasters that have increased in frequency and
intensity, as a result of global warming and sea level rise that point like
daggers at the heart of the existence of many of our island states.

It is claimed – wrongfully – that
Caribbean countries have weak anti-money laundering and counter terrorism
financing regimes, and this is the reason why global banks in the US are
withdrawing CBRs.

But, the two bodies, with the
authority to determine the quality and standing of the regimes in the
Caribbean, have judged most Caribbean countries to be in compliance with their
rigorous standards. 

Those bodies are the Financial
Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum.  In some sectors of
financial services, Caribbean legislative and enforcement machineries have been
rated at a higher level of compliance than the US.

Nonetheless, the Caribbean faces
the real danger of being ‘de-banked’, and to be cut off from the world’s
trading and financing system, including not being able to pay for its imports
from the United States of America – the country that the region chooses as its
major source market.

I went on to point out that “if Caribbean economies diminish, the
consequences will be increased unemployment, enlarged poverty, increased crime
and the advent of economic refugees that will swell the numbers of those
gathering on the US Southern border”.

Earlier in the presentation, I had
stressed that while the United States suffers a trade deficit with many
countries and regions of the world, it enjoys a perennial trade surplus with
the 14 independent countries of the Caribbean Community collectively, that
increases every year.  In 2015, the value of the US balance of trade
surplus was $4.1 billion; in 2016, it rose to $4.6 billion, jumping to $5.5
billion in 2017, and escalating further to $7 billion in 2018.  That
money has provided profits for American companies and jobs for American people.

I also drew attention to the reality that, since the
1990s, US official development assistance to the region has steadily
declined. In 2017, a year in which the US enjoyed a $5.5 billion trade
surplus with CARICOM countries, the region, including Haiti, received a mere
0.9 percent of United States’ global allocation of official development
assistance.

These figures were not mentioned in complaint. For every country in the world has the right to decide to whom it provides assistance; to what extent it does so; and for what purposes. But, since the CARICOM region provides the US with an escalating trade surplus every year, the US should have an interest in the economic growth and prosperity of these nations.

In the final analysis, if
Caribbean countries are unable to maintain a stable rate of economic growth or
if they decline, they will no longer be able to purchase goods and services
from the US, and the trade surplus which the US has continuously enjoyed will
shrink and so too will the revenues and jobs that it generates in America.

Therefore, there is a symbiotic
and mutual interest in the US-Caribbean relationship that must be recalibrated
to ensure that, as the ‘third border’ of the US, the Caribbean remains a zone
of peace and a stable economic and political space.

That means that the US and Caribbean countries should set – and measure their relations – in the mutuality of their interests. All issues should be discussed, including the hot button ones for the US, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and even the role of China in the region, but they ought not to be the single prism through which relations are evaluated.  

Today, most CARICOM countries are
stable; democracy and human rights are respected and upheld; the rights of the
individual and of businesses thrive; and the rule of law is maintained.

But these conditions are only
maintainable in conditions of sustained development.

Democracy, freedom and the rule of
law are fragile plants whose growth and strength must be watered and fed by the
nutrients of economic development.

The United States of America
cannot choose to move out of the neighbourhood any more than can Caribbean
countries opt to relocate elsewhere.

They each, therefore, have an obligation to recognize their mutuality of interests and to act on it.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.

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Barbados Prime Minister Says Small States Not Accessing Markets On Fair Terms

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Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley delivering the 16th Prebisch Lecture at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday September 13, 2019 – Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has expressed concerns about small island
states failing to access markets on fair terms.

She highlighted correspondent banking services as an example, as she delivered the prestigious 16th Prebisch Lecture at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, on the topic, ‘Invisible Yet Indispensable’ on Tuesday.

“It matters not that the absence of that correspondent banking will cause
our countries, our regions and our people to be cut off and be quarantined,
just as lepers were in centuries past, from a global community, as we seek to
buy goods and services from outside our borders,” Mottley told her global audience.

“How will our people trade if they don’t have access to a banking system
that allows them to transmit and to pay for services and goods across the
borders?  It is pure, unadulterated
hypocrisy and at worst, contempt and insensitivity as to what happens to human
beings, who happen not to live within the borders of the developed world.”

During the near 90-minute address, Prime Minister Mottley said that unless
the fundamental obstacle to our development was addressed, she feared that the
imbalance of power and wealth in the global community of nations would remain.

“Let us not be shy to confront it; middle income countries refused today to
be allowed access to development aid and assistance, purely on the basis of
arbitrary determinations of per capita and GDP formulations that bear no
relationship to the reality of our lives.

“And even when money is promised in the midst of disasters, money promised
and money delivered are two totally different experiences. We must not be naïve
in appreciating that the head start given the developed world to build their
countries and to build out their industrial base was done on wealth extracted
from millions of people across the developing world.  It is a difficult conversation but…you cannot
be mature as an adult, or mature as a country and not have difficult
conversations,” she stressed.

Emphasizing the importance of reforming international institutions, Mottley
said this restructuring was overdue, and the task must now be completed. 

“The worthiness and pursuit of this reform we all know is unquestionable,
but yet it remains, decades after, unresolved. We need to put it to bed…so we
can get on to the other issues that are truly confronting us,” she stated.

The Prime Minister said countries should not sign up to international treaties, charters, commitments and declarations and then treat them as if they were not meaningful and not apply to them.

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Bahamas PM Announces National Prayer Service; Flags to be Flown at Half Mast as Country Mourns Hurricane Dorian Victims

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Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis

NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday September 13, 2019 – Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced plans for a National Prayer
Service to honour the lives lost when Hurricane Dorian slammed into the
northwest of the archipelago a week and a half ago.

The Government has invited the Bahamas Christian Council to plan the
National Prayer Service, which will take place next Wednesday, marking the culmination
of a National Day of Prayer and Fasting.

Flags are also to be flown at half-mast on all public buildings to mourn
the dead. The date of a National Day of Mourning will be announced at an
appropriate time.

“We are a nation in mourning,” said Prime Minister Minnis in a national address.
“The grief is unbearable following the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian,
which has left behind death, destruction and despair on Grand Bahama and Abaco,
our second and third most populous islands.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged that there are many deaths and many still
missing. The number of deaths is expected to significantly increase but the confirmed
number is currently 50.

“Many are grieving the loss of loved ones. Many are in despair wondering if
their loved ones are still alive,” said Minnis.

“To those who have lost loved ones, I know there is absolutely nothing we
can say that will lessen your pain and your loss. Our sympathies go out to the
families of each person who died. Let us pray for them during this time of
grief.”

The Prime Minister assured that accurate and timely information will be
provided on the loss of life as it is available.

“We will first and foremost put the priority on notifying families and
giving them the help they need to grieve,” he said.

Efforts are ramping up to collect the dead bodies, with the help of
international aid agencies.

“We are being transparent and responsible in this process,” Minnis said.

The Government is also providing counseling to those who need help to get
them through this difficult process.

“We will need as many spiritual resources as we will need physical
resources, to rebuild lives and to recover,” Minnis said.

“Hurricane Dorian is an historic tragedy,” he added, noting a report by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) that described the storm as “the strongest Atlantic hurricane documented to directly impact a land mass since records began, tying it with the Great Florida Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.”

Hurricane Dorian affected the northwestern Bahamas for about 68 hours, with the southern eye-wall planted over Grand Bahama, for about 30 hours.

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Hurricane-Hit Bahamas Under Tropical Storm Warning as New System Approaches

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NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday September 13, 2019 – Less than two weeks after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the northwest of
the Bahamas, that part of the archipelago is bracing for more bad weather with
the approach of a potential tropical cyclone that has triggered a tropical
storm watch.

The warning which is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, excluding Andros Island, comes as the system being referred to as Tropical Cyclone Nine, carrying maximum sustained winds near 30 miles per hour, is forecast to move across the central and northwestern Bahamas today and could develop into a tropical storm by then.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the system is forecast to produce two to four
inches of rain and, isolated maximum amounts of 6 inches, over areas that are already waterlogged following the Category 5
Hurricane Dorian downpours that left some communities underwater. However, no significant storm surge is expected.

In its latest advisory at 11 a.m., the NHC said the system was located about 280 miles east southeast of Freeport in Grand Bahama and
190 miles east southeast of Great Abaco Island, and barely moving northwestward at 1 mile per hour.

“The system…is expected to resume a slow motion toward the
northwest and north-northwest later today. On the forecast track, the system is
anticipated to move across the central and northwestern Bahamas today, and
along or near the east coast of Florida Saturday and Saturday night,” it
said.

“The disturbance is forecast to become a tropical depression or a
tropical storm later today or Saturday.”

While more than 1,000 people are still reported missing after Hurricane
Dorian – down from the 2,500 said to be on the list on Wednesday before it was
cross checked with the list of people in shelters and evacuees – only 50 people
have been confirmed dead.

But officials acknowledge that number will rise as the search and cleanup continues in Abaco and Grand Bahama.

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