“Good living nah lang life” is an African Guyanese proverb that translates to mean that the good life won’t continue indefinitely without sustained contribution from the one giving or living it and that nothing free and easy lasts forever. I could not help wonder if this proverb can very well reflect the state of Caribbean development when we think about the challenges facing the regional block.
The region is a paradox of middle income countries (MICs) but also a block of small island developing states (SIDS) characterized by vulnerability to disasters, climate change and economic shocks. It has the highest murder rate of any region in the world, and an end to trade preferences coupled with less traditional bilateral (US, Canada & UK) and multilateral aid resources, means that the region must transform itself into alternative pathways of region building.
I believe the changing hemispheric reconfiguration of the region is an opportunity to find ways of propelling opportunities to improve the lot of Caribbean peoples.
The Caribbean has complex and dynamic relationships with International Partners. Current relationships reflect economic necessity like those with China, as well as overlapping diplomatic alliances and political affiliations which have evolved over time. This hemispheric reconfiguration means that Caribbean leaders must be agile and pragmatic in their alliances. Signs of this pragmatism are illustrated by switching between recognizing Taiwan or China; supporting Japan at the International Whaling Commission; subscribing to Venezuela’s PetroCaribe agreement; or responding diplomatically to US policy.
The defining feature of the Caribbean’s regional development future is the increasing presence and influence of ‘non-traditional’ partners (e.g. China, India, Brazil) and investors who are bringing ‘new’ money into the region can contribute to the region becoming strong small states. Cuba, Venezuela and China have pronounced political and economic ideologies that are likely to grow in significance due to the extent of their investments and aid, coupled with a new generation of Caribbean political leaders with weaker affiliations to traditional donors.
Reconstructing regional development is a vital condition for the Caribbean if the region is to “punch above its weight” in the international arena, but cannot deliver this on its own. This will require pro-active policies that support solidarity, cohesion and partnerships with organizations like the IDB and those from outside the integration scheme. Unless the region is able to diversify its dependence away from the traditional development paradigm, its peoples may awake one day to discover that good living nah lang life.