by Lipton Matthews
” The world does not owe us a living. We cannot live by the begging bowl”
– Lee Kwan Yew
The Caribbean region has been a beneficiary of European and North American benevolence for many years. The United States alone has provided the region with over US$10 billion in aid between 1980-2010. However, due to the myriad of economic problems plaguing developed states, the region can no longer depend on the goodwill of other nations.
Many may decry Europe’s decision to elevate middle income countries from qualifying for development assistance, but this should be interpreted has an opportunity to forge a new relationship with Europe based on trade. Regional policymakers have stated that the rationale for graduation is flawed, since per capita incomes do not reflect the true nature of a territory, especially nations that are susceptible to natural disasters and external shocks.
Some continue to argue that the region should advocate for its ‘right’ to receive special treatment. Unfortunately, mendicancy is not an option. This is the opportune time to embark on exciting ventures with our trading partners, and there are some countries that are seizing the opportunity like India.
In a recent interview carried by England’s Sky News, India’s foreign Minister Salman Kurshid said: “We’ve moved on from the era of aid to the era of trade. So we have to really concentrate now on economic relations”.
Forming commercial alliances with foreign powers, will do more to improve the competitiveness of the region than any aid programme. For example, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have several memoranda of understanding that seek to strengthen SME, energy, IT and healthcare sectors. This is the type of cooperation and alliances that Jamaica must form with her more advanced partners.
Another example of an innovative partnership is the UK-Colombia Trade, which facilitates a cooperation between British and Colombian businesses particularly, innovative small and medium size enterprises focused on science, innovation and infrastructure. According to columnist Ed Buckley: “Programs like UK-Colombia Trade ensure that Colombia does not have to go it alone, but rather can count on global partners with extensive experience to lend a helping hand”.
The Caribbean must create a niche for itself in this competitive global economy, wearing our failures as a badge of honour in an attempt to secure preferential treatment will not allow the region to achieve anything of substance.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Jamaican Conservative Capitalist Teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org