Notes From The Margin

March 21, 2008

As The Waves Subside, Reports Come In….

As the large waves subside, reports of damage are coming in from across the Caribbean. Thankfully in most cases it does not appear to be severe and at this point there is only one fatality being reported (in Barbados)

Here’s the story so far….

Barbados: One person drowned, damage to several boats. Harbour operations disrupted for the day. We passed the Harbour today and several cruise ships were docked so we can assume port operations are back to normal. In a couple of places along the west coast the sea has over run the coastal road depositing sand but no significant damage is reported.

Trinidad: Lifeguards were kept busy at Maracas and Las Cuevas beaches in the north of Trinidad, however beaches remained open and no significant damage was reported. Lifeguards made at least one rescue, however no drownings reported.

Tobago

Huge waves pounded Tobago beaches that were closed

Fishermen still ventured out and reported good fishing despite the high seas.
St. Lucia
In St. Lucia several hotels reported that water had entered areas of the hotel. Also fishing boats were taken to safe harbour….
British Virgin Islands.
There are reports of some flooding with debris on roads but no major damage seems to have been reported yet.
Cuba
Cuba appears to have been quite badly battered, with 800 people being evacuated from coastal areas, the waves did considerable damage.
Puerto Rico
There are reports of some coastal flooding and minor damage in some tourist areas.
Because of the Good Friday bank holiday, news reporting (particularly on the net) has been particularly lax today. We have yet to see much news coming out of the OECS so it is likely that tomorrow we will see fresh information. Notwithstanding that, it would appear that with the possible exception of Cuba (and the drowning in Barbados) there has not been any major damage as a result of the waves.
Marginal
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March 19, 2008

Eastern Caribbean Braces For Dangerously Large Waves

Don't be like these guys, exercise some caution around big waves....

A deep low pressure centre that spawned tornadoes and thunderstorms across the US earlier this week is set to generate massive sea swells in the Caribbean over the next two or three days.

The Barbados and Saint Lucia Meteorological Offices yesterday issued weather forecasts indicating that “significant sea wave height” were expected over the Eastern Caribbean, starting today and continuing into tomorrow.

The Barbados Meteorological Office indicated that swells around four to five metres, or 12 to 16 feet, were expected over the coastal waters surrounding Barbados from late Wednesday/early Thursday.

Islands further north are projecting EVEN LARGER waves!

So concerned are officials that in Barbados and St. Lucia the National Disaster Management agencies (Department of Emergency Management in Barbados and National Emergency Management Organisation in St. Lucia) have quietly started to put contingency plans in place in the event that they need to take action.
In Puerto Rico ships are being temporarily relocated, and people are being cautioned….
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jim Tunstall in San Juan:-

“This is not a storm that surfers and others that typically enjoy relatively heavy surf need to go out in”

 

We will keep abreast of this story as it develops…..

 

Marginal

March 3, 2008

Why We DON’T Want Obama To Win (Or Clinton For That Matter)

This is one of the more difficult posts to write, difficult because we don’t want to be misunderstood, and difficult because it’s a difficult choice to make. As we write this the Primary season of the US presidential election is rolling forward. The Republican front runner John McCain appears to have his hand on the nomination (barring something quite unexpected happening) In the Democrats camp there is a heated battle for the nomination going on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In the Caribbean the popular sentiment is understandably for Obama, he’s personable, has an agenda for change in Washington and of course, he’s black. For the first time ever it would seem that an African American has a real chance of ending up in the White House. For a region that is mostly African in descent it’s heady stuff.

However….

As cool as it is that the United States has reached the stage of maturity that they could seriously consider a black man for the post of Commander in Chief, we on the Margin have come to the conclusion that Mr. Obama’s race is (or should be) for us in the Caribbean irrelevant.

Why have we reached this conclusion?

We have to recall the Clinton presidency (That’s Bill if you are confused) Bill Clinton was one of the most “human” US Presidents in living memory. Former President Clinton was enormously popular in the Caribbean, mostly on his personal charisma. However when you look at the effects the Clinton presidency had on the Caribbean, Bill Clinton did more damage to us than any hurricane that has struck the island chain. Why do we say this?

1. Dole/Chiquita Bananas and the WTO.  This action destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of Caribbean farmers basically to repay a campaign contributor.

2. The Ship Rider Controversy. Remember the pressure that was brought to bear on Barbados when it resisted?

3. The OECD “Harmful Taxation” initiative.  Despite the BLP’s efforts to say that it fell apart because of Owen Arthur, we really know that it fell apart because when Bush came to power the US was no longer interested in backing the initiative.

This isn’t meant to be a US bashing post, but the fact is the Caribbean has ALWAYS done better under a Republican in the White House than a Democrat. We can see the echoes of similar policies in Mr. Obama’s current political career. With rhetoric against NAFTA (Ironically which was enacted by Clinton) and action in sponsoring the “Tax Haven Abuse Act”.

If we lived in the US we would probably vote for Mr. Obama, but the fact is that we don’t live in the US. Rather than get caught up in the euphoria that surrounds his campaign we are forced to apply the same logic that we do to our local politicians “Judge them not by what they say, but by what they do” and when judged on that scale (from a Caribbean perspective anyway) Mr. Obama is found to be less than an ideal candidate.

Marginal

February 25, 2008

Do We Need A Caribbean FBI?

Faced with rising crime rates, Caribbean governments have struggled to keep pace. However at a time of challenging economic conditions and soaring levels of indebtedness, many Caribbean police forces are overwhelmed, underpaid, and under-equipped. This is particularly the case in the smaller economies of the OECS (you will note that I did not say “smaller islands”) The Caribbean with it’s inadquately equipped security forces, and many islands with inlets and coves make the chain attractive as a route for drug traffickers to move narcotics to the metropolitan markets.

The wealthier economies in the region have attempted to strengthen their security apparatus however, they are often faced with criminals who have more sophisticated equipment than they do.  The problem is compounded by the lack of financial assistance for security ( a mindset that is slowly changing).

It is against this background that Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning recently proposed the development of a Pan Caribbean law enforcement agency.

Patrick Manning said a well-trained, equipped regional force with the power to legally operate in any CARICOM country would be part of the answer to combating the crime situation – one which he insists is being driven by the illegal drug trade.

“Many of us in the Caribbean today are challenged by the unacceptable levels of criminal activity in our country, most of which are now spurred by the global traffic in illegal drugs. The trade in illegal arms and gang warfare lead to an unacceptable level of homicide in our main urban centres,” he said, while delivering the keynote address at the recent University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus Commemoration Dinner in Jamaica….

…..Mr Manning said his country had sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs and arms into the country through initiatives which he believes will eventually rid the country of the drug trade, such as round the clock surveillance of the twin island republic’s largely unprotected coastline. But he also noted that the pattern in the past demonstrated that when the operations of drug lords are interrupted in one country they move to another.

“(That) pattern emphasises the need for multilateral efforts among ourselves and with the wider world. Failure to effectively deal with the issue of crime could stymie the economic and social development of the Caribbean,” he said.

Mr Manning further urged CARICOM heads to spearhead the process of greater cooperation in the sharing of intelligence among police forces to head off migratory drug smugglers.

In theory this sounds like a great idea, and we on the margin support it generally. However would such a “federal” force be allowed to operate? To often in the Caribbean there are rumours (and we  aren’t prepared to say they are only rumours) of “certain people” in certain countries being untouchable, would a CFBI be allowed to go after them?If they were it would open an interesting can of worms.

Would the criminals arrested by this federal force be prosecuted in local or regional courts? For example we have many cases of witnesses in Trinidad being murdered before they can testify, we also have rumours of corrupt judiciaries in some countries, would people arrested by the “Federales” have a likely chance of getting convicted in a local court?

When you look at the implications of a Caribbean Law Enforcement agency, it’s not as simple as it might appear at first blush. For it to be really effective it would have to be part of a Pan Caribbean judicial system.

Marginal

January 29, 2008

The State Of Shipping In The Caribbean

We on the margin have for a long time been supporters of the idea of ferries in the Caribbean. In our view one of the most serious barriers to regional integration and the creation of a single market and economy, is the sheer difficulty faced by an individual attempting to move around the Caribbean. Moving people and goods from island to island is hugely difficult, and that has several knock on effects in the economies of the region.

In Europe it is possible to drive on to a ferry in Scotland and be in Ireland a couple of hours later driving YOUR car on Irish roads, all for the price of a ferry fare. It is possible to ship container loads of merchandise/products/food/whatever on the same ferry without even taking them off of the truck! When you contrast this ease of movement with the situation in the Caribbean it’s pathetic.

Move a car? Sorry you only have one seat on LIAT (world’s most expensive low cost carrier) and 50lbs of baggage, and when we get to our destination we are greeted by Immigration officers and Customs Officer who seem to have difficulty with the concept of people wanting to travel to another island. There was a brief moment of hope during the Cricket World Cup when we had the single space, but that seems to have separated back into the default position of fragmentation.

President of the CDB Prof. Compton Bourne, touched on these issues recently in a speech where he highlighted the difficulty in moving goods from areas with excess productive capacity to areas with demand for those goods.

“There are countries in the region that have considerable food production capacity, but their arrangements for trade in the region are far
from adequate.”

This made it very difficult to supply the markets that are experiencing shortages or to provide a cheaper source of commodities to those markets with the existing arrangements, he argued.

“First of all, shipping is very poor within the region,” he charged. “Our shipping arrangements are largely geared towards bringing commodities from outside the region to the region, rather than moving commodities between the various islands and countries in the Caribbean.

“Secondly, our port facilities in the main for CARICOM trade are atrocious, often under-staffed, often not provided with the requisite phyto-sanitary inspection facilities and sometimes characterised
by a bit of hostility towards the trade. . . .”

For the single market and economy to become a reality, there needs to be ease of trade, and ease of travel, at the moment it is easier to get items out of a furniture store in Miami than it is to get it from a furniture manufacturer in Guyana. To speak of a single economic space is a farce unless this situation is rectified.

Marginal

December 11, 2007

BNOC GM Points Out The Obvious – Petro Caribe Is A Debt Trap!

We are applauding a statement by the current General Manager of the Barbados National Petroleum Company on the “gift with strings” that is Petro Caribe.

 Ron Hewitt, Barbados National Oil Company General Manager said on Monday, that Chavez’s Petrocaribe is not helping Caribbean countries, but making their finances worst. ” Petrocaribe is not helping at all to coup with the high oil prices, Caribbean countries are just running a large debt with Venezuela. “

 

Petrocaribe is just a scheme to create an oil dependency from Venezuela, added Hewitt at the two-day Caribbean Energy conference at the Hilton Trinidad in Port Spain.

 

“It doesn’t’t represent what we are looking for in Barbados. You have to pay part of the cost now and get a credit. That credit then goes onto your national debt. It’s not an asset….” Hewitt said.

 It is scary that the other Caribbean countries could not see this from the outset.  What is remarkable is that Barbados has been pilloried in all sorts of regional fora for not signing on. The truth of the matter is that Petro Caribe does NOT help the Caribbean, it is NOT in the Caribbean’s best interest. It simply gives Venezuela power over a key sector of our economies and increases our debt. Further the condition of accessing the “concessions” mean that Venezuela will have power over the supply chain so that it will be difficult for those in the Net to escape it.

Marginal

November 29, 2007

Magnitude 7.3 Earthquake Hits the Caribbean

We all bolted for the door this afternoon as we felt and saw the ground shake beneath our feet. Outside other persons were rushing from buildings and car alarms were going off. By the time we realised what was going on it was beginning to subside. Everyone is asking what’s going on and no one appears to know. Calls on cell phones are met with “Network Busy”, calls on landlines are met with busy tones. No one is hurt but everyone is calling their loved ones to see that they are okay. People are sounding strained on the phone not because they are scared for themselves but because they fear for those dear to them. “My husband is on a construction site”, “My parents are on a plane coming in, will the airport be okay?” “I can’t get through to my children’s school I wonder if they are okay?”  a jumbled montage of thoughts and of concern.

It now appears that there has been a major earthquake just north of Martinique magnitude 7.3 (some sites are reporting 7.4)  it was strong enough to knock a house down in St. George, reports from friends in St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad have all reported feeling it and have all reported that they are fine. (thank goodness)

No word yet from Martinique or Dominica. As we get word we’ll post.

It’s a time to hug your family and count your blessings, it could have been much much worse.

Marginal

October 21, 2007

Regional Travel To Become Cheaper! (Don’t Hold Your Breath!)

CBC carried a story with the headline with regard to a recent meeting between regional ministers of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Spokesman Alan Chastenet (St. Lucia) gave the following statement.

 “We will be paying attention to a structure in which regional carriers can all collaborate with each other, and given the size and population of the region, make our region more affordable by jointly agreeing to streamline international regulations which do not apply to our area but only make access to international airlift more expensive and complicated,”

Not to be left out BArbados’ Noel Lynch chimed in….

“We have been able to make significant headway on issues and set a timetable to achieve functional cooperation between airlines, determining the benchmarks which allow other regions with similar development profiles to achieve the success that continues to elude us, and resolving issues which retard our growth such as taxation, costs, over regulation, and the concept not only of open skies but a common airspace,”

Now we on the margin have heard promises many times on this matter. It would appear from the press statements  that they seem to have agreed to agreee, but from our reading of the article it doesn’t look like if there has been much substantial progress yet.

So we will remain hopeful, but we won’t get our hopes up.

Marginal

August 17, 2007

Mostly Unscathed Barbados Once Again Dodges the Bullet

Hurricane Dean passed to the north of the island last night leaving Barbados much wetter but not much worse for wear. Reports coming out of St. Lucia indicate that there has been some damage to buildings and that it has been rough on the trees.

St. Lucia state radio reported the capital was flooded and cluttered with wind-blown debris. Boulders from a sea wall were shoved onto roads by the force of storm surges. A boat sat in the road, lifted from the sea by the storm.

A 62-year-old man was swept away in a rain-swollen river while attempting to retrieve a cow, in the storm’s first death, police said.

The eye of Dean passed between St. Lucia and the French island of Martinique, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

At 1:45 p.m. EDT, Dean was centered about 175 miles west of Martinique and was moving west at about 22 mph.

Our thoughts now turn to Jamaica and Cayman who are on the track for what seems to be set to become the first major hurricane of the year.

We’re sure to hear the usual chorus of “God is a Bajan”, I keep being reminded that Grenadians used to say that “God is a Grenadian”… and then came a storm called Ivan.

I can only hope that we don’t have to face the same lesson.

Marginal

Good Night and Good Luck

Filed under: Barbados,Caribbean,Caricom,Dominica,hurricane,Martinique,meterology,St. Lucia — notesfromthemargin @ 1:03 am

Well the hurricane stores are in place, I haven’t put shutters up for this one. Everything that could blow about in the yard has been battened down. I’m off to bed for the evening. I think I will probably sleep through this one.

Join me in saying a prayer tonight for our friends in St. Lucia, Martinique and Dominica who are really looking down the business end of this storm.

Marginal

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