BAHAMAS – The inability of American lawmakers to agree on budgetary measures threatens small Caribbean economies, asserts a former finance minister.
“A US fiscal cliff can be an economic cliff for small states,” contends Zhivargo Laing, a noted Caribbean economist and former finance minister for the Bahamas.
“Small Caribbean economies rely significantly on trade with the US, either through tourism or some other economic activity,” he added “and especially share concerns about US economic and fiscal prospects.”
Laing averred Caribbean countries cannot directly affect US economic policy and thereby its economic prospects but, “they must be vigilant about monitoring such developments so as to shape their own polices to reflect the possible implications of those developments.”
However, the financial specialist said the time had come for Caribbean states to reach out to the American lawmakers, “to be more proactive in engaging US policy makers to promote our economic interests.”
“History has demonstrated that gambling against US enterprise is a fool’s bet,” he said, expressing optimism about US economic prospects. “My optimism is based on the depth of US creative and innovative capacity as well as the determination of its entrepreneurial spirit. US private enterprise will rise, quite often despite public sector lag,” he forecast.
As for the current impasse in the US Congress about the way forward on the fiscal front, Laing contended “such difficulties might be more apparent than real.”
“The real economic and financial issues are clear and what to do is clear – calling for a combination of what all sides are seeking to push,” he suggested.
“Even where there is not agreement on the absolute values of cuts or revenue measures to implement, steady movement in the direction of those values can provide progress, once decisions can be made to start,” he added.
The former cabinet minister, drawing from his experience, asserted the way out of the deadlock “can happen when leadership moves beyond the intractable ideologies rooted in egos to a conscious leadership rooted in fulfilling the highest aspirations of those they serve.”
“Far too often, political leadership looks past the present moment in pursuit of tomorrow’s ambitions,” which he said, “can cloud the judgment needed to make the best decision today and one that can sow the seeds of better for tomorrow.”
Laing declared he was optimistic the US legislators will find a way out of the sequester impasse, “because in the end, the needs of the American people will trump all and demand prudent action.”
“Caribbean countries certainly need this optimism to be realized, as their short and medium term prospects may rest on the same,” he stated.