Why read when we can complain?

Sunday, April 01, 2018

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Many individuals, companies and countries are poor and struggling to attain prosperity, blaming others, nature and bad luck for their state of existence, when it is their lack of vision which blinds them to opportunities which could enrich them.

In many instances, others in a less advantageous position seize these opportunities. Those who do not, instead of looking at themselves, perennially express their victim mentality by complaining about their own lack of progress.

There are few better examples of this economic myopia than some of the private sectors and governments of Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries. A clear example is the underutilisation of the Caribbean Sea and the inadequate attention to protection of its valuable resources.

The oceans cover more than two-thirds of the planet and provide seafood for more than a billion people. There would be little international trade without transiting the ocean between countries. It used to be vital to international communications in the era before satellites, and even now submarine cables that cross its floors are vital to global communications. The seabed is a valuable source of energy in the form of oil and natural gas.

The oceans help to regulate the earth's climate and weather events. Estimates of its contribution to the world economy range from US$1.5 trillion to US$3 trillion a year — about five per cent of all economic activity in the world.

Oceans are destined to become even more important as the world's population and international commerce continue to expand. Economic activity based on use of the ocean is projected to increase, seaborne trade is expected to grow by three to four per cent annually by 2030, and global tourism by almost four per cent annually by 2025.

Yet, we in this region do not make enough use of the Caribbean Sea, which is the basis of our largest and most important industry, namely tourism. Not enough is done to protect our coastline from erosion, beaches from degradation, and coral reefs from irreparable destruction.

Despite the vast volume of shipping and the value of cargo passing through the shipping lanes of the Caribbean Sea, not one of our ports is globally important, we own no cargo or passenger ships or, worse, we have no shares in any cruise line.

The Caribbean, with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, has failed to tap the enormous potential of oil and gas deposits. This is a great pity in a region so dependent on imported fossil fuels.

As the region becomes more dependent on imported food, we leave fishing to people in canoes and who have little or no information on fish stocks, safety and communications. Our deep-sea fishing fleet is largely lacking while foreigners overfish our waters.

If Caricom governments spent less time complaining about small size and soliciting aid, and devoted more energy to making use of the Caribbean Sea, their countries would be far better off.

Other small countries have done it, for example, Iceland — one of the most important fishing nations in the world — with a population of less than 400,000. What is needed is private sector initiative and economic vision by governments.

All the background information is contained in reports by the Caribbean Development and the World banks and it is free to the public. But we would rather complain than read.

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