2014 year in re­view: Caribbean rocked by Chikun­gunya

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - By Peter Richards - CMC

Three gen­eral elec­tions and con­tin­ued so­cio-eco­nomic prob­lems may have made the head­lines in the Caribbean in 2014 but it was the Chikun­gunya virus, the mos­quito-borne dis­ease, that re­ally caught the at­ten­tion of the re­gion over the last 12 months.

In ad­di­tion, while no re­gional cases had been recorded, Caribbean coun­tries were putting in place var­i­ous mea­sures to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 7,000 peo­ple in West Africa.

A crip­pling mosquito­borne virus with a tongue twist­ing name, Chikun­gunya first ap­peared in the Caribbean to­wards the end of 2013. But by the end of 2014, ev­ery Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARICOM) coun­try had recorded cases of the virus caused by the aedes ae­gypti mos­quito that causes a dengue-like sick­ness.

The sit­u­a­tion forced re­gional lead­ers to hold a spe­cial sum­mit in Trinidad and Tobago in Novem­ber and at the end of the three hour de­lib­er­a­tion they out­lined a se­ries of mea­sures to deal with both the Chikun­gunya and Ebola viruses.

Re­gard­ing the Ebola virus, for which there is no cure, some Caribbean coun­tries took the un­prece­dented step of im­pos­ing a travel ban on na­tion­als from three West African coun­tries, namely Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.

ELEC­TIONS

In Antigua and Bar­buda, after 10 years in the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness, Gas­ton Browne led the Antigua and Bar­buda Labour Party (ABLP) to vic­tory in the gen­eral elec­tion in June.

In neigh­bour­ing Montser­rat, the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Move­ment (PDM) led by Donaldson Romeo de­nied Premier Reuben T. Meade another five year term in of­fice. Romeo called for a united Montser­rat as the new gov­ern­ment promised to face the task of re­build­ing the is­land bat­tered by a vol­cano.

Prime Min­is­ter Roo­sevelt Sk­er­rit made it three in a row when he led his Do­minica La- bour Party (DLP) to a 15-6 vic­tory in the De­cem­ber 8 gen­eral elec­tion.

The St. Kitts-Ne­vis gov­ern­ment, for yet another year, was able to deny the op­po­si­tion legislators an op­por­tu­nity to de­bate a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence filed against Prime Min­is­ter Dr. Den­zil Dou­glas in 2012.

In the French-speak­ing Caribbean coun­try of Haiti, Pres­i­dent Michel Martelly ended 2014 hop­ing that his nom­i­nee for the post of prime min­is­ter would be ac­cepted. Late Novem­ber, Martelly an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of an 11-mem­ber Pres­i­den­tial Com­mis­sion to help him deal with Haiti’s wors­en­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis as op­po­si­tion demon­stra­tors took to the streets to force him out of of­fice.

In April, the rul­ing Me­gaCom­bi­na­tion coali­tion gov­ern­ment in Suri­name booted out one of its mem­bers after ac­cus­ing it of play­ing “black­mail pol­i­tics”.

The coali­tion Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment in Trinidad and Tobago suc­cess­fully pi­loted a con­tro­ver­sial amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion even as hun­dreds of cit­i­zens protested out­side the par­lia­ment build­ing. The leg­is­la­tion al­lows for two con­sec­u­tive terms for the prime min­is­ter, the right to re­call legislators and, per­haps the most con­tentious, the need for a run-off vote in the event that a can­di­date fails to ac­quire the nec­es­sary 50 per cent of the votes cast in a gen­eral elec­tion.

CARIBBEAN ECON­OMY

Pol­i­tics aside, the Caribbean con­tin­ued to strug­gle eco­nom­i­cally with the Wash­ing­ton-based In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) in­di­cat­ing that eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the Caribbean was ex­pected to stay in low gear in 2014. It said growth re­mained tepid in most of the Caribbean and while the re­cov­ery in the United States and other ad­vanced economies was ex­pected to bol­ster ex­port growth, lower world com­mod­ity prices and ris­ing global fund­ing costs were likely to weigh on ac­tiv­ity across the re­gion.

The IMF in its Re­gional Eco­nomic Out­look for the Western Hemi­sphere pro­jected re­gional growth of 2.5 per cent in 2014.

The Chile-based Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean (ECLAC) also in­di­cated that that Caribbean economies would grow to two per cent “which im­plies a re­cov­ery from the 1.2 per cent regis­tered in 2013”.

De­spite the gloomy eco­nomic fore­cast, the Bar­ba­dos gov­ern­ment, which in­sti­tuted an aus­ter­ity pro­gramme re­sult­ing in sev­eral thou­sand pub­lic ser­vants be­ing axed, said it would re­main firmly com­mit­ted to the strat­egy for growth and de­vel­op­ment on which it had em­barked.

For its part, the Gre­nada gov­ern­ment which signed a three-year US$21.7 mil­lion Ex­tended Credit Fa­cil­ity (ECF) pro­gramme with the IMF, called on trade unions to ac­cept a three-year wage freeze.

In St. Lu­cia, Prime Min­is­ter Dr. Kenny An­thony en­joyed a bit more breath­ing space after the Trade Union Fed­er­a­tion (TUF) ac­cepted a three year wage freeze as his ad­min­is­tra­tion deals with a fis­cal deficit of EC$76 mil­lion.

The Por­tia Simp­son-Miller ad­min­is­tra­tion in Ja­maica con­tin­ued its re­la­tion­ship with the IMF that said the is­land’s Ex­tended Fund Fa­cil­ity (EFF) was on track and all pro­gramme tar­gets were be­ing met.

For its part, St. Kitts-Ne­vis be­came the first Caribbean coun­try to re­pay, ahead of sched­ule, US$17.1 mil­lion in obli­ga­tions to the IMF.

The dras­tic de­cline in global oil prices, while wel­comed by Caribbean oil im­port­ing coun­tries, meant, how­ever, fi­nan­cial prob­lems for Port of Spain with the Fi­nance Min­is­ter Larry Howai in­di­cat­ing that Cab­i­net would soon de­cide on mea­sures to deal with a de­clin­ing rev­enue stream brought about by the rapid de­cline in the price for oil on the global mar­ket.

As the Caribbean con­tin­ued to deal with the im­pact of the global eco­nomic cri­sis, sev­eral for­eign-owned banks, such as CIBC First Caribbean In­ter­na­tional, Sco­tia Bank and Royal Bank of Canada an­nounced the clo­sure of sev­eral branches in the re­gion re­sult­ing in sev­eral lay­offs.

IM­MI­GRA­TION

The eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the Caribbean was not be­ing helped by the il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion of peo­ple and in the case of the Ba­hamas, Nas­sau strongly de­fended its im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that crit­ics claim is “un­con­sti­tu­tional” and de­hu­man­is­ing.

The pol­icy came into ef­fect on Novem­ber 1 and calls on for­eign­ers to show ev­i­dence that they have per­mis­sion to live or work in the coun­try. By year end, the gov­ern­ment was forced to de­fend al­le­ga­tions that it was herd­ing il­le­gal mi­grants in a cage like “cat­tle”.

But the Ba­hamas was not the only Caribbean coun­try com­plain­ing about il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Trinidad and Tobago’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Gary Grif­fith said that the oil-rich twin is­land repub­lic was now home for an es­ti­mated 110,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants of which an es­ti­mated 19,000 were Ja­maicans. In De­cem­ber, the gov­ern­ment spent TT$2.6 mil­lion in char­ter­ing an air­craft to fly home 12 il­le­gal Ghana­ian na­tion­als.

For­mer pres­i­dent Jean Ber­trand Aris­tide has been pro­hib­ited from leav­ing Haiti as law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties probe al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic funds and drug trafficking dur­ing his 2001-4 pres­i­dency, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials have con­firmed.

The Jamaican Dance Hall artiste, Vybz Kar­tel was jailed for life after he was found guilty on March 13 for the mur­der of Clive ‘Lizard’ Wil­liams. Kar­tel, whose real name is Ad­jidja Palmer, was charged along with Shawn Camp­bell, Kahira Jones

and An­dre St John.

FAREWELL

In 2014, the re­gion bade farewell to sev­eral prom­i­nent peo­ple such as for­mer Trinidad Pres­i­dent ANR Robin­son, for­mer Haitian pres­i­dent Leslie Mani­gat, Caribbean aca­demic, Pro­fes­sor Nor­man Gir­van, Ja­maica’s fourth head of state, Sir Howard Cooke, the as­sas­si­nated Trinidad and Tobago at­tor­ney Dana See­ta­hal, Ja­maica’s Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Roger Clarke and the Bar­ba­dian re­li­gious min­is­ter Dr. Holmes Wil­liams.

In ad­di­tion, for­mer Ber­muda premier, Sir David Gib­bons, for­mer St. Lu­cia Ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ters Louis Ber­trand George and Hunter J. Fran­cois, the for­mer mem­ber of the Re­gional Ju­di­cial and Le­gal Ser­vices Com­mis­sion Dr Joseph Archibald QC, for­mer St. Lu­cia High Court judge, Suzie d’Au­vergne, for­mer pres­i­dent of the OECS Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, Hil­ford Deter­ville and veteran Gre­na­dian jour­nal­ist Leslie Pierre, all passed away in 2014.

The mu­sic world also bade farewell to Wil­liam Clarke, the lead singer of the worl­drenowned Jamaican reg­gae group, Third World and Reg­gae icon John Holt. (Full re­port on Caribbean 360. com)

Chikun­gunya caused by the aedes ae­gypti mos­quito (left) and the le­gal­iza­tion of

mar­i­juana dom­i­nated re­gional news in 2014.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.