Caricom And Carifta History
Many of the light industries have been established with the assistance of tax holidays and by placing restrictions or heavy duties on competing imports. Even so, manufacturing has not grown rapidly enough to make any real impact on unemployment. One reason for this is that a lot of capital is needed to start a new industry. The West Indies have little capital to invest, and overseas investors have the whole world to choose from when seeking a location for a new factory. Another reason is that modern factories are highly mechanized, requiring only a few employees to produce a large volume of goods. A third reason is that the local market in each territory is small. This body was a precursor to Caricom.
It was the need to enlarge local markets that led to the creation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) in 1968. What CARIFTA did was to encourage trade in some of the agricultural and manufactured goods produced in the CARIFTA countries (Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Commonwealth Eastern Caribbean islands, Jamaica, and Belize) by preventing similar goods from being imported from abroad. This brought some benefits, particularly to the larger countries, but nothing to compare with the development of Hong Kong, for example, which has found markets for its manufactured products in all parts of the world including the Caribbean.
CARIFTA was the first step in the creation of the Caribbean Common Market which came into existence in 1973. Like similar organizations elsewhere (e.g. the European Common Market) all the member states share a single trading policy with countries in the wider world. Unlike them, however, the Caribbean Common Market does not permit people to move freely between one West Indian Territory and another. Some people agree with this policy; others do not. See if you can find out the reasons that different people give for supporting one side of the case or the other. Caricom and Carifta have been key in regional integration and development.
The provisions of facilities for the growing number of tourists. Those who come on Caribbean cruises call at such ports as Nassau, Montego Bay, Bridgetown and Curacao where a wide variety of duty-free goods is on sale to them. Those who travel by air usually come to spend a vacation. Their contribution to the economy of the West Indies is particularly valuable. A typical tourist couple staying at a luxury hotel spends on accommodation alone as much money in five days as an acre of good estate cane earns in a year. In addition, they spend about as much money outside their hotel as they spend inside it.
Tourism has become big business in almost every West Indian island, and in the Bahamas, the American Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico it is very big business indeed. The benefits of tourism have been considerable. But rapid economic development never occurs without creating social problems. These are discussed in several of the chapters dealing with the individual territories.
In these days of international co-operation, assistance is coming to the Commonwealth Caribbean territories from various sources; in particular from the governments of the United States, Britain, and Canada, from private foundations, and from the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies. Examples of U.N. assistance are the provision of low-interest loans for large projects from the World Bank and of technical experts—such as those from the Food and Agricultural Organization who are developing Caribbean fisheries and those from the World Health Organization who are eradicating malaria and other diseases.
The fact that the West Indies receive such aid suggests that they are among the world’s underdeveloped nations, but this is not entirely true. One indication of relative prosperity is given by the figures for per capita income (that is, the total income of a country for a year divided by the number of people living there). These show that the world’s richest country was the United States with a figure of over U.S. $4,000 in the early 1970s. That for India was under US$100, as was that of Haiti. The Commonwealth Caribbean territories lay well between these two extremes. Trinidad had the highest per capita income, about US$700; Jamaica had $550, and St Vincent had the lowest, about $250.
Another indication is given by the number of automobiles in use. Again at the summit is the United States which, with 90 million cars on the roads in the early 1970s had one car for every 2inhabitants. Puerto Rico had one car for every 5-inhabitants; Trinidad and Tobago one for every 12; Jamaica one for every 27, and Haiti one for every 400.