The offering of luxurious, serene, and hibiscus-flowered resorts complemented by pristine white-sand beaches, calm turquoise waters and friendly people, has always been the lure of the Caribbean to visitors, whose dollars and euros are greatly depended-upon to support the economic health of the region. Such offerings and demands will continue in 2018.
Yet, local economic pressures will figure highly in the region of my birth in 2018. High debts compounded by the wrecking high economic costs and social toll of natural disasters - Hurricanes Irma and Maria, will present financial troubles to some of the islands in the Caribbean.
The $2billion pledged for relief efforts, half of which are loans and debt relief, will not be sufficient to ward off fiscal pressures in the Caribbean in 2018. Such funding amid a shortfall to fund climate resiliency, will not come close to reaching the needs of Caribbean islands. The impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria upon the Commonwealth of Dominica, Antigua-Barbuda, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos islands, has been catastrophic.
Monies given to relief efforts include: The Netherlands, $702 million; the European Union(EU), $352 million; the World Bank, $140 million; Canada, $78 million; China, $30 million; Mexico, $27 million; Italy, $12 million; the United States, a meager $4.3 million; Japan, $4 million; Kuwait, $1 million; India, $2 million; Venezuela, $1 million; Belgium, $1.2 million; Chile, $1 million; Denmark $500,000; Colombia, $300,000; Haiti, $250,000; New Zealand, $250,000; Brazil, $200,000; Kazakhstan, $150,000; Romania, $100,000; Portugal, $100,000 and Serbia, $20,000.
Entire islands remain in need of rebuilding. Though rebuilding will be slow, optimism swirls over efforts to rebuild as climate-resilient communities, as is the case in the Commonwealth of Dominica.
The Caribbean Community(CARICOM), the 15-member regional integration group, will remain at the forefront of directing development goals in the Caribbean in 2018. CARICOM's Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency(CDEMA) proved very efficient during the great storms of 2017. Also, CARICOM's July, 2017 creation of the Caribbean Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency(CCREE) stands as a beacon to achieving a 47 percent renewable energy goal by 2027 in the region.
Parliamentary elections on my birth island of Barbados, constitutionally due by February 2018, will serve as a litmus test on whether or not the electorate of Caribbean would punish incumbents in 2018 for soaring food and commodity prices as well as increases in unemployment.
Overall, the stability and security of the Caribbean should remain constant in 2018 with minimal interruptions due to a surge in gun-crimes and an existing element of extremism in Trinidad and Tobago.