As the small nations of the Caribbean assess the rapid changes in the world, they have begun to ask whether they will be left irretrievably behind. To pose the question in a more positive way: Can the Caribbean end its economic stagnation and backwardness and embark on a bold new course to fulfill the region's potential?
Thirty years ago, there were only three independent countries in the Caribbean, and all three were trying to rid themselves of dictatorship. Only one-the Dominican Republic-succeeded. Haiti struggled through 30 years of oppressive dictatorship only to emerge on February 7, 1991, with its first freely elected president. Cuba is still under the control of an aging revolutionary and a single-party system. In the meantime, 12 English-speaking, parliamentary democracies have joined the group of independent governments. Of this group, only Grenada and Guyana departed from the democratic tradition. But the former returned after an American invasion, and the latter is in the process of returning.
With the exception of Haiti, most of these countries have made substantial social progress: education and health standards are among the highest in the developing world. In terms of economics, however, the region has failed to find a path toward sustainable, equitable growth. Some have done better than others, and there are lessons to be learned in the differences. But generally, economic development has proven elusive.
The strength of the region has always been its people and their adaptability. The region's democratic leaders have modified their views from a philosophy based on state-directed economic management to one that relies more on the market's ability to allocate resources. The mood of the regional leadership has swung from a fear of foreign investment to anxiety about the lack of it. Some Caribbean leaders had previously viewed the Cuban model as the solution-and the United States as the problem. Now there is widespread recognition that Cuba's path is of limited, if any, relevance for the future, while the United States is viewed more pragmatically as a vital market,
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