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September 18, 2007


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I'm interested, I just don't have anything to reply about.

I'm fascinated, but lacking any knowledge at all, would rather sit and listen, Noel.

Same. I'm up on "optimal currency areas" and customs unions and the like, but all of this looks pretty damned path-dependent to me, so what is there to comment on? Better to hang back and find out new stuff. I do suspect you're getting reads, though.

Like the above, I'm interested, but don't have anything to say.

"The comatose chimera of Caribbean unity lurched upwards from its long slumber with the signing of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas in 2001."

Sometimes you can feel the writer enjoying himself, you know?

-- Late night here; I'll keep this brief, but will return tomorrow (I hope).

1) Clumsy British decolonization in the 1960s Caribbean is very reminiscent of clumsy American decolonization in the Pacific in the 1970s. In the Pacific, most of the colonies started out in a neat package -- the Trust Territory of the Pacific -- but wanted to get out. As in the Caribbean, there was a half-hearted attempt to squash them together, which failed.

2) A key point: impartial justice in island societies is hard. And justice that is both impartial and has the appearance of same is damn near impossible.

Also -- this is probably more important in the Pacific than in the Caribbean -- the pool of good local lawyers may not be all that large. On Saipan, for instance, this was a real problem. There were Chamorro lawyers who were bright, hard-working, honest, reasonably impartial, and who had the necessary decade or two of experience. (I worked for one of them: Ben Salas. He was great.) But there just weren't that many of them, and not all wanted to be judges.

So the presence of a Federal judge is one of the Northern Marianas' great selling points, and the possibility of appeal to the 9th Circuit is a profound comfort not only to foreign investors but to islanders too. Maybe I'm projecting, but I'm not surprised that many people are okay content with the Privy Council.

3) If the Pacific is a guide -- and maybe it isn't; I don't know the Caribbean very well -- there will be a pecking order among the islands, based partly on wealth and partly on stereotypes. So, Guamanians are wannabe Americans, Pohnpeians are sensual and lazy, Palauans are hustlers, Marshallese are /very/ lazy and none too clean, and Chuukese... well, everyone looks down on the Chuukese.

It may sound silly, but the effect on the political debate was nontrivial. Everybody wanted the Palauans out (they disproportionately dominated the civil service bureaucracy of the Trust Territory) and nobody wanted anything to do with Chuuk or the Chuukese.

4) In general, I'm finding all of this interesting. Pray continue!

Doug M.

Noel, the typical ratio of lurkers to commenters is at least 10 to 1, traffic on the weekend crashes, and the rest of us post in bursts even at the best of times. So cast your net wide.

Count me among the infrequent commenters who would love to hear more about this. I've had a number of week-long workshops in Barbados (which is why I set a few For All Nails stories there) but have never been to any of the other islands unless you count the San Juan airport. So I know that Barbados is different from many other islands in that tourism is half of its economy rather than nearly all of it -- most of the interior of the island is planted in sugar cane, except for Greater Bridgetown which has sprawled over maybe 10% of the land area. Rule of law, definitely. Between the first and last time I was there they had an apparent crackdown on the aloe salemen on the beach (who would offer other herbal remedies) and the reggae buses (which, I heard, were encouraging students to skip school and ride around).

I think I've also mentioned that the Amherst MA area has a noticable population of West Indian (largely Jamaican, I believe) farm workers, though in the past few years you see more Mexican or Central American faces among the tobacco workers. We actually have three somewhat distinct populations of black people here -- ordinary African-Americans, the farm workers, and Africans at the university. An emerging fourth group is recent Haitian immigrant students from Boston.

Anyway, more Trinidad or other West Indian reports would be very welcome!

Hi Noel

I, too was interested but didn't have anything to add. Until today. Bermuda still appeals to the Privy Council. The PLP government made some noise last year about replacing this with the Caribbean court of appeal but it went nowhere. This is because the extensive insurance industry and other international business sees the PC as a vital safety measure. And that is because - as Doug noted upthread* - a small island simply has a limited abiltiy to staff a sophisticated (and unbiased) commercial trial/ appeals court. But if you can get the same guys who sit in the House of Lords, that's different, and since in the biggest matters they import silks from the million-pound club to do the arguing anyway, then counsel doesn't need a visa to appeal.

Doug mentioned a ranking system in the Pacific, and one certainly exists in the Caribbean. It may have played a part in the unsuccessful federalism.

The PLP government here is in favour of independence but the public is a bit more leery, both whites and blacks.

*This problem is particuarly acute in criminal trials.



Well, count me in as one who's quite fascinated, since we live here (but, as you know, Puerto Rico doesn't really count as "the Caribbean" in that sense.)

We took a cruise a couple of years ago "to get to know the neighborhood" as it were -- I had absolutely no preconceptions, I thought. Except I did. I had thought the rest of the Caribbean was pretty much like Puerto Rico; after all, Ohio is pretty much like Indiana. And so is Illinois!

So it truly amazed me that each and every island has a distinct personality and feel to it. Granted, we barely scratched the surface in a single week -- really just a matter of taking long walks through a few different port cities -- but still. It was an eye-opener.

How does Barbados make any money on sugar? Didn't I just read that Europe recently dropped price supports for sugar, leading to serious problems for Jamaica (and presumably other islands as well)? I do know that they grow lots of other stuff -- e.g. bananas and such -- but the sugar surprises me. Here in PR there are ruins of sugar processing plants; the sugar industry was just another that crashed hard, apparently.

Um, Dave MB, sugarcane is less than 1% of the Barbadian economy. Tourism and financial services. It's quite likely that more of North Dakota's economy is based on sugar.

Sugarcane is land intensive. Should the price crash -- for political or other reasons -- I suspect you'll see the conversion of much of the interior to exurbs and tourist villas.

They'll need to save some for the rum. Not a problem in North Dakota.

"Doug mentioned a ranking system in the Pacific, and one certainly exists in the Caribbean."

Ain't that the truth! My Granny could go on forever about it. Not that I'm going to repeat any of it.... :^)

In 2005, Barbados exported $379m of tangible stuff. Re-exports made up $168m of that, leaving $211m of actual Barbadian-made exports. Of that $211m, rum made up $26m and sugar $22m.

Compare that to earnings of $897m on tourism and $488m on other business services. Sugar is a sideshow in Barbados ... without rum, the industry would be dead already.

On the other hand, sugar is significant in Jamaica, important to St. Kitts, and absolutely vital for Guyana.

Doug, it strikes me that the independence of the former TTPI and the former BWI are, in fact, perfect inverses.

The only tangible link with the United Kingdom that the BWI kept after independence was the ability to appeal to British courts.

The only tangible link with the United States that the TTPI lost after independence was the ability to appeal to American courts. After all, unlike the BWI, the former TTPI kept the right of abode, access to federally-provided public goods including military protection, and very large transfer payments.

Would this be incorrect?

Hi, James,

I don't really understand the independence debate in Bermuda. From the outside, it seems like a strange kabuki dance: there are no benefits, but some small losses (like the right of abode), and everyone seems to know that it won't happen but keeps talking about it anyway. Bermuda also seems (again, from the outside) to suffer from lingering racial tensions with little parallel elsewhere. Is that right?

I'm also curious as to what the Caribbean hierarchy looks like from Bermuda.

It's things like this that make Philippine unity such a mystery to me. The main separatist movement is mainly a way for the goombahs to extort money, and everyone knows this. Somehow, and for no very clear reason, Filipino identity has become a universal solvent. As I.I. Rabi once said about something completely different, who ordered *that*?

Incidentally, North Dakota's sugar industry is about ten times as large as Barbados's. Which makes sense: if only 2% of North Dakota's population earns its living from the humble beet, that's still roughly $500 million.

(I recommend Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen, by the way.)

We were in Bermuda once for a day. I found excellent WiFi at a picnic table next to the dolphin pool in the military museum, which was really good because I was in the editing phase of two chapters of a technical book (last time I ever tried anything *that* work-intensive with so little actual return, too...)

Houses are un-frickin-believably expensive there, I learned from casual conversation. Like more expensive than Manhattan, expensive. And they don't like being called "Caribbean" -- the Caribbean being full of dirty poor people, apparently. Or so I gathered.

All in all an odd day. The kids really liked spending the entire day watching dolphins, though.

Please, please write all three posts. You're awesome.

Lack of comments does not mean lack of interest. Please continue the series.

Another BWI unifying element (besides the courts and the cricket team) -- the banking system.

Ikarm: how could I forget the cricket team! (Other than the fact that West Indians are trying to forget the cricket team after their recent performance.)

What exactly do you mean by the banking system, though?

Two major pan-english-speaking Carribean banks.

One, Scotiabank Carribean. Second, First Carribean, owned by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Both are Canadian owned, reflecting Canada's involvement in the Carribean (much less than Australia's in the Pacific). The legal and regulatory systems are all separate though.

(I would link, but no HTML comments are allowed)

Hey Ikram, just put in the URL, and a hyperlink will automatically be generated.

(We have SPAM phasers set on "cook" here.)

Noel, you're right on both counts. Independence could happen if its propronents could sell it right, but it's a hard slog and many are unconvinced, with good reason. Of course, as an expat, I'm not supposed to have an opinion, but it reminds me of the Pequistes in Quebec. Lots of airy rhetoric about the grand future, evils of colonialism, maitres chez nous etc but short on specific improvements that would come with independence.

As to the island ranking, unsurprisingly, Bermuda considers it self well above the Carribean islands. Jamaica is generally not thought well of, but Barbados and the Caymans are. I haven't heard the other islands mentioned much.

One thing that's changed in my second tour here is a great increase in expat workers from Asia - mostly India and the Phillipines. It's comforting to me, as it makes Hamilton seem more like Toronto. I've also found out that there are descendents of Pequot and Massentucket tribesmen here, brought as slaves long ago.

Amma took a trip to Turks and Caicos to watch her brother compete in the Caribbean games. That's a strange place. Like what you describe for Bermuda, it's getting swamped with immigrants. Mostly Haitian, but some Dominicans and no small number of (who else?) Filipinos.

The locals try to pretend that it's not happening. They're also turning into a bit of rentier elite. It seems like discovering Bruce Willis's propensity to spend may be about as good as discovering oil.

Since a particular on-line community is pretty much dead, I'll post the following here.

ObWI: Robert Borden and David Lloyd George get their act together, and London transfers responsibility for Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and the Windward and Leeward Islands to Ottawa in 1919. Long-term effects?

Bermuda uses a work permit system to pretty much kill permanent immigration, but it is swamped wih expat workers. I'm told the Turks are a good buy right now, unlike Bermuda which has ridiculous prices and restrictions on non-Bermudians owning land.

I think there would be a lot of resistance to overcome, both US and Canadian but assuming the transfer, I can see lots of problems. The residential schools show that Canada is, let's say, not infallible as a colonial overlord. For various reasons, good and bad, I think we'd try to ditch the responsibility as soon as we could. Genuine anti-colonial attitudes, for example, but also racism and good old Canadian cheapskatery. If we held on til the 60s and 70s things could get interesting. Would we relax restrictions on non-white immigration earlier? How would we react to the violent independence movements of the late 60s? One thought - relations with Castro would likely be testier as I doubt he'd give us a free pass.

"I'm told the Turks are a good buy right now"

How good is good?

Yeah, how good is good? Those look like nice little islands.

Bear in mind I heard that from my hair-cuttress, and it was in comparison to Bermuda. So take it with a large pinch of salt ...

Hi. Just came across this blog and found it was very interesting reading.

"Jamaica provides an example. Its former prime minister, Edward Seaga, went so far as to call the Privy Council “the best court in the world.” Seaga’s party, the Jamaican Labour Party, remains opposed to ending its jurisdiction. The JLP, I should add, narrowly won the 2007 election."

I'd like to provide more perspective on this. The anti-CCJ stance of Seaga and by extension the JLP (at the time anyway) is basically a ruse. Seaga himself was one of the original guiding lights behind a Caricom court of appeal to replace the Privy Council. He advocated for it in 1988 while he was prime minister, but once he was voted out, all of sudden he was suddenly opposed to such a regional court and even opposed the methods of appointment of judges as being too political, despite this method having been incorporated into the CCJ proposal in "1988-89 upon a motion put to CARICOM by Seaga himself"! I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post urls, but you can read about it in this column by Gordon Robinson in the Jamaica Gleaner from January 2, 2011 entitled Privy Council 'Politricks' (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110102/cleisure/cleisure3.html). Even the current government's opposition to the CCJ (and proposals to establish yet another local court which would be superior to the Supreme Court) seems to be more based on attempts at opposing for the sake of opposing their rival's position rather than any rational reasoning as they haven't shown why we should pay more money in taxes for this extra court (the proposal seems to have died anyway) nor explained why they've changed their minds on the competence of local judges versus judges based in Britain (which was one of their key points in supporting the Privy Council over the CCJ) - I suppose the fact that the CCJ has a Jamaican judge as well as judges from Britain and the Netherlands and is thus somewhat like the Privy Council except located in the region and in a place where one doesn't need a visa to enter rendered that argument baseless.

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