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October 01, 2015


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love the solution.

How about calculating that for the entire West Indies? :)

Cameron though would probably counter your proposal with the note that if Scotland walks out in the meantime and Jamaica (and the rest of the West Indies) isn't offered membership in the UK then he would save British taxpayers £10.9 billion. And if the West Indies are successful in pressing a legal case for reparations and the UK has to fork out £53.3 billion then that's still fine since that would be cheaper than the £66.7 billion bill over 20 years for bringing Jamaica alone into the UK. In fact he might well argue that the reparations bill (which he could fit to whittle down if it ever got any legal traction) would represent more of a one-off payment than incorporating Jamaica and the rest of the West Indies since the reparations bill represents a one-off payment while the incorporation bill would represent a continuing drain to the tune of £9 billion per year for Jamaica alone. ;)

In all seriousness though assuming that the reparations bill for the West Indies was £53.3 billion, what amount/percentage of that could be offset by simply forgiving the collective debt of the West Indian countries?

That to me would seem a fairly straightforward solution since many of those countries would struggle to repay such debt anyway and without the debt load they could use their resources for local development.

Incidentally, it is little wonder that Cameron wished to avoid talking about reparations or even giving any opening to such discussion as the National Commission on Reparations in Jamaica has estimated (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-7-5-trillion-for-slavery) from 2014 that Jamaica would be due to at least £2.3 trillion. Not billion. Trillion.

This they calculated based off Dr. Robert Beckford's estimation of £7.5 trillion being owed by the UK to its former colonies in the Caribbean based off unpaid labour (estimated at £4 trillion), unjust enrichment to the British economy (£2.5 trillion) and compensation for wrongful imprisonment, pain and suffering (£1 trillion)

That total of £7.5 trillion would be equivalent to 3.66 times the annual GDP of the UK.

Even if one shaves off the unjust enrichment claim (on the basis that having now paid for the unpaid labour the enrichment could no longer be considered unjust) then that is £5 trillion for the West Indies or 2.44 times the GDP of the UK. That would push the cost of compensation to something like £140 billion per year to the West Indies or close 19% of the last budget of the UK (which already had a deficit of £69 billion).

If legal challenges for reparations gets anywhere even close to being successful and pushing for a figure even close to £5 trillion then Cameron (or whoever is Prime Minister at the time) might well adopt a variation of your modest proposal:

- don't offer the West Indies unification with the United Kingdom but instead ink a treaty between the UK and its former colonies in the Caribbean which would put in place a Common Travel Area-like arrangement between the West Indies (and among the West Indies' states) and the UK (which would be stronger than even the EU/EEA free movement clauses as it would mean that West Indians who land in the UK would automatically be eligible for immediate permanent residency) as well an EEA-like economic structure (but possibly with the provisio that this would be biased in favour of the West Indians for a specified transition time). This would have the benefit of most of the features of political unification without the need to expand the British parliament to include seats for 7 million West Indians; so it saves on costs ;-)

Here's a proposal: come up with a generous figure for reparations. Pay for Jamaica to hold a referendum. Promise to pay that sum in reparations if a majority of registered voters in Jamaica agree that it is total compensation for slavery, forever.

J.H.: The combined central government debt of Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Bahamas, and the OECS is only £32.2 billion. That is rather less than £53.3 billion.

The trillion-pound figure looks specious. The number is higher than the total net capital stock of the United Kingdom. Slavery generated profits, but it did not come close to financing all the physical capital in the U.K.

(Estimate on net capital stock from http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cap-stock/capital-stock--capital-consumption/capital-stocks-and-consumption-of-fixed-capital--2012/stb-caps-stock.html.)

Noel: That debt figure doesn't take into account Belize and Guyana, but I would imagine that even including those two the combined central government debt of all of them wouldn't amount to more than £34-35 billion if the debt of that group you mentioned was already £32.2 billion.

The trillion pound figure is pretty incredulous. Although it is not the only trillion amount floating around when it comes to estimates for slavery reparations: http://www.newsweek.com/slavery-reparations-could-cost-14-trillion-according-new-calculation-364141

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