The Multinational Monitor

JUNE 15, 1985 - VOLUME 6 - NUMBER 7


Paradise Lost

The Other Side of Paradise:
Foreign Control in the Caribbean
Tom Barry, Beth Wood, and Deb Preusch
Grove Press 1984 - $9.95
Reviewed by Daniel Elias

"The Bahamas are farther from Guyana than London is from Leningrad," and the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the small island of Hispaniola, have closer relations with the United States and France than they do with each other. Generalizing about the Caribbean is not easy.

Diversity - geographic, linguistic, political and ancestral - is a key characteristic of the Caribbean region. The Other Side of Paradise, the latest book from the directors of The Resource Center in Albuquerque, shatters many preconceptions about the nature of the Caribbean. The paradox is, however, that despite this diversity, there exists a common strand, the "burden of both past and present foreign domination."

One of the main strengths of the book lies in its two part structure. The first half deals with aspects shared by all the Caribbean states, ranging from transnational corporations and tourism to development and diplomacy. The second part is comprised of profiles of each nation as well as investigations of British, French, Canadian and U.S. influence. The result is an innovative analysis supported by tactual assessment.

The Caribbean, the authors claim, has reached a state of "plantation further modified." Transnational corporations are the new overseers of the plantation; workers who toil for a $3 daily wage the slaves.

In a chapter entitled "The Strangers in Paradise," the authors detail the bounty the world's major TNC's in the Caribbean can claim: A cheap supply of raw materials, a population willing to work for low wages, and a haven for banks and industries wishing to escape the rules and regulations of more industrialized countries.

For the Caribbean, the domination of the transnationals means restricted growth of a local entrepreneurial class, little local control of ownership, and a shortage of capital in the region.

The authors advocate not only better methods of control, but a fundamental change in the way corporations do business in the Caribbean. They argue for a transfer of technology that is devoid of political ties.

At present, "what the Caribbean receives are operating instructions for technology, but never a transfer of the knowledge to create technology appropriate to their particular requirements."

The Caribbean region is one of the world's major refining centers and 50 percent of all U.S. oil passes through its shipping lanes. The entire region, however, has no indigenous oil technology. The same pattern is apparent in mining. Though bauxite is plentiful, production of aluminum within the Caribbean is minimal.

The Caribbean states enjoy few of the benefits resulting from the exploitation of their natural resources, but must suffer the full costs of the environmental damage. Two tons of bauxite produces one ton of waste in the form of red mud and dust. The hundreds of tankers afloat in the Caribbean coupled with the numerous offshore drilling wells produce an operational discharge of 7 million barrels of oil per year.

The Caribbean historically has depended on the United States for capital - in 1984 U.S. investment totaled $29.1 billion. The United States also enjoys a positive trade balance, selling more goods to the Caribbean than it imports. But, the United States prides itself on the amount of money it pours back into the region in the form of aid.

The authors suggest, however, that foreign aid does not represent the altruistic side of the United States. Rather, as Jamaica's Prime Minister Edward Seaga pointed out "Aid is not charity it is business." The United States' Caribbean Basin Initiative is similarly at fault, under the CBI "the Caribbean nations had to sign loan contracts with Washington that required the countries to restructure their economies (and hence their politics) in ways pleasing to the U.S. government and U.S. corporations."

Multilateral lending to the Caribbean has increased trade and investment, but is subject to less control than bilateral donor aid and has meant the harnessing of` underdeveloped nations to an industrialized system. The authors conclude that the "heavy indebtedness of the Caribbean nations to public and private lenders has come to be the most suffocating form of foreign control."

The present foreign debt structure in the Caribbean promotes foreign dependence as a way of life.

The second half of the book emphasizes the individuality of the area with short profiles. Haiti under Duvalier or "Baby Doc" is described as a land of startling contrasts: a tourist haven where Voodoo coexists with industrialized sweat shops. The statistics are striking: in Port-au-Prince, 96 percent of the people do not have drinking water: the country has 35 prisons for every school; the life expectancy is 48 years - one of the lowest in the region: only 23 percent of the population is literate; and 90 percent of the people earn less $120 a year.

The television advertising slogan, "Come back to Jamaica, what's old is what's new," contains an unconscious irony. The situation in the Caribbean unfortunately hasn't changed, foreign domination is still the primary characteristic. "It is the sad lot of the Caribbean nations to compete with each other for the crumbs of investment, aid, and trade that fall their way. " U

Daniel Elias, a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, is an intern at the Multinational Monitor.

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