War and rumours of war
The Greater Caribbean This Week
By Norman Girvan
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LIKE a hurricane or other natural disaster, the attacks of September 11 killed thousands and wreaked economic havoc. But the similarity ends there.
September 11 impacted not one island but the whole world.
For the Caribbean, it was as if one powerful hurricane had overnight ravaged all the islands and the adjacent mainland, knocking out two-thirds of the tourist industry plant and a good part of the airline industry.
After a natural disaster one tries to rebuild and to gradually resume life as it was lived before.
September 11 changed the world and the assumptions by which we live. It set in train a sequence of events whose conclusions no one can foresee, and which we in the region feel powerless to influence.
It gave new meaning to the concept of the vulnerability of small states.
Consider the events of last week.
Just as several countries in the region were developing special marketing strategies and costly advertising campaigns to deal with the fall-out on tourism, and a specially convened CARICOM Summit was preparing to meet, on October 7 the United States and Britain launched a series of attacks on Afghanistan.
The U.S. announced that the war on terrorism will last for years, or decades; that it may be extended to military action in other countries; and that fresh terrorist attacks against U.S. targets are to be expected.
The Taliban and the Al-Queda leadership became more defiant and vowed retaliation, specifically mentioning the use of airliners.
In the U.S., troops were deployed at several airports.
Anti-American and anti-Western feeling boiled over among Muslim populations in Pakistan, the Arab world, and as far away as Indonesia.
Leaders of Islamic states convened an international conference and expressed their concerns about civilian casualties and the possible extension of the war to other countries.
Beyond the fact that these developments will have on-going effects on international travel and the recuperation of regional tourism, there is a growing sense that the consequences will touch all aspects of economic life.
The World Bank forecasts a reduction in the growth of developing countries in 2002 by 0.5 to 0.75 percentage points, which will push an additional 10 million people into poverty.
For Latin America and the Caribbean, both ECLAC and the IDB are forecasting stagnant growth this year, compared to 2-3 per cent growth before the attacks.
Several global conferences have also been cancelled, notably the annual World Bank/IMF meeting and the Commonwealth Summit in October and the Francophone Summit also in October.
There is uncertainty over the holding of the WTO Ministerial Meeting scheduled for Qatar in November.
Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados has spoken of the possible "destruction of a paradigm" of a new world economy based on the ease and safety of international movement of all kinds.
Policies will be re-evaluated, he said; and trade liberalisation will no longer be a priority.
The 3rd ACS Summit, which is still firmly scheduled for December in Margarita Island, Venezuela, will be a timely opportunity for the political leaders of the Greater Caribbean to dialogue on the implications of these developments and the forging of collective responses.