GOFAD was in the process of composing this week’s blog when the sad news of the death of former Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur was received. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, daughters and the rest of his family and also to the people of Barbados. Already, the many tributes to the former Prime Minister hail his inestimable contributions as a political leader, scholar, and an advocate for Caribbean Integration, among others. He is highly acclaimed as an Economist and for his vision of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. Especially at this time, it is important to recall that he was one of the leading voices with Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St Kitts Nevis at the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in July 2001, that promoted the Nassau Declaration, “The health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region”. Prior to this, Prime Minister Arthur convened the first international Conference on HIV/AIDS in Barbados, September, 2000 with the support of CARICOM, PAHO, UNAIDS and the World Bank. He called for a Pan Caribbean Cooperation to fight the HIV pandemic. By February 2001, while Chair of the Caribbean Community, he was among the six signatories to the charter establishing the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDs (PANCAP) at the PAHO Regional Office in Barbados. He included the Barbados Commission for HIV chaired by Dr Carol Jacobs into the office of the Prime Minister, demonstrating the importance he placed on the fight against HIV to the economy of the country. He also secured the agreement of Cabinet to contribute US$ 30,000 to the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria and TB. This is arguably one of the few, if not the only developing country on record to do so. Perhaps, most significant, was the prominence he gave to the Study of the Health Economics Unit, then led by Prof Karl Theodore at the Barbados AIDS Conference in 2000. That study provided estimates of the economic losses associated with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia and quantified the level of resources needed to adequately respond to the HIV/AIDS. In addition, while holding the portfolio responsibility in the CARICOM Cabinet for the Single Market and Economy, Prime Minister Arthur as Chair of the Caribbean Community in July 2007, promoted the Needham Point Declaration of CARICOM Heads of Government, “Functional Cooperation: a Community for All.” His voice on behalf of the CARICOM Movement resonated and commanded respect at the UN, the EU, in Africa and in the global arena generally. He would have been pleased to learn of and promote the most recent work of the Health Economics Unit(HEU). it is also to be noted that HEU on the St Augustine campus , UWI is located in the Sir George Alleyne Building ,a Caribbean icon and a respected colleague and compatriot of Owen Arthur.
The Biannual Report in Context of HEU's Portfolio
GOFAD, highlights some issues in HEU's Biannual Report (July 2019). In a subsequent blog we will explore more fully the wider range of HEU's extensive scope of work which illustrates its valuable contribution to policy making and advocacy for the cause of Health and Development in the Caribbean. What is more intriguing is the HEU's costing tool with built in formulas for projecting from the available epidemiological data, the trends on the social determinants of health and economic costs and benefits . Hopefully these products will form the essence of webinars and other forms of dissemination to engage regional and international audiences and thereby shine a brighter light on this important work. To read or download a copy of HEU Biannual Report, please use the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zotei_mcc7vHMPvsqekbk9MiXgZlZLSy/view?usp=sharing
Macroeconomic Fall out in the Caribbean
The Report shows that as a result of COVID- 19, the economies of the Caribbean are expected to fall by an average of just over 6% in 2020; employment levels reduced in response to the curtailment in the supply and demand chains with labour intensive sectors — trade, transportation, restaurant and hotels—bearing the brunt. It also estimates contraction of tourism of between 8%-25% in 2020 depending on whether travel bans currently in place in most countries, are extended to 3-6 months or more. All this can result in increasing levels of poverty. Accordingly, the uncertainties about the length and depth of the “lockdown” on the economies are compounded by negative trends in the global economy. For starters, the general projections reveal a substantial decline in remittances from abroad which contribute 21% of Haiti's GDP , 16% in Jamaica 11% in Guyana.
While the Report refers to the fact that countries have embarked on stimulus packages to shore up sagging economies , it does not provide details. What is clear, is that with the lack of fiscal space for most Caribbean economies and relatively high debt-GDP ratios -- above 60% before COVID-19 in two-thirds of Caribbean Countries- government borrowing is not a feasible option. The most recent data from country reports (July 2020) provide a useful idea of the priorities adopted. There are plans for reopening the respective economies in five to six phases with the initial phase already in process including essential services, hurricane preparation, delivery and construction.
In The Bahamas, its support measures totaling US $38M accounts for 0.6% of GDP. Barbados is targeting 1% of GDP less than the 3% indicated in March and has placed emphasis on refurbishing hospitals and schools, provision of critical medications and capital spending, and social programs to support displaced workers and supplementing unemployment benefits through the national insurance scheme. Jamaica has announced tax cuts around 0.6% in GDP and up to 0.5% to counteract the effects of COVID 19. Trinidad and Tobago announced a six-phase reopening plan with phase 5 starting on June 22 to include sporting activities without spectators, cinemas, bars, gyms, beaches with schools remaining closed until September. It is currently preparing for a General Elections on August 10, 2020. Guyana in the height of an election stalemate has along with the Dominican Republic and Haiti received pre-manufactured housing from the UN High Commission on Refugees and PPE from UNICEF to contain the spread of COVID 19. It is currently at phase 3 of six phases for opening the economy. Its stimulus includes wavers on VAT and duties on COVID medical supplies, water and electricity. Small businesses and farmers affected by the virus are receiving assistance.
Social Conditions of Health
The HEU Report points to some of the implications of COVID 19 around mental health caused by an environment of emotional distress and "longing for the life we once had, even though filled with uncertainty". According to Dr. Varna Deyalsingh, President of TRT Psychiatric Board, these conditions are caused by anxiety, anger, panic attacks, thoughts of self-harm, exacerbation of pre-existing mental health conditions and in extreme cases, violence and suicide. Clinical Psychologists, Dr Peter Weller, helps us to understand adverse child experiences due to functioning in this new normal environment which highlight the inequities in access to technologies that facilitate online learning and living and other social conditions that militate against social distances, access to basic sanitation, nutrition and on time information.
Grasping Opportunities: Strengthening the Regional Movement in Honour of Owen Arthur
Former Prime Minster Owen Arthur would have been a foremost advocate for reimaging the role of the regional institutions and recognizing their value to stimulate functional cooperation and building economic resilience regionally in response to the coronavirus. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA) the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), and UWI all institutions with which he was actively engaged , have already stepped up to the plate in various ways that have been described in previous blogs. The response to the preparedness prior to COVID 19 noted in the HEU Biannual Bulleting should be accelerated. These include PAHO's training health workers in Caribbean Member States in influenza surveillance and pandemic preparedness and response to strengthen the capacity to prepare for the recovery from an acute health event. Then there is the need for cooperation between CARPHA and PAHO to increase capacity for testing and increasing access appropriate health services. And now we are discovering the valuable role of HEU. In addition, the provisions of the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH) coordinated by CARICOM,CARPHA and PAHO, facilitate the application of international health regulations (IHR,) pooled procurement of medicines and access to personal protective equipment (PPE), reagents, kits, swabs, aspects of functional cooperation that would restrict public health risks. These are all essential prerequisites of a more viable regional response for achieving Owen Arthur’s dream of a Caribbean Single Market and Economy. As he so aptly stated during the 30 year celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramus in 2003 "Great causes are not won by doubtful men [and women]. Now is not the time to doubt ourselves."
As we examine lessons learned from the economic effects of COVID-19, there is need to be reminded of the recommendations from the seminal 2006 Report of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, chaired by Sir George Alleyne. That Report made the case for action to increase investment in health in the Caribbean Community and more poignantly according to its Chair “to make the region’s leaders converts to the cause of health”. The lynchpin of this conversion is the strategy for the consolidation of functional cooperation through the Caribbean Cooperation in Health. It is aptly branded in the 2000 Nassau Declaration, The Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region. See full report here: Report of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development By The Caribbean Commission on Health and Development
Key Messages - then: Persistence and Relevance - now
The Report is as relevant today as it was 14 years ago, if for no other reason than its key messages assert the role of health in development as follows:
The Report identified the tremendous progress that the Caribbean had made over the decades and the real possibility that if sustained, the region would have achieved or surpassed most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2000-2015, which it did. Most of the MDGs centered on reducing infant mortality and similar advancements in all the classic indicators of population health. These included reducing poverty which compared favorably with other countries of the world that were at similar levels of wealth and geographies. The Commission concluded that this was a result of government policies that emphasized water and sanitation, nutrition and the essentials of primary health care.
Yet the Report pointed to several challenges to be faced, including: the size and fragility of Caribbean Economies with limited resources for sustained health financing; increasing demands for maintaining a health sector more responsive to the legitimate demands for equity of access by a population exposed to information about the range of possibilities from other cultures and other realities; and continuous threats of national disasters that compound the pressures on the health system. None of these conditions has changed but they have been compounded by COVID 19 specific salutary lessons for which the messages of the Caribbean Commission 14 years ago prepared the Caribbean for actions required based on issues to be addressed.
Conclusions : Build Back Better
The Caribbean has lagged in social investment in recent years, with debt servicing diverting resources due to lack and inadequacy of resources that have constrained investments in such critical areas as education, sanitation, healthcare, housing, work programmes and skills development. This is according to ECLAC’s Special Report COVID-19 No. 5, entitled Addressing the growing impact of COVID-19 with a view to reactivation with equality: new projections. It is therefore heartening to note that functional cooperation through the Caribbean Cooperation in Health during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in relatively low rates of spread and deaths in the Caribbean. As important, is that Caribbean youth are engaged in discussions on their role in averting the effects of COVID-19 and NCDs. It is a venture which even unwittingly, links the considerations of the Caribbean Commission 14 years ago, and the current preoccupation with the effects of COVID on the region's health and development. They articulate that their legacy is to “build back better”. GOFAD will follow up on this mission and feel optimistic that the youth will play a critical role in shaping the world where their generation and future generations thrive. In this case, they will make worthwhile our revisiting the Report of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of health to economic growth. This realization is neither novel nor new. The Wealth of the Nations (1773) highlights Adam Smith's insight about the true engine of wealth creation as the division of labor, which itself is dependent on the size and extent of markets. This is relevant to understanding the underlying risks of the coronavirus pandemic due to negative labour shocks, caused by a rapidly declining working age population and its effects on the supply chain across borders. This, in essence, was the vision behind the CARICOM Heads of Government Declaration, the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region (July 200O) when HIV was literally a death sentence. The 1998 Nobel Laurette in Economics, Amartya Sen, had previously concluded that health, like education is among the basic capabilities that gives value to human life. Then, The Commission on Macroeconomics and Health established by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000 and chaired by Professor Jeffrey Sacks, established that health is both a central outcome of development and an important investment to promote economic development and poverty reduction, especially in the world’s poorest countries. This was the period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that committed the world to dramatic reductions in poverty and marked improvements in the health of the poor by 2015, requiring seriousness of purpose, political resolve and an adequate flow of resources from high to low income countries on a sustained and well targeted basis.
To what extent has this mission been achieved? There are several lessons from the coronavirus pandemic that illustrate the need for a healthier and more prosperous future.
First, coronavirus exposed the weakness of the World's infectious -diseases- surveillance response to pandemics. It included the slow start up in many countries: in public communications, testing , contact tracing, critical care capacity and other systems for containing infectious disease. As a result, the case for strengthening the world’s pandemic-response capacity at the global, national, and local levels is compelling. According Mc Kinsey's "Crushing coronavirus uncertainty: The Big unlock of our Economy" (May 2020), the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could cost between $9 trillion and $33 trillion—many times more than the projected cost of preventing future pandemics. Preventive investment estimated at $40 billion annually, could substantially reduce the likelihood of future pandemics.
Second, reports from the IMF research (July 2020) shows that health continues to stimulate growth, accounting for about one-third of the overall GDP-per-capita growth of developed economies in the past century.
Third, is the need to invest in health to build resilience. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit people with underlying health conditions hardest—for example, diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and obesity, which are common across most of the world’s economies. They have been associated with higher risk from COVID-19. Hence it is predicted that by using what we know today, can improve the health of the world’s population, and that would not only build resilience against future pandemics but also dramatically improve the quality of life of millions of people.
Fourth, is focusing on reducing economic and social inequalities. In many countries, the pandemic has disproportionally hurt minorities and low-income households. In the United States, for example, mortality rates have been much higher among Latinos and Black people than among the white population. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, ethnic-minority groups reported mortality rates 40 to 200 percent higher than those of white British people. Minorities and low-income households face a double whammy of health and economic risk. Black Americans are almost twice as likely to live in the counties at highest risk for health and economic disruption if the pandemic hits those counties. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found a ten-year gap in life expectancy between the most and least disadvantaged groups in the United States. Disparities of this magnitude are observed in most countries and societies around the world. Poorer people tend to have worse health, which can limit their economic potential.
Fifth, is the building on COVID driven innovations. According to a WHO Report (July 2020) scientists around the world have shared more than 50,000 viral genome sequences, and around 180 vaccines were in the pipeline, many representing cross-sector and cross-country collaborations. In addition, the adoption of telemedicine has skyrocketed: in 2019, 11 percent of US consumers used telehealth services; now 46 percent use them to replace in-person consultations suspended during the crisis. The pandemic response has also demonstrated that when the situation demands it, the architecture of healthcare can be transformed rapidly.
Sixth, are the lessons learned from the accelerated response to HIV. In the final analysis, eliminating unnecessary deaths is at the core of global health efforts, from responses to COVID-19 to HIV, non-communicable diseases, and maternal mortality. However, experience with HIV shows that reducing mortality especially in the absence of a vaccine, requires a more robust approach to tracking and intervening than has been used in the COVID 19 response in many counties, especially the USA, to date. A UNAIDS presentation at the recently concluded virtual International AIDS Conference (July 6-12) shows that 38 million people are living with HIV, a consequence of a pandemic that spread worldwide. The multinational AIDS response grew out of a global concern for the catastrophic loss of life, as HIV devastated communities in highly burdened countries. From a time when it seemed impossible for interventions to reach people globally, today about 79% of all people living with HIV know their status, and more than half of all people living with HIV have achieved viral suppression using advanced antiretroviral therapy. This according to UNAIDS is an historic response that has saved more than 11 million lives in the past decade alone.
However, progress against mortality has slowed considerably. They are far off-track from the globally agreed goal of fewer than 500 000 HIV-related deaths by 2020. Nevertheless, the UNAIDS Report concludes "as global health efforts mature, the HIV experience can provide lessons for tackling mortality from other causes" .
We started this blog by referring to the mission of equity, inspired by placing health at the center of economic development. It is therefore fitting to refer to a new book, by Martin Sandbu, Economics of Belonging: a radical plan to win back the left behind and achieve prosperity for all, (Princeton 2020). Its premise is that behind today’s political liberalism and rejection of globalization is a widespread feeling that economic opportunities are reserved for an elite to which “normal people” do not belong. It sets out an agenda to create an economy where everyone feels they belong. Hence it is heartening to note from a report in the Washington Post (July 15) that leaders from Canada, Ethiopia, South Korea, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Tunisia have issued a joint call for any coronavirus vaccine to be distributed equally and according to a “set of transparent, equitable and scientifically sound principles.” The statement comes as worries grow that protectionism may prevent poorer countries from receiving a vaccine at the same time as richer ones. That would be in contradiction to the primacy of health to economic development.
The recent IMF Report (July 8, 2020) projects global growth at - 4.9 percent in 2020. This is 1.9 percentage points below the April 2020, World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast. This is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that has had a more negative impact on activity in the first half of 2020 than anticipated. The conclusion from the IMF report is ominous: ”recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously forecast. In 2021, global growth is projected at 5.4 percent. Overall, this would leave 2021 GDP some 6½ percentage points lower than in the pre-COVID-19 projections of January 2020. The adverse impact on low-income households is particularly acute, imperiling the significant progress made in reducing extreme poverty in the world since the 1990s.”
There are several common challenges posed by these trends to countries globally but are particularly relevant to the small Caribbean Countries.
Flattening the curve as a basis for stimulating the Economy
Flattening the curve is associated with reducing the spread of the virus. The WHO tracker reveals that even though coronavirus cases are low in the Caribbean relative to its small population size, in several countries the curve has begun to flatten. Yet there is still need for caution. Although the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) health experts say social distancing and quarantines are critical, the economic uncertainty that comes with those measures provides a powerful counterweight – particularly in communities where reliance on face-to-face transactions is high and where living and other socio-economic conditions preclude all but the privileged to confirm to safe spaces for physical distancing and opportunities for working and studying from home.
The CARICOM Statistical Unit explains some of the difficulties with establishing trends for the Caribbean due to inaccuracies in country reports including limited information on sex , by hospitalization and number of person tested. It identifies the causes for sharp increases during March-April 2020 in some countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago with specific events resulting in 700 new cases over 24 days. Yet with the exception of four-five of the 22 CARICOM Community Member and Associate countries experiencing an increasing trend in transmission by May 2020, there has been a relatively low rate of transmission reflected in new cases.
Execution of protocols such as increased randomized testing, closing of borders , applications of contact tracing and quarantine measures have led to optimistic signs that more countries are ready for a phased opening of their economies. There are also positive signs with respect to the education sector by the recent signal from the University of the West Indies that its campuses are being readied for on campus classes and from the new Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana that that institution is considering a blended learning environment that includes both online and on campus course delivery.
Revamping the approaches to attract Intra Regional Tourism
According to the IMF Report (July 8, 2020) there is a possibility that tourist arrivals could drop by as much as 75% in the last half of 2020. With the sector screeching to a standstill, the repercussions are already enormous, especially given the already high debt-GDP ratio in the region. A compounding factor is that GDP relative to pre-crisis expectations is likely to fall by 10 percentage point for Bahamas, 6.5 % for Barbados and 5.4% for Jamaica. In all three countries tourism contributes between 34-48% of GDP. Because most Caribbean islands have seen relatively few cases of COVID-19, the main concern is keeping infections out which may prove to be an anomaly if not an impossibility with the aim to bring tourists in. During the peak tourism season for example, cruise ship tourists number approximately 20,000 per day. Under these circumstances the largest single untapped source of business for Caribbean tourism is the Caribbean itself. It leaves as a policy option for consideration, the possibility of tapping into tourism from within the region.
The "Syndemic" of COVID 19 and Climate Change
Occurrences of various natural disasters that exacerbate major pandemics is referred to as a “syndemic”. With the hurricane season on the horizon, any natural disaster will only add to the impacts of a pandemic that is already converging with economic recession. The most recent reminder is the disastrous effects which Hurricane Dorian inflicted on the Bahamas included losses that amounted to $3.4 billion, or 27% of GDP. The most comparable are the effects of climate change and COVID-19 in that they both require urgent society wide responses mainly through social cooperation and behavior modification. In the case of COVID - social distance, hand washing and mask wearing. Responses to climate change require managing extreme disasters, protecting coastlines, preventing sea level rise and protecting energy and public infrastructure. Both COVID -19 and Climate Change require placing emphasis on a viable health care system for the public and planet, respectively.
Health essential to Economic Growth
The COVID-19 pandemic has fully demonstrated the importance of health to economic growth. GOFAD will follow up on this policy debate which often focuses on controlling healthcare costs rather than on the bigger picture. A recent Mckinsey Global Institute study Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity, shows that the bigger picture shines light on the pandemic and its effects that will cost the global economy up to 8 percent of real GDP in 2020. Yet each year, poor health costs twice as much—around 15 percent of global real GDP from premature deaths and lost productive potential among the working-age population. At the same time, organizations around the world are looking for tools to speed up economic recovery, rethink health as an investment, not just a cost. This is a useful mantra that countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere should consider for accelerating growth for decades to come, even in the face of a pandemic and a 'syndemic'.
This week GOFAD shines its light on Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin and offer warmest congratulations on her recent appointment as the 11th Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana. The new Vice Chancellor brings to the position some spectacular attributes as an academic and a proponent of the dynamics of the arts and culture of the Caribbean. She was educated at the University of Guyana, Harvard and the University of the West Indies and has published extensively in the fields of social and behavioral change, communications strategy, and education policy and practice. Her 11 books and numerous articles in academic journals in addition to a wide range of children’s books and collections of poetry fully demonstrate her talents and productivity. What is more, she comes to the position with a highly rated reputation of academic leadership at the University of Guyana: as Director of the Centre of Communications Studies, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Philanthropy, Alumni and Civic Engagement and over the past year, Chair of UG’s Transitional Management Team. She is also Adjunct Professor of Cultural Diplomatics at Trent University, Canada.
Professor Mohamed Martin has also made significant contributions to the film and theatre industries, especially in Guyana, but also in the Caribbean region and the Diaspora. Her playwriting prowess and theatre productions are highly acclaimed. They include such recognition as a three-time winner of the Guyana Prize for Literature, the City of New York Award for Culture in 2013 and the first woman Caribbean Laurette for Excellence in the Arts and Letters in 2015.
GOFAD is grateful the ANSA Caribbean Awards for Excellence Committee for allowing us to use its video biography to provide a glimpse of the abounding creative talent of UG’s first woman Vice Chancellor.
Over the past month GOFAD has posted several blogs featuring various perspectives on institutional racism in the USA that have triggered protests worldwide. In these portrayals there is a tendency to miss important voices of support for the Black Lives Movement emanating from church leaders. The Bishop and clergy at the Washington National Cathedral in DC for example have been in the forefront of championing the cause in sermons from the pulpit as well as in a series of symposiums "Honest to God" on Wednesday evenings engaging audiences from around the World.
This week we bring to your attention a sample of the vibrancy of the Church's message and the passion and purposefulness that it brings to this discussion. I commend this 18 minute video of a sermon by The Very Rev Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. It is a condemnation of the racist system that has persisted for over 400 years in the USA and more particular, an appeal to White Americans to make the change.
GOFAD is grateful The University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, for the following statement issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission. June 11, 2020
Two thousand years ago, a young Galilean in his proselytizing prime was arrested and pinned to a wooden cross by armed imperial police. In full public view, he was tortured until the last breath departed his body. The powerless, passive witnesses to the killing heard him call upon his Father to receive his departing soul.
Two weeks ago, a young, towering but gentle soul from Minneapolis was arrested and pinned to the pavement by a posse of morally impervious police. In full public view he was tortured until the last breath departed his body. Activist witnesses to the killing heard him call out to his deceased Mother. He might have wanted her to come to his aid; instead he journeyed to her side.
In the inhumanity of both events all Heaven broke loose.
With the brutal murder of a ‘Ghetto Angel’ a bright light flooded America that for centuries wore eye masks, but now removed, its citizens are forced to see. The nation was handed its third chance of a last dance to the sweet soul music of justice and fairness. This is the final curtain for a racialized nation that has danced around the sound of black rhythm and blues for four centuries, while in every town shedding the tears of a clown.
Four generations ago, James Baldwin, ‘Ghetto Prophet’, returned to the theology glossary from Galilee, and in anticipation of a flood of Floyds, framed the discourse in terms of “the fire next time”. Near nine Minneapolis minutes now represent the metaphor that is the nation’s clock, and every tick tock counts.
The first American dance with democracy did not end well for the black community that had fought the battle against Britain for freedom and was betrayed by the generals. The first blood to be spilt in the battle at Boston poured from the black body of Crispus Attucks on March 5, 1770. He was the first national hero of American liberty. But in victory, George Washington, first president of the Republic, vanquished the martyrdom of Crispus, and sent the blacks back to bondage, there to begin, again, their own battle for liberty within the nation that dangled the dream before wide open eyes.
The betrayal by the generals—now politicians and constitution framers—bought and booked their place forevermore at Mount Rushmore. Since then, cast in stony silence, they have looked down upon the monumental misery of blacks as if to say, “stay down and get back”. But the crime against humanity reflected in the hubris on the faces on Rushmore has tarnished the varnish. The white supremacy they upheld and enshrined in the culture of America is now crumbling around them in the desert they deserve.
The racist poison they poured into the well nurtured the nation. It is now torn and tortured by the notion that the freedom promised in the 19th century transcends the fear of COVID-19 in the 21st century. No water springs from the eyes of the Rushmore men. And spin, the White House men believe, will enable them to win, despite the protest of the people against the heresy and hypocrisy that produced a White House dedicated to freedom but built on the backs of enslaved blacks.
But the blacks, despite the chains and knees upon their necks, were never the prisoners of their past. The future they imagined is funky, not faked, filled with the promise of prosperity. We fought, fled, and forged movements from every deadly moment, pushing forward like a tidal wave for the free day, keeping hope alive while forgiving the sinners and enslavers, demanding deliverance without vengeance.
Then came the second American dance. The nation divided to the vein split rivers of blood, black and white, to prove that white freedom and black slavery cannot coexist as the basis of anything but death and destruction. And back to battle went the nation. The Civil war took with it millions of women, men and children before chattel bondage was removed from the books of plantations, factories and the Legislature.
But they were betrayed once again by the dream of a multi-colored democracy; America refused to let its blacks go and instead created Jim Crow, a creature designed to incarcerate the emancipated under apartheid laws that said blacks are at liberty to run loose but not free to forge the life snuffed from George. The second betrayal spread its evil acrimony across the United States now characterized as chokehold communities for persons branded by color.
The blacks fled the South, headed north and pushed west to Minneapolis where they stopped a while to breathe the fresh air denied them in the valley of the Mississippi. It was here, in Minnesota, in the middle of America, that the man George was crucified on concrete, so cold and calculated!
But the ‘Ghetto Angel’ unleashed the wrath of the wise world upon the wicked and their worshippers, and is now from above calling the nation to account. The man in the bunker is now like the boy on the moon, looking down from under, ‘biden time’, and hoping that the marches of millions, from Minneapolis to every other metropolis, can be halted by soldiers with his preference for dictatorship over democracy.
This is America’s third and last dance! There shall be no fourth. This is the beginning of the new ‘hope opera’. One way or another, it’s the end for ‘Uncle Ben’. For the concrete, it too shall crumble, and dust to dust, the dawn of a new dance to the peoples’ song; the melody of Martin, the exorcism of The X, and the drum base for the waist of Mosiah Garvey.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, 8th Vice-Chancellor of The UWI is a distinguished academic, international thought leader, United Nations committee official, and global public activist in the field of social justice and minority empowerment. He is also the President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.
As we witnessed the worldwide avalanche of demonstrations in the aftermath of the murder of Mr. George Floyd by a member of the Minneapolis police force in the USA, I had intended to write a Blog this week on "Stimulating a Worldwide Response to the Pain of being Black in America." However, I recalled correspondence sent to me by my Granddaughter, Chelsea and her Dad/my son, Abi. Their testimonials are the main features of this Blog. They assist more than any analysis I could have proffered in helping us to understand the lingering pain of experiencing injustices and the need for taking action now. The statement from Patrick Gordon, nephew and young advocate for the welfare of underserved youth advocates for harnessing the power to create change, banishing silence which comes from a place of fear and taking action that comes from a place of Love. In addition, the video clip sent to me by my colleague and friend, Prof. Compton Bourne, is an essential part of this blog. It shows his granddaughter, Darcy, leading a demonstration in London, England, that drew nationwide and worldwide attention and support. Darcy's and Chelsea's bold activism added to Patrick Gordon advocacy for change, give meaning to 'youth- taking action' and the hope for a future of Justice for All.
Letter from Chelsea Greene to the Principal and Staff of her All Girls Catholic High School in New Jersey and to Colleagues, Friends and Family
Hi Everyone, June 4, 2020
I just wanted to share the words that I sent to my high school due to their lack of response and the silencing of Black students. Many of our comments were removed from posts and they have yet to acknowledge anything that has been said on social media from their Alumni. Alumni of my high school and current students have finally decided to speak out against the school as their lack of support is now public. Alum from 2001, 1998, 2016, and more have shared their stories. Statements have been sent in by Black Alum, including one who currently is the only Black person on their alumni board.
We are still waiting on a response to any and all comments made. According to a friend whose mother is currently the president of the board, Sister Fran (the principal) said she has no plans on addressing us.
My name is Chelsea Greene and I am an alum from the Class of 2016. I'm reaching out to again share the statements made by myself and many other Black alums. Many of us faced discrimination from faculty, staff, and students at The Mount. I can say for myself; I am still processing the horrible things my friends and I experienced during our time. High School is a very important time in a young woman's life and what I learned in that time is that my skin color and what people thought of it always went over who I was as a person. Things were allowed to happen to Black students that would never happen to White students. Yesterday, my friend, Jeana Henderson, and I were extremely disappointed, but not surprised by the school's silence on what was happening in our country. Your alumni were looking for you, your current Black students were looking for you.
I can say for myself, that yesterday was the most therapeutic way of processing just a part of what I experienced. While I was there and spoke out about these issues, I was ignored by faculty, and bullied by classmates (called a liar, a horrible role model, and more). I wanted the sisterhood that was on every poster and an ad but never got it until now. I found sisterhood in the Black Alums sharing their stories of discrimination. I found sisterhood in current Black students messaging me and sharing their stories.
We are looking for you. We are looking to see you turn a new leaf. Leaving these comments unaddressed will continue to prove that Black students are not supported at this school. Your core values are "pride diversity and inclusion", but we have never seen them. Start the change. We begged for a change in 2016 and women before us probably did the same. I can only speak for myself, but I know some teachers want to do the work. Allow them. They are crucial to making the change. I know from my experience I can say that Ms. Zosche was a teacher that can help with this change. She was a crucial part of my high school experience. I know that she wanted to do the work. need everyone (board, administration, faculty, staff, any person involved, and connected to the school) to read every word. Read every word. Read the experience. Read the truth. Read the words of students.
Comments made and stories shared are included on my Facebook page
Your students. Your sisterhood.
Response to Chelsea from her Dad Abi Greene June 4, 2020
This is powerful and well said. I am sorry that you experienced this trauma. I am so proud of the person you are today and what you have accomplished while facing these obstacles. You gave me the strength to open up on a company forum and talk about my experiences with law enforcement since I moved to this country. Below is my email to my team inspired by you:
Love you always
Testimonial from Abi to the Team of Technology/Engineering Systems Designers he leads at a Financial Company in New York
Hi Team June 4, 2020
I just wanted to reach out and apologize for not being fully committed this week as I have been unable to focus. The incident that happened to George Floyd caused old wounds to resurface which I thought were a thing of the past. As a young college student (New York) doing everything right, I was removed from a bus and placed in handcuffs for running to catch that same bus to get to class. The explanation was that running with a big backpack full of books seemed suspicious. From that point on, I cut up my textbooks and only carried the chapters needed for class, stopped wearing hats, and made sure that my winter coats never had a hood. Needless to say, there were more encounters. The irony of this all is that I am alive today because of a good police officer who did everything to stop his partner from shooting me because I matched the description of an African-American FIVE FEET ELEVEN INCH male with a gun.* What happened to George Floyd brought the memories of steering into the gun and the police officer’s fingers on the trigger while clenching his lips in anticipation of the recoil, his partner screaming at the top of his lungs stand down, don’t shoot. I never reported any of my incidents out of fear and thinking what’s the use. My silence brings a great deal of guilt as possibly I could have been a voice for George Floyd and so many who have perished for being a person of color.
Again I apologize and am trying desperately to refocus
* Abi is 5feet 6.1/2inches
Patrick Gordon Co-founder and Executive Director | YES Initiative
Dear YES Community,
I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts regarding the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. I do not want to recite a standard corporate statement which looks good on social media, I want to tell you how I feel.
My heart has been bleeding and crying for my people these past few weeks. The pain of seeing someone that could be me, my mother or my niece. I have experienced every emotion from grief and anger to optimism and courage. But even now, when I feel most disillusioned with the notion of progress towards racial and social equality, I find hope. How? Because I choose to have hope. My mom said it well: “As a Black people in America, hope is all we have. If you’re not going to hope and keep fighting for a better future, you might roll over and go six feet under.” While the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are at the forefront of the news cycle, the protests are not just for them. This is why the conversation will continue. A 400+ year old problem cannot be solved with a few kind statements, money committed to fighting systemic racism, or changes in legal policies. It will take all of those elements and more, but most important it requires individuals to commit to changing actions and perspectives. It requires engaging in hard conversations, it requires sacrifice. Why do I choose hope? I choose to keep moving forward for our scholars who I love as if they were my younger siblings. I choose to keep going for my 2 year old niece Alex, My 8 month old nephew Deven, and my 2 day old nephew Taylor. Hell yes I am scared. I cannot bear the thought of losing one of them to an act of racist violence — but I will not let fear rule my actions. Now, now is the time to stand tall. To have courage, conviction, to be willing to do what is required of leaders, and we are all leaders. I believe every single person is a leader because there is at least one person in the world who will take your opinion to heart and truly listen. I believe in times of crisis it is simple, we either choose fear or we choose love. Accept the power you have to create change, there are people who will listen to you that will not listen to me, conversations you can have I cannot hear, spaces you will be in I will never walk in, take responsibility and be willing to do not what is easy but what is right. Get into action in your own circle, your own community, you don’t have to look much farther than what and who is immediately in front of you. Silence comes from a place of fear, Action comes from a place of Love - choose Love.
Darcy Bourne Leading a demonstration in London and Inspiring the World
Darcy’s leadership and her slogan “Why is Ending Racism a Debate?” has now gone viral in the United Kingdom and other countries. It is being promoted by models, movie stars, pop artists and sports stars around the world. These include footballers, David Beckham and Nikita Parris; athlete, Dana Asher-Smith; and formula 1 Champion, Lewis Hamilton. “Why is Ending Racism a Debate ?”is a profound question, perhaps, the most pertinent. it is inspiringly bold. Small wonder it has been posted in almost all the British newspapers, carried in news releases around the World, posted in British Vogue with other photographs on its Instagram. The image has also been tweeted by Malcom Luther King III, son of the late civil rights activist. Eighteen year -old Darcy Bourne is a member of the English under 21 English Hockey team in which few young blacks participate and indeed only four black women have represented Great Britain at the senior level. Darcy makes the point that the photographs of her slogan captivating the world "shows that no matter how big your platform is you can make a difference" . She certainly is.
Darcy Bourne, Chelsea Greene and Patrick Gordon
Regional Headquarters, Jamaica, June 1, 2020. The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.
Martin Luther King Jr, when he felt he could not breathe came to Jamaica. When the threats to his life were constant and closing in around his neck, he took this measure to maintain his life. His visits to Jamaica’s north coast filled his lungs with the ‘freer’ air of our space. He returned to the mainland more battle ready for the struggle to achieve the God-given right to the dignity of black life.
Island and mainland have always been a common survival space. Borders cannot contain consciousness nor isolate the intellect. Martin was retracing the footsteps of Marcus, his mentor, the incomparable Mosiah Garvey who also travelled from this north coast—his ancestral home—to Harlem, there to dedicate his life to the struggle for the dignity of black life.
Garvey’s Jamaican voice was heard in every American community where the dignity of black life was denied. He would have flown to the side of George Floyd, and embraced his forlorn family while preparing to prosecute those who demeaned his dignity and denied his ‘livity’.
Marley, the Buffalo Soldier from this said north coast, was idolised by every African American who was empowered by ‘old Marcus Garvey’ to get up and stand up and defend their right to life with dignity.
Malcolm, socialised as an X West Indian, took up the struggle of the islands on the mainland, connecting the legacies of Marcus and Martin to the West Indian commitment to rightness, fairness, and dignity in plantation America.
Where there were plantation overseers there are now police officers. Through them, black life remains prime for deletion as if on the plantation.
This Minneapolis fight was Marcus Garvey’s fight; it was Martin’s fight; it was Malcolm’s fight; it was Marley’s fight. It’s a Caribbean fight and it’s a global fight.
West Indians have been in it all along. Professor Orlando Patterson, Harvard don, but bred and adorned at the Mona Campus of The UWI, told his MSNBC interviewer that what we have seen is a special breed of evil from the depth of hell. We must exorcise it, he said, and return it from whence it came.
Patterson spoke as a Caribbean scholar in America, the finest sociologist they have, on loan from us to them. His classic work, The Sociology of Slavery, shows us how history can haunt communities; how privileges from the past become the pain of the present.
From that horrible history when Europeans stole 15 million of our ancestors from Africa and scattered them across plantation America—the Caribbean getting the lion’s share—shattering family bonds, the future was cast in the concrete again, in which the face of George was crushed.
From that moment, when the British government in 1636, took the first step to legally classify all blacks in their colonies as non-human, chattel, property, and real estate and proceeded with their European partners to build and manage with it a global business model for 400 years, the greatest ‘financial juggernaut’ of world history, humanity was poisoned with the toxic pandemic of race hatred.
And from that date in 1783, when Chief Justice Mansfield of England, in the Zong Trial, boldly proclaimed that the blacks in the case before him are no different from so many horses, sheep, and goats, the poison had permeated every community in the western world.
It is this culture of centuries upon which the American nation is built that continues to choke the air from black lungs. The Americans won their national independence from Britain, and proceeded to retain slavery as the development model of the nation; the same model in which the western world defined and treated black people as animals. It is the legacy of this model, embedded in a national security institution that took the life of “Big Floyd”.
It is this licence to treat animal life as dispensable that led the pack of hunters to pin a citizen to the concrete, using the knee like a blunt knife to the throat for nine minutes, while posing and posturing like a fisherman in triumph over his catch of the day for all to see!
It is this cultural triumphalism of killing black prey that has caught afire the heart of a hitherto race hardened world made to participate virtually in an actual live extinction of life; typified by a dying man calling out for his deceased mother who at the moment answered her son because she knew it was time to call him home.
The UWI, too, has heard the call of George. We wish to invoke the memory of Marcus and Martin to bring to the islands young African Americans, here to breathe before returning to the mainland fight for dignity. We owe it to Martin, to Marcus, to Malcolm, and to Marley; and to all the ruptured minds of Minneapolis.
This is our cause. Every university that stands for freedom, justice, and the celebration of human dignity must stand up like a gorilla for justice for George. Minneapolis is just another place where our eyes have detected evil, beyond hate, that has erupted from the depth of hell.
Not only the souls of black folks have been scared forever by this latest event in the genocidal war against young black men; the soul of the world is awakened.
This week, every person on the planet who carries a spirit of love for humanity has become a protesting priest. We need our prophets now more than ever. The ‘old pirate has robbed I’ once again. And yet we shall rise!
The Blog this week is written by Prof Jorge Heine, former Chilean Ambassador to China. He is a research professor at the Paradee School of Global Studies, Boston University, a Wilson Center global fellow, and a non-resident senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization (CGC) in Beijing. This article was published in: Global Times 2020/5/26 to whom we are grateful.
The recent resignation of World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo, effective in September, one year before the end of his second term in office, has thrown a monkey wrench into the world trading system. With the WTO already in serious trouble, this resignation could not have come at a worse moment.
World trade fell in 2019 for the first time since 2008, pulled down by both the US-China trade war and Brexit. According to the WTO, world trade might fall by as much as one-third in 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a perfect storm.
The former president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, stepped down from his post on February 1, 2019, three and a half years before the expiry of his term in 2022. Azevedo says he has nothing lined up, but quits to facilitate the process of electing his successor, whatever that may mean.
Both Kim and Azevedo jumped ship at critical moments when a steady hand at the wheel was most needed.
Member states wage yearlong campaigns to elect their candidates to head key international institutions, to occupy prestigious and handsomely paid positions. Once elected, why do such leaders quit ahead of time, leaving others to deal with the current mess in crucial areas in world affairs?
This is just another symptom of something else: the falling apart of the current liberal international order (LIO) set up after World War II with pillars such as the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It was also inspired by the principles of free trade, first championed by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and later the WTO.
Designed to avoid World War III, with lessons of the failed approach followed by the allied powers in Versailles in 1919, the LIO largely achieved this. On the premise that a rules-based international order is better than a free-for-all and utter Hobbesian system, in the past 70 years, the LIO has brought considerable prosperity to the world. It also avoided a global conflagration between the extant superpowers, such as the US and the Soviet Union — albeit at the cost of outsourcing direct conflicts to numerous proxy wars in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The current phase of globalization, started circa 1980, in turn, and contrary to what was then the conventional wisdom, ended up giving a big boost to emerging economies in the Global South. The so-called Asian Tigers first, followed by China and then by India, grew in leaps and bounds, attracting much worldwide manufacturing activity. Trade was very much at the heart of this, as global trade grew at twice the rate of the world economy from the mid-1990s till 2007.
The ensuing rise of Asia and of the BRICS countries created a major imbalance in the power distribution and voting arrangements in international organizations (IOs) and international financial institutions (IFIs). Not too long ago, Belgium had more voting shares than China in the World Bank.
To this day, shrinking middle powers like the United Kingdom are among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, whereas emerging giants like Brazil and India are not.
Anachronistic structures that cease to perform their function need updating. But not only have these IOs and IFIs become outdated and unrepresentative.
The WTO has two functions: To liberalize trade and to resolve trade disputes. On the first, the Doha Round, dedicated to foster a global reduction in tariffs, is stuck in neutral since 2008. On the second, its Appellate Body, tasked with resolving trade differences among members, has been rendered inoperative since December 1, 2019, when it was left with just one judge, lacking a quorum to take up new cases. This was the result of a long-standing blocking of such appointments by the US, going back as far as the Obama administration. Although the US has won a majority of the cases it has brought to the Appellate Body, it has also lost quite a number of trade disputes that others have brought against the US, which Washington deems unacceptable.
A dozen-plus WTO member states have set up their own mechanism to resolve trade disputes. Several other states, mostly from the Asia-Pacific region, have come up with a statement in favor of free trade and in support of fostering, rather than hampering, the flow of goods and services across borders. Admirable as these initiatives may be, they don't measure up to the occasion, being the equivalent of rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The international trading system is facing the abyss and the double whammy of a supply and a demand shock the likes the world has not seen since the Great Depression.
Some years ago, the argument was posited that the key distinction was no longer between capitalist and socialist states, but rather between open and closed ones. It was said that only open economies and open societies could make the most of what is offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the opportunities it offers on AI, robotics, cloud computing and the Internet of Things.
Today, the irony is that the very countries that once championed free trade and the international arrangements that make free trade possible are closing up borders and raising obstacles to the free flow of goods and services. The last best champions of free trade can now be found in the Global South, rather than in an increasingly protectionist, isolationist and inward-looking North.
· Brexit squabbles block the UK from an important role in the new world trade order
· US trade executive says protectionism "damaging" to world trade
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.