The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) welcomed 2023 with high expectations that relaxation of most restrictive COVID-19 protocols will allow the region to start-off on another new and better footing than since the pandemic’s arrival in 2020 or the Ukraine conflict two years later.
Christmas and New Year celebrations returned with a vengeance for those who could still afford the 24-7 electrical displays of tropical snowflakes and jingle bells in sunny Caribbean climate, while most simply had to reduce seasonal spending — and look beyond January.
But, even though not very merry for most, it was a good stress-relief holiday celebration for those who sufficiently considered the national effects of the new global norms that started in 2022 – and 2023 has started-off with new visions and resolutions across the world.
Antigua & Barbuda starts-off with elections in the air; Barbados is basking in the sunshine of its second anniversary as a republic within the Commonwealth; Belize and The Bahamas start another year with more opportunities to better integrate with the rest of CARICOM; the Commonwealth of Dominica starts its second month since Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Labour Party (DLP) were returned to office for a record sixth consecutive time last December 6; the three-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique (its full name) starts the end of its first six months under its second Prime Minister with the same surname (as his predecessor), Dickon Mitchell; Guyana starts 2023 as the world’s fastest-growing economy, with much hope and promise that it’s new oil is already benefitting all; Haiti continues living in limbo, with gang warfare and without government; Jamaica starts its seventh decade as an independent nation still dilly-dallying about republicanism; Saint Kitts & Nevis starts its first new year under Prime Minister Dr Terrence Drew and his Labour Party, during which he promises to put the twin-island federation on the world map; Saint Lucia starts its second new year under Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre with his overwhelming (15-2) parliamentary majority, speeding ahead to joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and republicanism; Saint Vincent and three Grenadines starts another new year under the tried, tested and proven successful leadership of the longest-serving CARICOM leader, the effervescent Dr Ralph Gonsalves; Surinam starts another year as CARICOM’s second new oil-rich economy, with greater cooperation and integration with neighbouring Guyana and the rest of the community; and Trinidad & Tobago continues to reel under the pressures of adjustment to new and old realities affecting the global and regional energy industry after its costly transition from total dependence on fossil fuel to more on natural gas.
Latin America also starts 2023 bubbling with new possibilities: The FIFA World Cup is in Argentina; Bolivia is under siege again following the arrest of a leader of the externally-backed political and military mutiny in 2019 that illegally deposed and forcibly exiled elected president Evo Morales; Brazil’s ‘Lula’ is back as President, with promises to “make Brazilians happy again”, as the nation paid final respects to the ever-living world football legend, Pele; Chile and Colombia start 2023 with more positive progressive political leadership; Cuba welcomed its 64th Anniversary of the Revolution with more world support for an end to the 62-year-old US economic, financial and commercial blockade; Peru is back in turmoil as supporters of the politically-deposed president Pedro Castillo continue protests demanding his release from prison before elections; and Venezuela has survived another year of tough US sanctions, with clear signs that Washington wants to dance with Caracas, even as ex-opposition leader Juan Guaido and his invisible ‘interim government’ were dumped by former allies, in favour of participating in national elections due in 2024.
EUROPE and NORTH AMERICA
2023 also started with another new set of new norms across Europe and North America that will surely affect relationships with the Caribbean, including: the widening costs and deepening effects of the Ukraine conflict, widening trade union protests against economic downturns and rising costs of living, growing pressure on governments to adjust to the new economic realities with overweight old political baggage, adjusting to recent new effects of Climate Change and Global Warning, as well as for UK and European responses to demands for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide from CARICOM, Africa and India; pressure to speed-up the return of stolen artefacts from metropolitan museums to Africa, India and other ex-colonies and Commonwealth member-states; and the accelerated pace towards republicanism in the diminishing Commonwealth.
Together, the UK and the US open 2023 with record 40-year inflation rates, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting an economic slowdown that’ll be worse than that of 2008, eventually affecting two-thirds of the global economy.
Meanwhile, in other New Year headlines on both sides of the Atlantic: The UK government is threatening to fine unions instead of raising workers’ pay; the US congress was unable, after more than 11 times in three days of voting, to elect a House Speaker; Canada says it will not allow ‘foreigners’ to purchase Canadian land; the Vatican is again home to only one Pope as Francis II buried Benedict VVI; and the future of the US January 6 Congressional Committee investigating ex-President Donald Trump is as much in doubt as The Donald’s future political influence.
China opened 2023 with critics focusing on how it handles its new approach to the new phase of fighting COVID and international airlines have joined China in condemning the reintroduction of selective restrictions on Chinese travellers as both political and proven useless; the world is watching the contained military fireworks in the Korean Peninsula; Taiwan is increasing moves towards militarization of the current administration’s overheated pursuit of independence in the face of Beijing’s determination to reunite the mainland and the island sooner than later; and Japan is giving hot-and-cold responses to events in the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan, where another US warship, just this week, sailed through the dividing Taiwan Strait.
The Indian, Southeast Asian (ASEAN) and Pacific regions (including Australia and New Zealand) will also continue this year to readjust to new COVID and old continental and regional phenomena, from the worsening climes of Climate Change and Global Warming, to improving their ability to wean themselves off the negative over-effects of external interventions in national and regional political, economic and integration affairs.
Africa has started 2023 with focus on plans for February elections in Nigeria, while the African Union (AU) can be expected to continue to fight for peace where wars continue, for food for the poor, hungry and starving facing famine in war-torn or drought-affected states, and for more international support to better address the worsening effects of the accumulated global financial and economic meltdown being predicted by world economists of all ideological and political persuasions, while using the continent’s voting power at the United Nations (UN) and international entities to exercise greater influence on those world powers seeking belated identification with a continent they ravaged for centuries.
Africa-Caribbean connections are also expected to increase and improve in 2023 and beyond, following the various economic and political initiatives that have followed since the first CARICOM-AU Summit on September 7, 2021 that was declared Africa-CARICOM Day in 2022.
GLOBALIZATION OF REPARATIONS
Likewise, apart from all the expected attention Guyana and Surinam will get as the new global oil and gas frontiers this year (and beyond), the CARICOM quest for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide from the UK and European nations that benefitted from both global atrocities can also be expected to gain unprecedented momentum, as Caribbean nations concerned continue to attract favourable support from Europe, The Americas, Africa and India — and especially following Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s clear December 2022 apology for The Netherlands’ role in the transatlantic slave trade, punctuated by his repeated insistence that the apology was “not a full stop, but a comma…”
NEW WORLD ORDER
Like it or not, the world has entered a new phase since COVID-19 in 2020, Ukraine last year and the general state of global affairs today, which, while positive in many respects, can also see the negatives outweigh the positives in 2023, if the political and economic decision-makers continue to dance to the old drumbeat in these brand-new times, resulting in a continuing breakdown of the existing world order for as long as they refuse to accept that times have long changed – and world changes, at all levels, are happening faster than government, public and private sectors can respond.
The world continues living and feeling in 2023 the effects of the dying old order, but with its back against the wall, its deadly blows will continue to worsen — which is why developing nations need to accelerate the pace of demanding its dismantling and replacement by a new and more equitable one, as still being recommended whenever the South feels the collective hurt of the continuing Northern Squeeze in different parts of Planet Earth.
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