Olympic glories and the Caribbean image

It’s a good time to be a citizen of the Caribbean. As a journalist of this region I join in saluting the superhero Usain Bolt, the Jamaican who is the fastest runner on this planet, and his admirable colleagues Yohan Blake and Waren Weir, for their record-breaking stunning clean sweep of the men’s 200-metre sprint on Thursday.

As a people we have grown accustomed to the selfflagellation syndrome, beating up ourselves when overwhelmed by myriad social, economic and political woes, to the extent, too often, of ignoring our achievements that others easily recognise before we join in the applause.

However, starting with the stunning performances and medal achievements by Cuba in earlier Olympic years, our Caricom patch of the greater Caribbean has been increasingly moving away from narrow perspectives to joyfully embracing the achievements of all fellow citizens, predominantly so in the fields of sport and the performing arts.

The brave, heart-warming achievements of our athletes are increasingly doing what our cricketers have for so long been doing — making us happy and proud, when not disappointing us with their failures.

For Jamaica, the achievements of its athletes will forever be recalled by the gold, silver and bronze medals achieved in this year when it marks its Golden Jubilee of political Independence from Britain, the former colonial ruler hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.

As the Barbados Daily Nation editorially noted this past week, “Jamaica, a very open, multi-party democracy, has long been a pacesetter in the areas of politics, culture, education and sports in our region… Its downside as a crime-ridden society with notorious gun-running, narco-trafficking gangsters who have spawned an epidemic in killings and armed robberies continues to be exposed, analysed and lamented by the country’s media. At the same time, the media remain quite forthcoming in reporting and applauding the vibrancy and creativity of national achievements in sports, creative and performing arts, as well as commending the richness of its more famous cuisine…”

Euphoria in Jamaica

Well, at this time of national euphoria, with a combination of ‘golden’ performances at the Olympic Games and celebration of its Golden Jubilee of Independence, it appears as if Jamaica is to now also benefit from a promised helpful hand by the USA, the world’s superpower, whose subversive activities had done much political and economic harm to the country during the decades of the 1970s and 1980s.

According to the US diplomat who was President Barack Obama’s special representative for last week’s official Independence anniversary events, Liliand Ayalde, deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, “as a friend of Jamaica, we (US Government) would like to see its fiscal health up to speed to enter into a (new) agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)…”

Her Government, she assured, was ready to offer Jamaica technical assistance to help resolve the issues that are preventing the Government from entering a new IMF agreement. I imagine that once such assistance is identified the Government would consider taking up this open offer from ‘Uncle Sam’.

Ironically, while this expression of United States goodwill towards Jamaica surfaced last week, it was being reported out of New York that the Obama Administration was exercising political muscle on the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to cut off Barbados from the category of countries receiving lowinterest loans for social and economic development.

Before the Obama presidency, the USA was working behind the scenes to influence the international financial institutions to cut small but vibrant economies like Barbados from their list of countries depending on favourable concessions for loans, including low interest in repayments.

It would seem that this time around, success by the USA in getting Barbados removed from the category of countries currently benefiting from IDB low-interest loans could also help in extending this policy to, among others in this hemisphere, The Bahamas and even Brazil.

The question is whether the IDB, which has an impressive profile providing funding assistance to Caribbean and Latin American countries, would now genuflect to such renewed Washington pressures that could have serious consequences for Barbados — the Caricom state that has for long been a positive reference point in economic management — but now recently downgraded to “junk bond” status by the USbased credit rating agency, Standard and Poor’s.

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