A number of countries throughout the Caribbean and the World recently celebrated their Independence Day. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate all those Countries that are politically independent.
I know a lot of the citizens of these independent countries place much emphasis on Independence Day. In fact, there appears to be more excitement and celebration around Independence Day than many other major holidays. While these countries may be politically independent, they very much continue to be economically dependent on so many other countries and individuals. Are these countries then truly independent?
There are just a few overseas territories in the Caribbean that have yet to gain political independence such as Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, BVI, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Bermuda, Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Curacao.
The article will address some myths about political independence and will also highlight some pros and cons of Political Independence.
Myths about Political Independence
There are many myths about political independence. Some citizens believe in order to become politically independent, the country needs to produce its own food. Many independent countries today continue to import food. You do not need to produce your own food to be politically independent.
Another myth is that independent countries are totally independent and free from interference from other countries. However, many independent countries have international debt with other international countries and agencies and so they are basically economically dependent on these countries and agencies for financing and so while they are politically independent, they are not economically independent. Furthermore, their economies are based so much on international investments. In addition, there is a lot of pressure from International Organizations and Countries to implement certain legislations. This pressure will continue whether you independent or not.
Another myth is that if you become independent, the economy of your country will deteriorate. While the economy of some countries has worsened, others have improved and so we really cannot attribute the economy to the status of a country.
Pros of Independence
A Sense of Pride
Being independent promotes a feeling of pride knowing that you do not have to answer to the UK or any other country. You will also have your own flag and what a pride and joy it must be to have your own flag rather than having a flag with the Union Jack on part of it.
A Control of Its Political Agenda
With our current constitution, UK appears very much in control of the Political Agenda of TCI. The budget must be approved by the UK. The Governor has two appointed members in the HOA. The Cabinet consists of 3 non-elected officials and based on what we are hearing from the Premier, sometimes it is a challenge getting consensus in cabinet. Even if the constitution were to change, there is no guarantee the composition of cabinet and the 100% consensus of all members will be change. However, an independent TCI can take care of this. The Government that is elected, can control its own agenda based on the manifesto or a country policy that its citizens voted for.
There will be no interference from the UK with our constitution or forcing legislation to TCI that we do not even support.
Access to International Financing
Being an independent country provides greater access to international financing. Every country needs money to finance capital projects. One way to do so is to access international financing. Being an overseas territory limits us as many countries think the UK can provide financing for us. Ironically, the UK has limited financing available to overseas territories but has aid available to independent nations as evident during the most recent hurricane storms. (I acknowledge TCI is a benefactor of funding from the European Fund).
Cons of Independence
Uncertainty of the US Currency
Currently the only currency used in TCI is the United States. Should we get independent there is uncertainty whether or not we can continue with the US. If we are not allowed to continue with the US Currency, then we need to decide what currency will we use and will we be able to be on par with the US similar to what the Bahamas has in place.
We have observed a number of other independent territories where there is major devaluation of their currency. In Jamaica, $US1 is the $137 Jamaican dollars. For the Eastern Caribbean, US1 is $2.70 Eastern Caribbean. On the other hand, some countries are doing well which ironically are not independent. $US1 is .83cents Cayman dollars. Bermuda is on par with the US.
Uncertainty of Economy
While some countries such as the Bahamas and Barbados has done well pro-independence. Other countries are not doing too well. However, there is no major concrete evidence to correlate this to independence.
Uncertainty of Businesses Remaining in TCI
Some investors have confidence in the Crown and hence we are able to attract and maintain quite a bit of investors. However, if a government implement policies that appear to be so nationalistic or not investor friendly or even if the economy becomes uncertain, businesses may withdraw from the islands.
Furthermore, being an overseas territory, foreign business has a comfort zone that they can seek some sort of recourse from U. K. should the TCIG does something that they think is contrary to the law.
Development of Embassies
Currently as an overseas territory, if you find yourself facing any issues in another country, you can easily go to a British Embassy who will provide some sort of assistance. In addition, embassies serve to maintain good relations with the host countries. Should TCI become independent, it will have to set up its own embassies throughout the Word. This can be costly event covering salaries, accommodation, rent and other operational cost for an embassy.
Investment in National Security
An independent country will have to invest heavily in national security and a national defense force. This can be very costly to set up and maintain. At present, UK is responsible for security and border protection of the overseas territory. Of course, many may argue the UK is really not providing any security and border protection. To invest in a national defense is a costly exercise and can range in the millions.
The Loss of the Best of Both Worlds
One Advantage is that you have a UK passport and you have the privilege of working and residing in UK without any restrictions so you have best of Both worlds. If you are independent, you cannot work and reside in UK freely. Students can go to UK colleges for free up to age 18. In addition, they can get grant to go to University after being in UK 3 years. You can go to the US with no visa. An independent TCI will lose the best of both worlds.
Membership in International Organizations can be costly
Being an independent country, you will want to become a member of international organizations such as World Bank and United Nations. This too can be costly
No Recourse from another Country
The corruption allegation charges against our politicians resulted in an intervention of the UK. Should we get independent, the UK cannot be a recourse. To some, this may be a good thing as they were not happy with the way the UK dealt with our constitution and the way we are paying for the SIPT cases.
This article is really for informative purposes and so it not to provide my personal opinion as to whether or not we should become independent. However, I do think there should be regular discussions or dialogues with the people of TCI regarding the pros and cons of independence so that residents can be better informed.