Caribbean: How the U.S. Vote Affects the Region

As the moment of truth draws closer, Caribbean bloggers are getting more vocal about what an Obama presidency could potentially mean for the region.

A Jamaican residing in the Cayman Islands, Mad Bull examines the race issue after reading an article in The New York Times in which “Jamaica was held up as an example of racial harmony because the racial majority (black people) elected Edward Seaga (a white man) in as prime minister.” Mad Bull comments:

This was interesting to me in light of the discussion that was taking place in my post of October 16th, which spoke of such things as being an example of the self-hatred and the hatred of all things black that is deeply ingrained in Jamaicans.

I guess its all about how you look at things, isn’t it?

Larry Smith, blogging at Bahama Pundit, says that “with only a week to go before the election, Barack Obama has taken a significant lead over John McCain among American voters. But in the rest of the world he has been a shoo-in for months.” He goes on to quote polls and statistics which suggest that everyone from the Brits to the Germans expect US/European relations to improve under an Obama presidency. Smith then goes on to examine the odds:

Until the financial meltdown changed the game, it was not at all clear that Obama would prevail. An aging military hero paired with an attractive moose-hunting woman seemed to have more appeal to red-blooded Americans than a brown-skinned young lawyer with a foreign name who could easily be depicted as un-American in the traditional sense.

Of greatest interest to the Bahamian blogger, however, are the candidates’ policies and their potential effects on his country's economy:

Last year, Obama was part of a bi-partisan effort to pass a bill to stop Americans from using offshore financial centres as tax dodges. If passed, the law would allow the government to take special measures against tax havens and financial institutions that impede US enforcement efforts.

Experts say the US Treasury loses $100 billion a year because of offshore tax evasion. Obama cites this as a basic issue of fairness and integrity, arguing that those who work hard and play by the rules shouldn't be disadvantaged. McCain has opposed cracking down on tax havens, but he has also spoken out against offshore banking practices. He advocates cutting tax rates in the US to make moving offshore less attractive.

He continues:

It is unclear what impact Obama would have on the Bahamian financial sector given the fact that we already have a tax information exchange treaty with the US, but some argue that we will face an “uncomfortable environment.”

Bermudian blogger Vexed Bermoothes feels just as conflicted:

As a symbol of hope and change, Barack Obama has a lot of support in Bermuda…but we must remember that candidate Obama is potentially a major threat to Bermuda.

Bermuda has made huge investments to meet international standards for regulation and transparency in its business sector, and those efforts have been recognised by entities such as the OCED and the IMF.

However, in the US, which is searching for both scapegoats and revenue, Senator Obama has co-sponsored a Bill titled the ‘Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act’ introduced by Senator Carl Levin.

As well as providing a statutory framework to define ‘offshore secrecy jurisdictions’, the Bill includes a list of 34 countries which will be automatically considered as tax havens and targeted by the US Government.

That list includes most of the “business” Caribbean islands, as well as Bermuda.

The Bahama Pundit post goes on to quote Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who says that “an Obama presidency would be ‘a breath of fresh air’.” Smith suggests that his position may be somewhat influenced by the fact that the Manning government “will host the next president to a 34-nation Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain next April” – but goes on to say:

In his Partnership for the Americas policy statement, Obama concedes that US relations with the region have “frayed, as the Bush administration pursued a misguided foreign policy with a myopic focus on Iraq”. He says America has been “negligent to our friends, ineffective with our adversaries and disinterested in the challenges that matter to peoples’ lives”.

He promises to pay more attention to the region by reinstating a special envoy for the Americas. And he vows to liberalise relations with Cuba, engage with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, close the Guantanamo prison, give more aid to Haiti, help the region invest in renewable energy, and expand cooperation on crime and drug trafficking.

Perhaps more significantly, an Obama presidency will be in a position to reform the world's financial architecture in the wake of the current economic turmoil.

Smith sums up his post by saying:

For historical reasons, in terms of what it will mean for American society and for the international community, we look forward to an Obama presidency.

…which suggests that despite the potentially negative effects of Obama's policies on some Caribbean economies, many regional bloggers are still hoping for a black president in the White House.

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