Podcast: Caribbean economies face ‘the great reset’

Marla Dukharan: 'We can use this time to rethink and focus on our well-being'

Economist Marla Dukharan

What does recovery from the COVID-19 crisis look like in a Caribbean context? How do we gear future growth and growth indicators towards improving the livelihoods of Caribbean people?

We speak with Trinidadian economist Marla Dukharan, chief economist with fintech company Bitt Incorporated in Barbados, about rethinking the way Caribbean economies are structured. We explore how the region can take advantage of this period to tackle the challenges of climate change, mass tourism and development.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00] [DUKHARAN] What is the kind of society we want in 10 years, in 50 years? And when you take that very long look, it forces you to grapple [00:00:15] with a few things, forces you to grapple with an ageing population, forces you to grapple with the climate change effect. Many of us are going to suffer tremendous land loss in terms of how much of our country is going to be [00:00:30] underwater in 20 years. Really think about, how do we put things in place now to build the society that we want in 10 years, 20 years and 50 years?

[YOUNG] Welcome to  the Cayman Compass [00:00:45] podcast. This is journalist Kayla Young. What does recovery from the COVID-19 crisis look like in a Caribbean context? How do we gear future growth and growth indicators towards improving the [00:01:00] livelihoods of Caribbean people? We speak with Trinidadian economist, Marla Dukharan, chief economist with FinTech company Bitt Incorporated in Barbados about rethinking the way Caribbean economies are [00:01:15] structured and how we can take advantage of this period to tackle the challenges of climate change, mass tourism and development that face the region. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

[00:01:30] [DUKHARAN] My name is Marla Dukharan. I’m an economist. I’m from Trinidad. I live in Barbados. What do I do? I am the chief economist for Bitt [00:01:45] Incorporated, which is a Barbados-based FinTech company. And we do central bank digital currency. We have a synthetic central bank, digital currency here in Barbados.

It was the first in the world, and we have an actual central bank digital [00:02:00] currency that we’re testing now that will be rolled out in a few weeks in the Eastern Caribbean. So lots of exciting stuff in that space happening in the Caribbean. Yes.

[YOUNG] Tell me, what’s been keeping you busy during [00:02:15] these months of COVID?.

[DUKHARAN] What’s been keeping me busy? Well, my children. I have a boy and a girl, both teenagers. So that’s been keeping me busy as well as work. There’s been a lot happening in this space of [00:02:30] digital currencies, especially in the Caribbean, but also what’s been keeping me busy is, you know, people wanting to know and understand what’s happening in the Caribbean from an economic standpoint, given the pandemic and the great shutdown. [00:02:45] And now the great reset. Of course, we’re heavily tourism dependent, most of us, and you know, that industry just came – like many other industries – came to a screeching halt somewhere in March or so of this year.

And [00:03:00] so I’ve been writing a lot and talking to a lot of people, sharing my thoughts and perspectives and speaking on online conferences and so on, on webinars, about what’s happening individually and how things are likely to play out for the rest of this year into next [00:03:15] year. It’s really a difficult – how should I say? –  a difficult prediction to make as to what’s going to happen, but, you know, we can be pretty sure that as a region, as a, I mean, the global economy is taking a [00:03:30] leg down to use a term from the stock market. It’s very difficult to say exactly what it’s going to look like. But from a social perspective, I think it probably makes no sense to focus on the economic perspective in terms of what is GDP going to look [00:03:45] like.

What is inflation going to look like? Really, it’s the social numbers like unemployment, like poverty. The UNVP (United Nations Volunteers programme), for example, has the human development report for the Caribbean coming out [00:04:00] soon and I’m on this committee for them where we’re going to look at the report and I suppose share our feedback.

But basically every measure you can think of on a [00:04:15] human development index is suffering, in the Caribbean context, but in the global context, you have life expectancy and health and education and wellbeing overall. All of these things are suffering. And so humanity [00:04:30] is taking a leg down, not just the economy. What is, what is the economy?

The economy is a means to an end, right. In the sense that, it’s the thing that gives us the wellbeing  that we have and it’s suffering. And therefore we, as human beings are [00:04:45] suffering and that’s what’s been keeping me up at night, I guess, because the question is, how do you solve this? And it means that we have to think about, well, we can start thinking about recovery when we have a [00:05:00] vaccine that’s widespread and easily available. But before we get to that point, there is going to be, and there has been, a lot of hardship, in some countries more than others. There’s been a lot [00:05:15] of political shifts. I mean, imagine Suriname had a change in government after what, 30 years, I think, of the same president. Guyana had a change in government, you know. It’s a really [00:05:30] uncertain time and people are looking for answers and people are looking for signs of where to go, what to do, how should we be doing things? And I think that bottom line, it’s almost as though we have to wipe the whiteboard [00:05:45] clean and start all over again and rethink everything.

I’ll give you an example. I mean, Barbados, of course, it’s a heavily tourism dependent country and we haven’t really had tourists coming since from around March [00:06:00] till about July, and we’ve had some trickles coming in since July and our foreign exchange reserves haven’t really changed. What does that tell you?

It tells you that perhaps the tourist and the tourism [00:06:15] sector really wasn’t that much of a contributor to foreign exchange in the first place. Maybe the net effect of the tourism sector is not as positive as we may have been led to believe, or as we think in this region. [00:06:30] And so what does that tell you?

It tells you that maybe we need to rethink the way that our economy is structured and the things that we depend on in terms of sectors that are earners of foreign exchange. Clearly if we’ve had no tourists between March and [00:06:45] July and our foreign exchange has held roughly steady, it means that maybe we don’t need to get back into opening up, as we say, or trying to get by [00:07:00] to where we were in 2019. Maybe what we should be doing is really the great reset, press a knob and say, listen, let’s just rethink this. And let’s just focus on trying to figure out what is it we really need. And for each country that will be [00:07:15] different.

In terms of what I think are the no-brainers, but every country should be looking at is renewable energy, in the first place. That’s a no brainer. And Barbados has done a great job of shifting to that. They just [00:07:30] recently rolled out 33 electric buses for the public transport system. One just passed here, Kayla, and you didn’t hear it, but if another regular diesel based bus passes, I’ll probably have to put this on mute. [00:07:45] So, you know, a shift to renewables, I think is a no-brainer that every country should be thinking about. I think that agriculture is also a no-brainer and not every [00:08:00] country has enough space and has the right conditions to grow what you need to eat.

But if you can grow something, then you can export so that you can pay for the imports of the things you do [00:08:15] need. I give you an example. Curacao is a desert and they can’t grow a whole lot in Curacao, but they can grow aloes and the aloe plant, [00:08:30] you know, has lots of medicinal and therapeutic uses, and I’ll tell you something.

They make everything that can possibly be made from aloe in Curacao. And that’s a huge export [00:08:45] commodity. When I say huge, I mean, in the grand scheme of things, in terms of aloe, it’s a big export. Because they don’t just sell the raw aloe or export the raw aloe. They export, you know, the cosmetics and [00:09:00] lotions and creams and all of these things that they can make with it. And I’m using that as an example to say, there must be something you can grow and do well and have a competitive advantage. And even if it’s marijuana, [00:09:15] I think marijuana can grow anywhere here. So, I think that we need to think about much more seriously and focus much more seriously on agriculture in this region, not just from a food [00:09:30] security standpoint, because not all of us will be able to get to a point of food security from a domestic agriculture perspective, but from a domestic industry in terms of employment and also from [00:09:45] an export perspective, we really need to think seriously. So those two things I think are universal in the region that we should be looking at.

[YOUNG] One of the industries that’s been discussed here in Cayman in terms of building it [00:10:00] up for recovery has been the tech sector. What potential do you see for that to grow within the Caribbean region and drive economic recovery?

[DUKHARAN] I think that technology is the future. [00:10:15] It is the present and the future. And I think that, you know, the Cayman government has done a good job historically and more so with COVID. The Barbados government as well. This whole shift to doing everything online. [00:10:30] For example, the Barbados Ministry of Innovation and Technology and so on recently put out a request for expression of interest where they’re looking for tech service providers to set up the platform where the [00:10:45] government can make social welfare, national insurance benefit payments, to people via electronic and digital means as opposed to check and cash.

So that in the first place I think [00:11:00] is also a universal truth, that this is how we need to be looking to engaging between government and private citizens and the private sector. And making things more efficient, less lining up and [00:11:15] less doing things in person at various government offices. But, beyond that as an industry, I mean, digital currency, for example, and technology on the whole unlocks tremendous potential in my view, in terms of the digital nomads that we [00:11:30] can attract to our shores who exist in not just the tech sector, but any sector. And can live and work here and avail themselves of jobs outside of our physical borders.

So, for example, [00:11:45] Barbados was the first country to come out with this 12-month welcome stamp, where you can apply for permission to live and work in Barbados, once you can support yourself, and you can demonstrate that, and once your job is not [00:12:00] in Barbados, but you can access work outside of Barbados. And then soon after Barbados’ prime minister announced this, then Bermuda and a few other countries also did that. Now, I think, [00:12:15] shifting from a tourism sector dependence, like I spoke about recently, to me there is no better solution than to have people come in, be assessed in terms of COVID protocols; once you’re cleared, be [00:12:30] allowed to live and work for 12 months, subject to renewal even, because you can support yourself. You can take the place of a tourist who, we have to turn them over every week, every two weeks, because you consume the same, you [00:12:45] avail of the same services, roughly of a tourist, because you need accommodation, you need a rental car, you need food, you need tours and sightseeing and so on. Maybe not in such a tightly packed [00:13:00] schedule, but you still want to see and do these things. And I think that that’s a brilliant solution, an alternative, I should say, to the traditional tourism mode. But going back to technology, I think that Cayman with its Enterprise [00:13:15] City and the focus on bringing in tech-based companies and having them domicile in Cayman, and Cayman being the hub for tech developers and creating an ecosystem, I think is [00:13:30] brilliant.

And I think that once you have the right infrastructure in place, in terms of the connectivity, both air, sea and digital connectivity, but also once you have the right tax, immigration framework in place that [00:13:45] makes it easy for people to come in and to do this kind of work, it’s a whole different sector that you’re creating and you’re creating an ecosystem that can drive entrepreneurial activity, exports in terms of the services that you’re [00:14:00] attracting the foreign exchange coming in, the revenue that these people generate, the multiplier  effect of the consumption and so on that they generate. All of these things are positive and it’s not the traditional [00:14:15] tourism. It’s not the traditional tech in terms of the Intel model that Costa Rica used, for example. So I really feel like this is the future. We all can’t become tech hubs. We all can’t be a [00:14:30] tech ecosystem the way Cayman has certainly established itself as, but I’ll give you an example. I mean, Trinidad had talked about doing this for awhile and built e-tech parks, if you will, which are like industrial parks. But the thing is, Trinidad has a high [00:14:45] crime problem, has a massive traffic problem. The ease of doing business is shot.

And so why would anybody want to go there? Cayman on the other hand has none of these problems, or maybe you do have a bit of a traffic problem but nowhere [00:15:00] near as Trinidad. And so, so it’s not just wanting to do it and the putting conditions into place or the infrastructure in place. It’s having the conditions where people actually want to come and live and work here.

And I think that [00:15:15] Cayman has done a great job. And I feel like this could really be a growth sector if the government were to support Cayman Enterprise City to the maximum extent and really focus and emphasise this as [00:15:30] a growth sector. And it’s not that hard to do. It really isn’t.

[YOUNG] You brought up some issues that affect quality of life. And that I think have really been highlighted through this crisis are those kinds of [00:15:45] cracks in our systems that just affect what it’s like to live in the Caribbean. You mentioned, you know, the issues like traffic, issues like crime, or, you know, just the instability [00:16:00] of, of certain sectors.

Like right now, like tourism. How do we take advantage of this period to also improve those quality of life factors that make it appealing, like you said, for people [00:16:15] to establish their businesses or to establish remotely in the region?

[DUKHARAN] It’s a complex solution that has to be put in place. I mean, in the first place you want to, you want to improve ease of doing business. [00:16:30] Otherwise, you make it too difficult for your locals, much less your foreigners to come in and set up shop, so to speak. So you have to make things easier and more streamlined and going digital, of course, and having everything done and facilitated online is, of course, the [00:16:45] first step in that  direction.

But also, and I mean, this is not a Cayman-specific problem, but it’s a problem like I mentioned, in Trinidad and in other countries like Jamaica, you have to have a handle on crime. I mean, [00:17:00] nobody wants to come to a country or nobody wants to live in a country, you know, even if you’re born there, if you can’t feel safe, if you can’t feel comfortable to go out and walk, take a walk on the beach or take a walk anywhere.

And that [00:17:15] quality of life that is affected severely by crime is a real issue and it affects productivity. It affects well-being and it has all kinds of effects that we don’t even measure. So there are some fundamental things like these things that [00:17:30] we have to get right in these economies.

But I think overall, how do we, to answer your question, how can we use this time to rethink and to focus on, on our [00:17:45] well-being. I think it’s really about going back to basics. I mean, perhaps there was a bit of overheating, if you will, that got us up to the end of 2019, early 2020. I mean, there were some economies that had [00:18:00] record tourism numbers in 2019.

There were countries that had some of the fastest growth rates that they’ve had in a long time in 2019. We kind of got a little bit, in some countries, a little bit [00:18:15] overexcited and ahead of ourselves. In Cayman, there is the example of, you know, you guys were supposed to have a referendum to decide on this massive cruise terminal and cargo terminal as well.

I’m just using that as an example to say these were the massive, [00:18:30] big things we were contemplating because everything was on fire in 2019, and perhaps we need to slow down or we have slowed down. We’ve been forced to slow down. And breathe and take a look around us and [00:18:45] say, was it sustainable? And I don’t think it was, I don’t think that some of the ways in which we were living and some of the ways that we’ve been driving our economies and the economic structures that we’ve [00:19:00] been employing were sustainable.

From an ecological standpoint, from a growth standpoint, from many different perspectives. And I think that we need to rethink and we need to stop. We need to get [00:19:15] back to basics. What do I mean by that? We need to really look at the long, long, long term and we need to decide, what is the kind of society we want in 10 years, in 20 years [00:19:30] and 50 years. And when you take that very long look, it forces you to grapple with a few things. It forces you to grapple with an ageing population, it forces you to grapple with the climate-change effects. And the fact that if you look [00:19:45] at Moody’s report on how climate change and sea level rise is going to affect the Caribbean, many of us are going to suffer tremendous land loss in terms of how much of our country is going to be underwater in 20 years based [00:20:00] on sea-level rises.

It forces us to think about so many things, like education, for example, of the young ones now, and really think about how do we put things in place now to build a society that [00:20:15] we want in 10 years, 20 years and 50 years, for example. And I don’t think that any of us had that kind of mindset, even Cayman, which I always say is the best-run economy in the Caribbean.

But to be honest with you, I don’t get the [00:20:30] impression that any of us were thinking about the 20-to-50-year horizon, let alone the 10-year horizon. In Trinidad, for sure, we think of the next six months. When you stop and you have to think about this and you [00:20:45] have to think about we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

We know now that we can have another pandemic. We can have another global financial crisis. We can have another category 5-plus hurricane. We know that we can have all of these disasters [00:21:00] that have happened in periods of time in the past to us or different countries. We know that we are going to face some massive catastrophe in the next 10, 20, 30 years, 50 [00:21:15] years, for sure. How do we put things in place to make sure that when it happens, we are ready, and we are prepared. And I think that Cayman was one of the best prepared in terms of having the fiscal buffers to deal with [00:21:30] it and to support people financially during the lockdown, where people weren’t working.

And your premier said, nobody’s going to go hungry and nobody’s going to go homeless. There are not many [00:21:45] countries where people have given that assurance, even the United States could not give that assurance to its people. And so, yes, Cayman was probably the best place in the region.

But I don’t know that we were thinking adequately [00:22:00] about the long term. And I feel like that’s the big thing that has to change. And I think every country needs to stop and say, what are the things we need to put in place now to build the kind of society that we want in 50 years? And that forces you to [00:22:15] put all kinds of structural changes in place now that we were not thinking about, for sure, in 2019.

[YOUNG] I mean, you bring up some really good points. Some of our big plans and big projections in 2019 just [00:22:30] don’t make much sense at this point.

[DUKHARAN] Or maybe they didn’t then.

[YOUNG] You know, it’s hard to envision a tourism economy that looks like it did before, that’s on the same trajectory that [00:22:45] it was before, of that kind of constant growth projection that we were hoping for.

What do you see visiting the region looking like in the future? Do you see a return of [00:23:00] that fast, day tourist,  jump on, jump off the ship or are we looking for something a little slower?

[DUKHARAN] Well, you raised two points there about the tourism, but also about the growth. Just this morning, I [00:23:15] was chatting with a guy from Bloomberg and he’s asking me about what I think about what’s happening in Jamaica. Jamaica hasn’t met the growth target that they had set for themselves of 5% in five years or [00:23:30] something like that, or 5% in six years or something like that the Economic Growth Council had set, which the prime minister had launched or had discussed it early in his tenure. Why is growth important in the first place? Let’s get that [00:23:45] clear. GDP growth is important because you can think of it as a tide that lifts all boats if that GDP or income is spread evenly [00:24:00] across the economy. In the first place, it’s not spread evenly, right? In the second place, we don’t know how to measure it properly. From the time you start to measure anything, you start to make errors, but in this region we have serious [00:24:15] statistical constraints, even in Cayman.

So the measurement that we end up with is not necessarily accurate, but in any event, from a philosophical standpoint, why do we need to keep growing? The idea of growth is so that [00:24:30] we create higher standard of living, higher and higher and higher standard of living. But we have a problem when growth takes place, but we do not have a higher standard of living on average because only a few people or [00:24:45] relatively small segment of the population is experiencing the wealth generation or the income growth that that GDP growth has given rise to. So, in other words, you can have positive growth that doesn’t translate into [00:25:00] lower unemployment, that doesn’t translate into better health and education and well-being outcomes. So, in the first place we were focussing on the wrong metric, we should have been focussing on like, like Bhutan does [00:25:15] on a wellness indicator. Bhutan doesn’t measure GDP… as its objective. It measures wellness, well-being as its objective. Perhaps we should have been looking at the human development indicators as [00:25:30] the things that we should be measuring as whether we’ve been successful or not, and not the GDP indicator, because of all the constraints that I outlined just now about that indicator.

So in the first place, I really feel like we [00:25:45] should change our mindset from focussing on GDP because it really does not capture what we thought it would capture, which is higher GDP means higher standard of living. That is not the case. For example, Guyana is [00:26:00]… the fastest-growing economy in the world right now, because it’s discovered and started producing oil in December of last year. It was supposed to grow by 80-something percent this year; the IMF is now saying it will grow by 50-something percent this year. [00:26:15] Do you think the average Guyanese person will be better off this year? Hell no. So GDP is not relevant in this scenario or ever was. So that’s the first thing. The question that you raised about, do I think there will be a return of the [00:26:30] fast-pace, high-turnover tourism?

I think there are some economies that are quite anxious to get back there. I’m not calling names and I’m not passing judgement, but I do not think that cruise tourism [00:26:45] is ever going, not ever, but I do not think that for a long time cruise tourism is going to get to where it was in 2019. And with good reason. I think that it was very clear coming out of this pandemic that cruise ships have been [00:27:00] cutting corners in terms of sanitation and health standards, which is why they ended up having so many problems with, not just the pandemic, but even before that, lots of outbreaks of gastro and all kinds of other [00:27:15] things that you had on various cruise lines, not just in the Caribbean, in other parts of the world. And they cut corners as well, so that they could drive costs down. A cruise, which used to be, you know, when I was a child, something you did on your 50th wedding [00:27:30] anniversary, or when you retired, it became the cheapest vacation.

And it became cheap because there were lots of concessions given by many governments in this region. And because they’ve cut corners; neither [00:27:45] of those two things are sustainable and neither of them are healthy. And I hope that the governments of this region take a long, hard look at the concessions that they had been granting to the cruise lines. [00:28:00] These are billion-dollar companies that had to beg for bailouts when this pandemic hit. So that means they weren’t sustainable. We want to support an unsustainable industry? I don’t think so. And give [00:28:15] them so much concessions? I don’t think so. In the face of all those concessions, they still were not financially sustainable.

And I think that from an ecological standpoint as well, they are not sustainable. So we need to rethink this. Unfortunately, Virgin, [00:28:30] for example, they launched their green cruise ships just at the turn of this, I think it was in late February, early March, as soon as the pandemic hit. I felt like maybe that was a more sustainable model.

It’s a little more [00:28:45] expensive, but then if it’s more expensive, then you’re really attracting a certain clientele. It means you’re not going to have the volumes that we used to have to answer your question, Kayla, because sometimes it’s difficult when you go to Nassau, for example, or [00:29:00] Bridgetown, or George Town; when you have three or four cruise ships or Saint Martin. Oh my God, you can’t breathe. And how sustainable is that? How comfortable is that? And I don’t [00:29:15] think it is. We need to rethink that. And I don’t think we’re going to get back there in a hurry.

[YOUNG] You bring up a good point with the crowds. With the lack of tourists here, it’s been interesting going to Seven Mile and you get it to [00:29:30] yourself and you think, well, this is an experience that tourists don’t get to have. You know, it is quite the contrast when you think this would be an ideal experience as a tourist, but we’re only getting it because the tourists aren’t here.

[DUKHARAN]  [00:29:45] … I was last in Cayman, actually it was the last trip I took before this shutdown. So this was early March for the Fidelity conference and I mean, I was [00:30:00] walking and running on Seven Mile Beach and I was actually horrified because I’d never seen this before, but there was a lot of garbage on the beach.

There were like… these guys who set up all of the lounge [00:30:15] chairs and obviously there’s a bar and maybe there was a party the night before. There were lots of cups and straws and bottles. And I even had to say to two of them, ‘You know, guys, all of this stuff’ – and I was picking up stuff – and I’m like, ‘This [00:30:30] stuff is going into the water.’

I had never seen this on Seven Mile Beach before. And I thought to myself, we’ve hit a breaking point here. This is not good and, so sad, it was a breaking point because then the [00:30:45] pandemic hit shortly thereafter. I think that those kinds of outcomes are not good for the tourists, not good for the residents, not good for the environment, not good for anybody.

And we need to, we need to address those obvious [00:31:00] excesses, you know?

[YOUNG] You get to the point where you’ve oversold and the experience isn’t what it was on the brochure. And, I’m curious, based on your observations of the region, which [00:31:15] jurisdictions do you see are positioning themselves well to have a real kind of recovery and transformation and where do you see the region not doing well in terms of moving towards that goal?

[DUKHARAN] I [00:31:30] think that Barbados is doing a really good job of transforming itself. And, of course, there were the Barbados economic restructure and transformation programme, basically.

So this, predates the pandemic, but you know, [00:31:45] a lot of things had to be rethought and redone during the pandemic because of the changing conditions. And I feel like Barbados is well positioned. I think that Cayman is well positioned because you have certain buffers in place and you have an [00:32:00] economy that is private-sector driven, low unemployment, tremendous economic, social and political stability, which is why it’s the highest rated in the region.

I think Jamaica was very well placed [00:32:15] on the onset of the pandemic in terms of the progress Jamaica has made. They had the lowest unemployment they ever had coming into the pandemic. They had brought their debt down. They had achieved quite a bit. And they were hard-won [00:32:30] gains, but they had made tremendous progress.

Their stock exchange had done really well, and it was one of the best performing in the world. And so I feel like those gains will continue to pay off for Barbados, [00:32:45] for Cayman, for Jamaica. I think that the eastern Caribbean also, despite its heavy tourism dependence, they’re small and they’re stable, and so [00:33:00] they seem to be managing the pandemic well, most of the countries from what I can see. And so I have confidence that these economies will be able to adapt and to make changes and to adjust and recover.

[00:33:15] The countries that I am most worried about are The Bahamas. I think that The Bahamas, being that it’s the most heavily dependent on the US, the most heavily dependent on cruises. Those are two very unfortunate circumstances for Bahamas [00:33:30] right now. I think Bahamas would be the next country to run into a balance-of-payments crisis and/or default and will have to go to the IMF if they haven’t done so already. And this is excluding Suriname. I think Suriname has already embarked on this path of [00:33:45] restructuring their debt and hopefully going to the IMF for a full-fledged programme. They have not done well, Suriname.

That is no Bahamas in terms of the way they’ve handled COVID-19, and I am most worried about those two countries, [00:34:00] and I think that they are quite fragile socially, economically, and they’re going to need a lot of help. I’m also very worried about Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago has some buffers. So, [00:34:15] unlike Suriname and unlike Bahamas, you know, they have foreign reserves of about seven months of import cover, just about 6 billion, roughly 5, 6 billion in the sovereign wealth fund.

And so they have some runway, but they’re not [00:34:30] handling the pandemic well. They have social, I think… very thinly veiled social instability that can arise at any moment. They just came out of an election where it looks as though [00:34:45] roughly just under half of the electorate, again, is still underrepresented or not represented.

There is no overwhelming majority, if you will. And the current government, the incumbent won, but they won by a smaller [00:35:00] margin, which means their dominance has been eroded. And so I’m worried about the longer-term trajectory of Trinidad and Tobago because crime is escalating. I don’t know that anybody’s doing anything about it.

I think Trinidad will also be [00:35:15], after Bahamas and Suriname, Trinidad will be the next country to run into a balance of payments crisis and default, and have to get IMF help, but from a crime perspective, they need help now. They’ve needed help for a long time. So [00:35:30] those are the countries, I would say the three, that are most worried about, I’m worried about Guyana as well, more so Suriname, Trinidad and Bahamas.

[YOUNG] Right. Some rough times ahead for some of those those countries, it [00:35:45] sounds like.

[DUKHARAN] Indeed.

[YOUNG] Marla, if people want to follow more of your analysis, your economic reports, where should they go?

[DUKHARAN] That’s a good question. Thanks, Kayla. I have a website. It’s [00:36:00] my whole name dot com, marladukharan.com.

I have a Caribbean economic report that I put out for free – the August edition just came out – that you can sign up for and it will come to your [00:36:15] inbox for free. And also I have a blog on Medium where I write whatever’s keeping me up at night, and you can also reach out to me, like you have, ask me questions and so on, [00:36:30] on social media on Twitter, especially. I think that’s where I’m most active. Those are the two main ways, my website and my blog. And then also Twitter.

[YOUNG[ Thank [00:36:45] you for tuning in to another Cayman Compass podcast. For more on this episode and other Cayman Islands headlines, visit [00:37:00] caymancompass.com or subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify to continue listening. Until next time, this is Kayla, signing off. [00:37:15]

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