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Prof Girvan on impact of Hurricane Sandy: Caribbean must brace for economic downturn

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Officials assess the damage caused by a fire at Breezy Point in the New York City borough of Queens, New York, yesterday. The fire terday. destroyed between 80 and 100 houses Monday night in the flooded neighbourhood. More than 190 firefighters have contained the sixalarm blaze fire, but they are still putting out some pockets of fire. AP PHOTO

The economic impact of Hurricane Sandy will be as bad as the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, says Prof Norman Girvan, former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States. And while media attention is focused on the United States, Girvan is calling on Caricom governments to assist Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, also devastated by Hurricane Sandy.


Girvan, a professorial research fellow at UWI’s Graduate Institute of International Relations, predicted the Caribbean would suffer an economic downturn because of declines in remittances as well as a blow to tourism. “We will see a downturn in the medium term from now until January and February. I think the initial impact will possibly be as great as 9/11, but in terms of the long-term effects it is too early to tell,” Girvan said.


He pointed out that a reduction in the income sent home by immigrants could affect the Caribbean negatively. However, he said it was too early to say whether T&T-born residents in the US would have to return home.


“I believe that everybody’s first priority will be in securing their homes and assisting in recovery operations. I expect that this will take place for the next few weeks, but incomes are going to go down because of not being able to get to work. There will be expenses in terms of repairs,” Girvan said.


The Jamaican-born Girvan, who heads the Development Studies Department at UWI, said it was time for other countries to reach out to the Caribbean as well as the US.


“We should look at the Caribbean, because the hurricane has had an impact on Jamaica and Cuba and Haiti. One would like to see some form of Caricom response to the severe infrastructural damage and human damage done in these countries, which unfortunately does not attract as much media attention as that in the US.”


Girvan, also director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies and head of the National Planning Agency of the Government of Jamaica, said Caricom must not forget the contributions Cuba  had made to Caribbean development.


“Cuba is worst hit. Damage is estimated to be billions of pesos. “Cuba has assisted the Caribbean in many ways in the past in medicine, fighting cholera in Haiti and Cuba is training thousands of Caricom students in Cuba on full scholarships. They have tremendous support in medicine and education. They deserve to have solidarity and support at this time just as the US deserves support.”


Girvan said it might not be possible to postpone the US elections because of the hurricane.


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