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Economic problems became a major focus of the media and source of anxiety for consumers at the end of 2008.

And at the start of a relatively new year, the issue does not seem to be improving, with more and more shops and business forced into administration and people cutting back on everyday spending.

However, it’s not just the wider business world that has been hit by the economic downturn – the whole Caribbean have been affected too, both on a local and national scale.

The ungoing protests in Guadeloupe and Martinique in recent weeks have highlighted how difficult some people are finding it to cope with the effects of the financial crisis. Across the entire Caribbean, people have been forced to adjust their budgets and lifestyles.

So what adjustments have you been making to cope with the financial difficulties, and have you made any changes to deal with the credit crunch? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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2 Comments »

Comment by Suki
2009-02-17 14:39:56

This problem is bigger than I think the financial crisis, particularly the troubles you mention in the French islands. In the report I read, there seemed to be anger and backlash toward those who are perceived to be wealthy. In addition, there were threats of violence. We have to really ask ourselves, what are we fighting for? Is it for the necessities of life like food and shelter or are we fighting for our cell phones? Are we fighting to maintain the luxuries we have become accustomed to? Of course I don’t know the answer for everyone but those are the questions we should be asking ourselves. With regards to any changes going forward, I made a number of lifestyle changes years ago so that there isn’t much fat to cut. What I have done is begun to grow enough fruits, vegetables and herbs (both medicinal and culinary) to feed my family. In my case, since we are vegetarians, this has a pretty significant impact on the amount of money we spend in a months time and allows us to be increasingly self sufficient. I am becoming less aware of rising food prices because they simply do not affect me. We create our own compost for the garden from our food scraps decreasing what we put into garbage bags and therefore decreasing how many garbage bags we buy. Every penny saved is a penny earned and what we do is focus on saving the pennies rather than trying to make large scale changes. In our home, we have labeled this year our “Year of Learning”. We have made a commitment to ourselves to continue learning life skills from others who are knowledgeable. I have begun studying medicinal herbs, their various uses and preparations. Since I know how to grow most anything, it is a natural progression to learn how to take care of my own and my families health regardless of how much money I may or may not have. I do not advocate not visiting a doctor if necessary but I do believe in being an active participant in maintaining your health – your true wealth lies in your health. I have begun teaching others to grow “health gardens” – i.e. vegetables that are particular to your body’s needs – in an effort to teach them to be healthier and self sufficient. Change is inevitable and this period of time is just another example of change. What we need to learn, I believe, is to be satisfied with enough. Below is a e-mail that a good friend of mine sent me that sums it up perfectly.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive & everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

To all my friends & loved ones, I WISH YOU ENOUGH.

 
Comment by pete
2009-02-17 21:51:19

In many ways you said it right, Suki. Yes, the reasons for the strike and unrest in the French islands are more complex than the just the outcome of the current global economic conditions. It is also rooted in a long struggle by the islanders against the imperial forces, unfair pricing structures, as well as the social strifes between the elite wealthy minorities and the struggling majorities. In addition, there have also been sympathetic gestures of this sort (massive demonstrations in France of up to a million people) as recently as a few weeks ago, and in the not too distant past (in 1995 the country was crippled with strikes). In some ways it may be socialism gone mad, but not necessarily a new phenomena.

There is a huge lesson for the world on the issues that began to unfold so dramatically in the US. Here in the US it was a case of chasing the American dream, for example owning your own home: a dream that seemed so reachable in recent years, to many who were previously denied. Unfortunately keeping up with the Joneses and the false pretenses (and greed!) also had its toll or repercussions, resulting in the unsustainable personal and business debt, ruined financial and housing markets and a capitulating economy. Some things are too good to be true. Really.

In America many have learned quickly to save, minimize the lavish lifestyle, ditch the extravagant home, take on menial jobs where necessary, and worry more about simply having a job. It is fair to say that we are becoming more rational in financial decision making and economical in daily life undertakings.

There is an old saying that one should drench your house if your neighbor’s house is on fire. Let us hope the rest of the world (particularly the Caribbean) takes a cue early, and does not wait for the fire to get there to take action, as it will get there too. As Americans have less discretionary money for luxuries of cruises and vacation trips, and as donor countries deal with problems of their own, there will be less money to go around. Offshore investments in the islands, exports and links to other affected companies with see repercussions of the meltdown on their turf. In some quarters, the fitest, leanest, price-competitive and most in demand products or services will be the ones left standing.

My hope is that as a people, there can also be some realistic preparation of the population by the government and business leaders of the countries for what is to come, both psychologically and fiscally. Leaders must take a hard look at their countries’ exposure, as some areas thought reasonably safe are now found to be rocky after all.

Take the recent case of the investments by Texan billionaire and household name in Antigua: Allen Stanford who is facing fraud charges, along with his associates. Should this prove to be correct, the country, local financial industry, scores of employees and the international reputation and local economy of the island will be at stake when the smoke clears. And less we think that economic issues on one island is not of major consequence to the others, let us not forget that the Eastern Caribbean currency is shared by several islands; and this long stable symbol of caribbean integration, thought solidly bonded to the US Dollar, cannot be taken for granted either.

 
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