Our Readers' Opinions
December 30, 2009

In defence of SVG in ALBA


Editor: The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) has nine members: Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and SVG. Honduras is likely to pull out when the new President succeeds President Zelaya in January 2010 due to the circumstances of the coup which removed Zelaya and which was denounced by ALBA and the international community.{{more}}

The core principles for membership in the ALBA are quite clear: Solidarity; Complimentarity between economies; the defense of sovereignty and national independence; integration which is fair particularly to the most vulnerable economies; the promotion of policies in favour of the poor and disadvantaged. Only the most backward people could be against these principles.

The ALBA is a social, economic, and political arrangement mutually beneficial to its members. The ALBA is not a military alliance. It is for that same reason that Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and SVG which are members of the Regional Security System (RSS) do not enter any military arrangements with any country within ALBA. Similarly, the ALBA is not a monetary union. Accordingly, the said three OECS countries which are members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) are not part of the arrangement of the other ALBA members by which they are planning to conduct much of their trade in a denominated virtual currency, the Sucre. In fact, ALBA accepted that it is complementary to, and not subversive of other regional integration efforts such as the OECS, CARICOM, the RSS, and the ECCU. ALBA has a menu of specific policy products from which members may choose so long as they subscribe to the core principles listed above.

SVG has benefits from ALBA in a number of specific ways already:

1. Under PetroCaribe Agreement concessionary financing of fuel purchases are available and most helpful. One can be in PetroCaribe but not in ALBA but ALBA membership permits more developmental work to be done by PetroCaribe in the particular member-countries.

2. Grant financing under the ALBA Caribe Fund for social projects.

3. Social projects such as “Vision Now” which was executed by Cuba and financed jointly by Cuba and Venezuela. ALBA countries are provided with follow-up and succession programmes.

4. Through soft-loans from ALBA bank which are accessible only by ALBA member-countries.

5. The provision of technical expertise.

6. The provision of equipment for the international airport project and other capital projects.

Nowadays, grants and soft-loans are not available from the USA and Canada to individual countries in CARICOM except Jamaica. Canada delivers aid regionally; and USA helps through its contributions to the World Bank. USA gives little directly to individual countries. Britain gives very little direct aid to the Caribbean countries; that aid is delivered through the European Union. Grant from the European Union and loans through the World bank are procedurally lengthy and time-consuming.

Reliable and relatively quickly disbursed assistance comes from the Caribbean Development Bank (loans) and countries such as Venezuela, Taiwan, Cuba, and entities such as ALBA.

Those who say to unsign PetroCaribe or leave ALBA do not understand the real world of today!

Bernard Nickie